How to Choose a Pediatrician

Ideally, you should begin your search for a pediatrician in your final months of pregnancy and choose one before your baby is born. Your pediatrician will visit your baby in the hospital and see your baby frequently in his or her first days, weeks, and months of life.

It is beneficial to have the same pediatrician from your baby's birth through early childhood to provide continuity of care. The pediatrician that you choose will hopefully come to know you and your child and be able to identify when something is out of the ordinary for them.

Asking Around

Don't leave your experience with a pediatrician up to chance. Do some research and make an informed decision about who will be caring for your child.

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You can start by asking other parents that you know about their experiences with different pediatricians and doctors. If they are similar in parenting philosophy to you, ask them for recommendations and ask if there are any that they would not recommend. You can ask for more specific details, but remember their opinion is not everything there is to know about a certain pediatrician. You may just find that you like the very doctor that they dislike.

Narrowing Down Choices

If you live in a large town or city, you're going to have to narrow down your choices before you do any interviews. Ask yourself specific questions about each pediatrician you are considering. Do you prefer a male or a female doctor? Younger or older? Does this practice have multiple offices? If so, it may be more convenient for you to be seen at an office other than the main one.

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You can also call and ask the staff a few questions beforehand. For example, how long is the normal wait time for an appointment? Is it easy to be seen in an emergency? If so, is there a backup that you can see in an emergency? Some practices may be too overbooked. If so, look for a smaller practice.

Interviewing Pediatricians

Once you have a few good candidates, you should call and schedule an interview with your prospective doctors. Write down all of your questions beforehand to take with you so that you don't forget to address any questions or concerns.

Start first by looking around the office and waiting room when you get there. Is the staff friendly? Observe how they interact with patients and children. Is there a play area? This comes in handy when you have a restless toddler waiting for an appointment. Does the play area look clean? Measures should be taken to prevent sick kids from spreading germs to healthy kids who are there for their regular checkup. Ask the staff how often the play area is cleaned.

When you meet with the pediatrician, ask several questions to get a feel for their personal philosophy and determine if they are a good fit for your family. What are their thoughts on vaccines, circumcision, breastfeeding, and natural remedies? Discuss any special requests or wishes for your baby in the hospital. Even if they do disagree with you, a good pediatrician will be able to respect your choices and make suggestions without making you feel like bad parents.

During your interview, observe their personality as well. Most parents desire a doctor who is caring and compassionate, that kids would be comfortable around, and that has similar views as their own. Even the best pediatrician in the world will not work for your family if your personalities clash.

Other Professionals

Not all families choose to go with a doctor that specializes in pediatric medicine. If you are open to the idea, you may also want to look into family physicians as well as nurse practitioners. Many of these doctors have smaller practices and a homier feel. They will also see your entire family which gives you a more personal relationship with your doctor.

Vanessa Pruitt, PLMHP, MS