How to Choose a Pediatrician
5 important things to consider when searching for the perfect doctor for your new addition
Don’t wait too long though — it’s possible you could deliver early. “Start looking for a pediatrician toward the end of your second trimester or early in your third trimester,” advises Anita Chandra, MD, a pediatrician in Chicago.
Not sure where to start? Use this list of factors to consider when sizing up a pediatrician and you should have no trouble finding the perfect doctor for your new baby.
A referral is a smart way to begin. Get recommendations — from friends who already have kids, your ob/gyn, the hospital where you’ll deliver your baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a pediatrician referral service that lists thousands of doctors and specialists and is searchable by city or zip code. You’ll want to make sure any pediatrician you consider is in your insurance company’s network and is affiliated with a hospital or medical center you’re comfortable with.
Location, location, location
Between weigh-ins, checkups, sick visits and vaccinations, it may seem like it would be easier to move into your pediatrician’s waiting room during your child’s first few years than make the trip back and forth. Narrow your search to doctors whose offices are a reasonable distance from your home.
Beyond that, when you visit a potential pediatrician, make sure there’s plenty of available parking nearby. You also should be able to easily maneuver with a baby in your arms or pushing a stroller to and from your car to the doctor’s office.
A matter of degree
You have two choices when it comes to the type of doctor you choose for your baby. A pediatrician is the obvious one. These doctors are specially trained in the care of babies, kids and teens. But if your pediatrician choices are limited you might consider a family physician. Family physicians treat every member of a family no matter how old or young the patient is.
Either way, check to see if the doctor you like is board certified. This means that he has passed testing and retesting that’s specific to his specialty. “It’s worth noting this designation. It implies that a doctor has kept up his education and is up to date with the newest recommendations and training,” says Chandra.
A good vibe
While waiting to meet with the doctor, take a good look around the reception area and waiting room. Are the nurses and receptionists pleasant? Does the office have toys, books and a place for kids to play? Two waiting rooms (one for sick kids and one for those who are well) is a nice idea, but not all offices have the space to arrange this. And when there is room for separate areas, “what tends to work better is a separation of age groups, with very young babies placed apart from the older kids,” says Chandra.
All the right answers
Come with a list of written questions for the pediatrician. Some things to ask: how sick visits and emergencies are handled, who covers for the doctor on weekends and when he’s away, and whether or not you can email non-emergency questions to him or another staff member. Find out how the doctor feels about things like vaccination, breastfeeding vs. bottle-feeding, circumcision and co-sleeping, too. You’ll want to be on the same page about these hot-button issues.
Related: The Sleep-Safe Baby Guide