While pregnancy and parenting look different to everyone, there’s one experience that every parent and parent-to-be is familiar with: doctor’s visits, and lots of them.
They don’t end when baby’s born either, as you’ll visit her pediatrician at least eight times for the first year of her life (and probably more).
In many ways, your baby’s pediatrician is more than her doctor — he or she will guide you through runny noses and unexpected coughs, yes, but will also be there to answer your questions about postpartum depression or anxiety and assure you on the bad days that you’re actually doing a good job at this whole parenting-a-new-human-being-thing.
When you were still dating, you probably thought a lot about your priorities when you were trying to find Mr. or Mrs. Right — whether you wanted kids, what values were important to you, where you hoped to live.
The hunt for Dr. Right is similar — this is a good opportunity to think about what you want in a doctor for your child, especially because he or she will likely be in your life for years. Here are a few tips on finding that special someone.
What should you look for in a pediatrician?
There are a few key things you should take into consideration when you're trying to find the best pediatrician for your baby, including:
Proximity. Ideally, you want your baby’s doctor to be close to where you live. Not only that, but it should be easy to get there. Can you walk, drive or take the train, subway or bus, and is it a quick trip?
Availability. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, this may not be an issue, but if you and your partner work and your doctor is only available from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays, you may find yourself in a bind when it comes to scheduling appointments. Are there other doctors or nurses at the practice who can help if your pediatrician isn’t available? How far in advance do you need to make appointments? Do they take day-of appointments and have evening and weekend hours?
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Cost. This is one of the most important — you don’t want to fall in love with Dr. Right only to realize that he or she doesn’t take your insurance, or is simply unaffordable. It’s also helpful to know exactly what you’re responsible for: Co-pays? Deductibles? An out-of-pocket maximum?
Bedside manner and demeanor. Is the doctor friendly? Does he listen to you when you’re talking or do you get the sense that he’s mentally checked out and moving onto the next patient? Does she dismiss your concerns or speak to you condescendingly? Your baby’s health is important, so trust your gut on this one and don’t be afraid to shop around until you find someone you click with.
What questions should you ask a potential pediatrician?
Remember, you’re looking for a doctor who’s a good fit for you (and your partner, if you have one) and your baby, so don’t be afraid to see this as a job interview, one where you’re on the search for the perfect candidate.
Do you take my insurance?
Which hospital are you affiliated with?
Where did you go to medical school?
How long have you been practicing?
Are you board-certified?
Do you have a specific philosophy on breastfeeding, formula-feeding, circumcision, sleep training, vaccines, potty training and alternative medicine, and if so, do you follow specific practices?
If my baby ends up needing pediatric services immediately after birth, can and will you come to the hospital or center where I deliver?
Do you have any specialties? What’s the protocol if my baby needs to see a specialist for any reason?
- Do you have evening and weekend hours, and do you accept day-of appointments if my child is sick?
Who should I call when you’re on vacation or the office is closed?
What’s your policy on antibiotics?
What kinds of tests or bloodwork can be done in-house?
When should you start looking for a pediatrician?
You should start looking for a pediatrician early in the third trimester if possible.
This gives you time in the first and second trimesters to simply enjoy being pregnant (and it also means you can focus on yourself and your health if you’re not loving pregnancy). You’ll also have time to shop around and get recommendations without feeling rushed.
How to find the best pediatrician for your baby
Start by talking to parent friends who live in your area to see which doctors in the neighborhood they love and recommend (they might also be able to tell you about any negative experiences they may have had). Or just do a Google search of pediatricians close to home.
You can schedule visits ahead of your baby's birth where you and your potential pediatrician meet, get to know each other, ask questions and evaluate whether it's a good fit. Y
ou might want to start by talking to pediatricians' office staff over the phone to get some basic information before scheduling an in-person meeting with the doctor. Just note that some doctors charge for these visits, while others offer free initial consultations, so you’ll want to double-check before you book.
These first meetings are a great opportunity to be honest about things that are important to you.
Do you plan to bottle-feed? Then a doctor who’s a wholehearted breast-is-best advocate may not be the right practitioner for you. Or do you want to try breastfeeding exclusively? Then you’ll want a pediatrician who’s 100 percent on board to support your efforts and be there to help you through any obstacles you may face.
If for any reason it doesn't seem like a good match, it’s better to find on early in the process.
Other ways to find the best pediatrician for your baby? Call your insurance company for a list of in-network providers. Or check the American Academy of Pediatrics' directory of board-certified practitioners.
Look for one with "FAAP" after the name, which guarantees that the doctor is a fellow within the organization, meaning he or she has reached a certain level.
Because FAAP-designated doctors commit to continuing education in order to maintain their membership, you can rest easy knowing that your pediatrician is up-to-date on the most recent research and treatments when it comes to your baby.
When should you decide on the best pediatrician for your family?
Try to choose your pediatrician at least three to four weeks before your due date. This way, you don’t have to worry about it before you go into labor. It also means that your doctor has enough notice to schedule your baby’s first appointment, which will be soon after you deliver.
When will your pediatrician first see your baby?
Your pediatrician will first see your baby most likely at the hospital within 24 hours after you give birth. That said, it’s possible you’ll have a different doctor when you deliver. In that case, you’ll see the pediatrician you chose at your first well-baby visit outside the hospital, which takes place around a week after your little one is born.
Keep in mind that if that happens, you’ll want to bring your infant growth chart with you so your pediatrician's office can keep a record of it.Searching for a pediatrician may seem daunting, but with a little preparation, you’ll find the best pediatrician for your baby and your family. And whoever you choose will be right there with you to watch your little one grow up.