The following post was written by the wonderfully talented Chelsea Stanley. Chelsea is the VP of Mommy Relations over here at Incredible Infant. Bask in her real-mom encouragements through her thoughtful articles..
You know about the stork, right?
The lanky bird who’s supposed to drop your baby off on the doorstep?
Well, there’s another package besides your baby left there as well. A big heaping steaming pile of decisions.
- Graco or Chicco?
- Ergo or Moby?
- Huggies or Pampers?
And those are just the easy ones!
Your kid will still graduate if you choose the wrong diaper brand, but there are some decisions that genuinely affect your child’s well being.
Today we’re tackling one of those biggies: choosing the right pediatrician for your baby.
When you choose a pediatrician, you are putting your baby’s life into someone else’s hands.
No pressure, right?
Never fear! Incredible Infant is here! 🙂
I’ve been in your shoes and know how overwhelming this particular decision can be. So today I’m tackling the questions I wish someone had answered for me, in hopes that you’ll be better equipped to choose the perfect doctor for your baby.
When should I start looking for a pediatrician?
Try to start your search when you’re 5-6 months pregnant. This will give you enough time to research and interview prospective doctors.
So what if you’re waaay past the 5-6 month mark? No worries! You can still use these questions to either confirm you’ve picked the right doctor or start over and choose a new one.
Naturally this brings up a whole new topic…when do you know it’s time to FIRE your current doctor? That, my friend, is exactly the topic we’re going to cover next week. Sign up here and get that informative post emailed directly to you.
Where do I start?
In front of the mirror!
Your first step in finding the perfect pediatrician is figuring out what you want.
Not sure what that is? Start with these questions:
- How confident are you in caring for your child’s health? Have you nursed your eleven younger siblings back to health after a household roseola outbreak? Or did you you just read that last sentence and say “What the heck is roseola?” (The less confident you are, the more responsive a doctor you want!)
- What kind of bedside manner do you prefer? Firm and direct? or gentle and empathetic?
- Do you want a pediatrician of the same gender as your child?
- Do you want a physician who works independently? Or one that is part of a larger group of doctors?
- Do you prefer to be a part of the decision-making process? Or do you prefer a doctor who will take charge? (Did that decision stress you out? Choose the latter.)
- When your child has a fever, will you give him Tylenol? Or rub essential oils on his feet? In other words, do you want a doctor who takes a standard approach? or one who’s more holistic?
- How do you feel about vaccines? Antibiotics? Sleep training? Breastfeeding? Alternative medicine? (It’s important your doctor sees these things in the same light you do.)
- What is your parenting philosophy? Are you the type who has a set idea of how you’ll be parenting your child, or are you looking for a little help?
Taking the time to write out your thoughts about these questions will help you start to get a picture of what your ideal physician looks like.
What’s the difference between a pediatrician and a family doctor?
You have the option of choosing a pediatrician or family doctor for your baby. (There’s really no “right” or “wrong” in this decision.)
Here are the differences between the two:
Characteristics of a Family Doctor
- Four years of medical school plus a three-year residency caring for people of all ages (including children)
- Board-certification in family medicine
- Convenient when the entire household needs wellness checks or is sick
- Establishes doctor/patient trust and allows your child to see the same doctor through adulthood
- Fewer germy children in the waiting room
Characteristics of a Pediatrician
- Four years of medical school plus a three-year residency caring for children and adolescents
- Board-certified in pediatrics
- Doctor and staff members specialize in pediatric care
- Follow American Academy of Pediatric’s guidelines and will probably be more familiar with new pediatric research and methods
- Very cool fire truck examination tables and other kid-friendly furniture that puts children at ease
How close do we need to be from the office?
The pediatrician who taught our Getting Ready for Baby class said it’s a good rule to try to be within 30-minutes of your pediatrician’s office.
Here’s the thing: When you have a miserably sick child on your hands, closer is better.
Where do I look for a pediatrician/doctor?
Start in your own backyard. Ask friends and family if they have any recommendations. Then sift through those and figure out whose views you most closely align with.
We’re all part of the Sisterhood of Motherhood, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have different preferences and needs.
