Finding a pediatrician to care for baby is one of the important decisions you’ll make as you prepare for the arrival of your little one. There is much to consider when choosing your baby’s first primary care provider.
Where to Start?
Ask for referrals at your next visit to your OB-GYN, hospital or birthing center. Chat with the staff and ask them where they bring their own children for care. Check out online referral services. Reach out to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers for referrals, but also to learn what they feel are important features to look for in a pediatric practice. The family with three active kids who lives down the street has had years of experience – and probably more than a few sick visits and unexpected emergency situations – that might help you formulate questions you wouldn’t think to ask yet.
Think About the Basics
- Location Is the office convenient to home? Does the practice have multiple offices you can visit? Is there parking? Access by public transportation? And then ask yourself if it would it be easily accessible if you were traveling with a sick child? … in rush hour? … in a snowstorm? No one likes to think ahead to baby’s first sick visit, but it is an important factor if you are considering a practice further from home.
- Office hours Are there early morning, evening and weekend options to accommodate working parents? Is there weekend care? How long in advance must you book well-baby appointments? How do you schedule appointments?
- Comfort Is the facility clean and comfortable? Is the office staff friendly and welcoming? Are there separate waiting areas for healthy and sick children? Toys and books for children? How long do you typically have to wait before you are seen?
- Support New parents have questions. Lots of questions! Does the practice have a website for basic information? Is there a specific time set aside for general questions each day? Does a nurse or PA handle most calls? How accessible is your doctor? Can he be reached for calls and does he respond to questions over email?
- Resources Is there lactation support? Does the practice have a developmental specialist or nutritionist on staff? Are there on-site diagnostic facilities for x-rays, lab and blood work?
- Coverage Will you see your child’s pediatrician at every visit? In some group practices, you may have scheduled well-baby appointments with another pediatrician or nurse practitioner. Who covers when she is away or has a day off? Is there 24 hour answering service to connect you to a doctor?
Meet the Pediatrician
Some practices offer a scheduled “meet and greet” time for expecting parents to come and visit the office, learn about the practice and meet the physicians and staff. As you prepare for your little one’s arrival call ahead to see how often these events are scheduled. Or, you may want to arrange a brief consultation to meet the pediatrician and to ask your specific questions. You may visit 2-3 prospective pediatricians before you find the one you are truly comfortable with.
As parents, we may look for different levels of support from our child’s care providers. Some parents choose a physician based on their training and experience; area of specialty or hospital affiliation. We all want high-quality medical care, but some new parents may be looking for something more – a partnership with information and support in the areas of nutrition, development, behavior and overall wellness. Accessibility, mutual respect and trust are especially important when your child is ill. Parents should feel comfortable asking all of their questions and feel like concerns are being heard and addressed. So when you have that opportunity to interview a prospective pediatrician, consider asking their opinion about a few potential situations you may encounter in baby’s first year. Chances are you’ve done a lot of reading already and probably have a list of questions about soothing a crying baby; the importance of tummy time or when to introduce solid foods. What is her position on breastfeeding vs. bottle feeding, circumcision and other issues you may feel strongly about? Hearing their responses in this initial interview may give you a sense of their style and help you to discern if their approach and personality is the right fit for you.
It’s such an important relationship that one of our Newborn Essentials instructors jokes with the expectant parents in her classes that “You really want to find someone you will fall in love with!” Choose one thoughtfully – your pediatrician may care for your baby from these first days of life through to adulthood.
Marena Burnett, Early Parenting Program Lead at Isis
This post was written from Children’s Hospital in Boston by Marena Burnett, Early Parenting Program Lead at Isis and mother of four children, who reflects how fortunate we are to have access to the best medical care in the world. I am humbled each time I enter this facility and truly grateful for these extraordinary doctors, nurses and staff who care for our children.