Picking a Pediatrician—How Early Is Not Early Enough?

Picking a Pediatrician—How Early Is Not Early Enough

A first-time pregnant woman is often told she should pick a pediatrician for her baby about the same time she picks an obstetrician for herself. This is a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much.

If this is your first baby, it is a good idea to start collecting names of some pediatricians in your area and it is wise to start your search when you are in your fourth or fifth month. This will give you time to find out about the pediatricians in your area and to arrange an office visit to meet them. If you can, try to get all the ducks in a row by your ninth month. The doctor you choose for your baby will usually see your baby in the hospital or birthing center within 24 hours of the birth and again within a few days.

(If you are a second-time pregnant woman who already has a great pediatrician, don’t act smug. You never know when a move or a change in insurance could send you looking for a new pediatrician.)

Ask Around

How do you get names? Ask your friends and family who they recommend. Also ask your obstetrician or midwife or your own general practitioner. Ask them all just so you can see if there are names that show up on everyone’s list. If everyone mentions the same doctor, it is a very good sign, but he or she might not be the right doctor for you.

The local hospital can give you a list of local pediatricians, too. In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics has a tool at their website for finding a pediatrician in your area.

Ask More Questions

Be specific with your questions. Does your friend think the doctor is friendly and open to questions? Does the doctor see appointments reasonably on time? Is the office kid-friendly? Is the office staff efficient and good to deal with? If it is a group practice, are the other doctors as good? What happened when your friend’s baby needed care after office hours?

Ask Even More Questions

Once you have narrowed your list down to one or two names, you can call their offices and ask if these doctors are taking new patients. Ask if the office accepts your child’s health insurance plan. (Call your insurance company to double check this just to be sure.) Ask what hospitals the doctor uses. What are the doctor’s credentials? Is he or she board-certified in pediatrics or family medicine? Ask how the office deals with general questions.

After all this, ask for a short appointment with the doctor. A face-to-face meeting is the best way to see if you and your partner and the doctor have similar ideas on children’s health. You want a doctor who will work with you to meet your needs and the needs of your child.

Remember, the doctor will be interviewing you, too! This relationship has to be a good fit going in both directions.

One more thing: You may want to use a family physician, one who also treats children in his or her practice. Many parents prefer to work with a physician who sees everyone in the family. However, not every family physician chooses to work with young children, so check this first.

Tell us when you contacted your baby’s pediatrician for the first time. We would love to hear your stories!

Valerie DeBenedette
Valerie DeBenedette is an experienced health and medical writer who lives about an hour north of New York City with a dog that is smaller than her cat. Her work has appeared in magazines, newspapers, newsletters, and on websites. She is a member of the National Association of Science Writers.

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