Are you expecting a baby? Having a baby is already scary and stressful enough. There are so many new things that need to be taken care of and you are swamped with a lot of important decisions that need to be made. One of the most important decisions you need to make, is to select the best pediatrician for your newborn baby.
While this task may sound easy, it is not. Take the necessary time to research a several pediatricians in your town or city. It is important that you make sure that you feel comfortable with your choice once the baby is born. Especially during the first 4-8 weeks you do not want to find out by trial and error that the pediatrician you picked from the phonebook is someone you do not like on a personal level.
You are under a lot of stress when the baby is born and therefore it is very important to spend some time researching pediatricians. Also, fall back to your network of friends who eventually have children already. They will be able to give you invaluable feedback and recommendations. However, you should still make an appointment and interview your pediatrician. Call the practice of choice and make an appointment to get to know the pediatrician before you decide. Most pediatricians offer special consultation time for new parents. Some charge money for these sessions – others do not. Keep in mind that you probably won’t get an appointment during their busy times and in most times you will get a slot towards the end of the day. When visiting the pediatrician you should be prepared with questions to ask. When we went to visit our pediatric candidates we asked the following questions (see below). You probably should go through these questions yourself and customize them for your own needs.
1) How did you decide on pediatrics? With this question you want to find out what motivated the pediatrician to pick this specific field.
2) How long will we be sitting in your waiting room on average? Take answers with a grain of salt. Kids are no machines and even the best attempt to stick to a schedule does barely work. After all, that little extra personal attention that your baby will get can go a long way (in a positive way).
3) Do you have separate waiting for rooms (sick / well visits)? This would be preferred, but in the end your baby will get sick no matter how hard you try to protect her. Just use common sense, use hand sanitizer, and keep some distance to the virus laden kids.
4) How long are you in practice? This question is important if you have a really young pediatrician picked out. If he or she is a partner in a larger practice you know that this pediatrician has some great opportunity to learn from the more experienced doctors.
5) Do you have a list of health insurance plans that you accept? Most pediatricians accept all the major insurances.
6) Do you have privileges at Littleton Hospital (a hospital close to where we lived back then)? This question need to be customized to the hospital you have picked out. You’ve picked out a hospital already, right?!
7) How soon after the baby is born will you be available for a visit? This is an important question. In our case our pediatrician showed up the very same day – which was good, because our son had to stay in the NICU for 4 days.
8) Are you available quickly if the baby is hospitalized in an emergency? Another important question to ask. While most hospitals have great doctors and pediatricians on staff, but if your pediatrician is available it adds a calming effect.
9) What is the waiting time for return calls when having medical questions? How about during off-hours like evenings and weekends? In our case the nurses at the doctor’s office are the first layer of “defense”. You get a lot of helpful information from them if your pediatrician’s practice works the same way.
10) Who covers for you when you are on vacation?
11) How long in advance do have appointments to be made? This question might surprise you, but I know from experience that appointments sometimes need to be made well in advance. It really depends on the doctor’s office. Annual exam appointments in our own case need to be made 3-4 months in advance.
12) Office hours (important for working parents)? Look for late afternoon/evening options as well as Saturday mornings. 13) How do you handle out-of-hours coverage?
14) How experienced is your staff? Do you employ any specialized nurses?
15) What are the doctor’s views on breastfeeding and circumcision? Do they match your views and opinion? If the doctor has a complete different opinion, it might be better to find a different pediatrician.
16) What is the doctor’s view on treatment of really sick children? Does she or he take an aggressive approach or does she/he “let nature take its course” before actively treating the child? The answers really should match your personal views. You would have seeing someone loading your baby up with medicine if not necessary (and vice versa).
17) How much time do they schedule for a well-baby checkup? (should be at least half an hour to allow time to answer your questions and to do a thorough check-up)
Don’t be afraid to say “No” to a doctor if you feel uncomfortable with him or her to take care of your newborn baby. You can also switch doctors at any time once the baby is born and you are not satisfied after the first 2 or 3 visits. Make sure you keep asking questions if you do not understand what the doctor does and why he or she does certain things certain ways. You are not locked in. Going to that specific doctor is not a one-way street. You and your insurance are paying for his time and you deserve to be able to ask questions and to expect the best possible treatment. However, please check with your insurance provider – sometimes you need their approval to pick a new pediatrician. You do not need approval to pick a certain pediatrician, but to make a change. This can be the case if you have an HMO plan.
Also – check out the staff and the overall look of the doctor’s office. Are they making a friendly impression? Does the waiting area look clean and well maintained and suited for kids? Arrive 10-15 minutes early for your preliminary consultation and watch how the office staff is handling the office matters during that time. If your appointment is towards the end of the day see if you discover signs of stress and compare how the individual nurses or doctors are holding up. A well-rounded impression of the office, the staff and the doctor will help you make the best decision. Finding a good pediatrician might take some time, but it is well worth it in the end.