Although you likely already have a lengthy list of baby prep to-dos, be sure that “choose a pediatrician” is on that list somewhere. The process of sifting through pediatricians can take some time, so you’ll want to start researching during the second or third trimester of pregnancy. While any pediatrician you choose will have your baby’s best interest in mind, each may have slightly varying care style and stance on issues such as bottle-feeding, immunizations, circumcision, and introducing solid foods—so it’s important to take the time to ask questions. After all, this is someone you’ll be depending on for guidance, especially during your baby’s first year of development.
Start your search by asking friends and family members who have young children if there’s a particular pediatrician they’ve had a good experience with and ask your Ob/Gyn for recommendations. You can also do localized Internet searches to see who is accepting new patients in your area. Once you have some names attend a practice open house, or set up interviews with pediatricians themselves.
Here are 6 key questions to ask:
1. What are the office hours, and protocol for after-hours and weekend care? You will also want to know what your pediatrician’s hospital affiliations are should your baby need to be hospitalized. This will ensure you always know what to expect from the practice despite the time or day it is when you call.
2. Where is the practice located? You may be looking for an office that is close to home (which is really convenient particularly for those newborn visits) or perhaps near your baby’s daycare center.
3. How does the office operate—is it a private practice where you will see the same pediatrician for most of your visits or is it a group practice? If you choose a group practice it is likely that you will see your primary pediatrician for scheduled monthly and annual visits but for sick visits you may be seen by another doctor in the group. This is the way many practices work and most parents are happy with this arrangement.
4. Does the office have breastfeeding support including the services of a certified lactation consultant? If you run into any breastfeeding issues or simply want to ask a question, it’s best if you know exactly where support can be found.
5. What is the immunization policy and schedule? Unfortunately, the media and Internet has been flooded with false information regarding immunizations so you’ll want to discuss the various shots your baby will get, when they’ll be given and what they’re for.
6. What is the range of experience of doctors in the practice? A prospective pediatrician could be the best possible fit for you even if he’s somewhat newly practicing. It’s good to find out if there are more-experienced doctors he regularly consults with.
It may seem like a daunting process but the time you spend researching and interviewing for the right pediatrician for your baby will be worth it. Once you’ve made your decision and your baby is born you’ll look forward to visits to the pediatrician because you’ll feel comfortable—with no hesitation about asking a wide range of “rookie” questions—and leave with a validation about the top-notch care both you and your pediatrician are providing your baby.