If you plan to be a co-sleeping, no-sugar, card-carrying La Leche League member, then you probably won’t have the same needs as your hot-dog-lovin’, Similac Strong cry-it-out best friend.
And that’s okay.
You can also check with your insurance company and/or hospital system, asking for local doctors and then reading online reviews. Even your OBGYN may have some good thoughts and ideas to toss your way.
Angie’s List is another great resource parents have used to discuss/rate/recommend pediatricians and family doctor’s. Unlike many other non-member review sites, they share doctor reviews from parents like you dedicated to sharing honest real-life positive opinions, and not just negative rant-sessions.
There’s a reason why most non-membership review sites are flooded with negativity. Happy customers are usually too busy to leave feedback. This is why you should take all non-membership review sites with a grain of salt.
I’ve narrowed down my choices, now what?
Now it’s time to begin the interview process. I say “process” because it really involves three parts:
- The Office Interview
- The Doctor Interview
- The Follow-Up
The Office Interview
First things first — call the office and ask if they’re accepting new patients and if they accept your insurance.
Hint: If a friend referred you, make sure to name drop! And if the doctor ISN’T accepting new patients, Dr. Sears suggests writing a well-crafted letter asking them to reconsider. Genius!
Once you’ve determined that this doctor is a real possibility, ask to speak to a staff member or nurse who can answer some basic questions about office procedures and protocols. (This saves you a ton of time in the doctor interview.)
- What are your regular office hours?
- How do I schedule an appointment? (Is there a website for this?)
- Does the doctor offer any hours outside of normal office hours?
- If my child is sick, how long does it usually take to get in to see the doctor?
- Is there a nurse line to call for any of the billions of questions that I may have as a new mom?
- What are your after-hours policies and procedures? Is there an on-call doctor at all times?
- What hospital(s) is this doctor affiliated with?
- Does the doctor/practice have a website? Does the doctor/staff answer emails?
- Will the doctor visit my newborn in the hospital? If not, when is my baby’s first appointment?
The Doctor Interview
When you call the office, ask if you can set up a time to meet with your child’s prospective doctor.
Remember, doctors are very busy people.
This meeting shouldn’t last more than 10-15 minutes. (This is why you did the previous Office Interview.)
This isn’t the time to ask him about health concerns. It should be 100% focused on your doctor. There are worried parents in the waiting room who need her time too.
Red Flag Alert: If a doctor tries to charge you a consultation fee for this meeting, run! Unless you specifically request a longer meeting, there’s no reason why they should charge you for a brief (!!) consultation.
Here are some questions to ask Doc:
- Why did you choose your field?
- Do you have any sub-specialities?
- What are your views on breastfeeding/bottle-feeding? Immunizations? Sleep training? Antibiotics? Alternative medicine? (Anything you have strong thoughts on, you’ll want to ask about.)
- Can you recommend any parenting books?
While you’re at the office for your Doctor Interview, pay attention to a few details to consider later.
- Was the office staff courteous and prompt?
- How easy was it to set up the interview?
- How long did I wait to meet with the doctor?
- How was the doctor’s bedside manner?
- What is your gut telling you? (Never underestimate your mother’s intuition!)
If there are other moms waiting in the office and they seem friendly, feel free to quietly and discreetly ask them about their experience with the doctor.
Are they happy with their choice? Or was it an “Insurance Made Me Pick Him” kind of situation?
Question #7 How do I decide?
Look at the top of this page (the tippy top).
Now read the phrase underneath the logo: YOU are the expert on your baby.
Only you can choose the right pediatrician for your child. So look at the facts, consult with those you trust, listen to your gut, and make an informed decision.
That said, don’t let the decision overwhelm you.
After all, you can always change your mind if things turn sour.
A Nice Decision to Have
Have you ever thought about how blessed we are to be birthing babies in the 21st Century?
At a time when highly educated doctors have access to cutting-edge procedures and technologies?
In a generation that lives without fear of losing our babies to polio or smallpox?
In a day when we have so many options available to us that we actually need to have a conversation about choosing a pediatrician?
It may be a tough decision, but it’s a nice decision to have to make, isn’t it?
I hope you’re feeling a little better equipped to choose.
I have faith in you, mama.
Show that stork who’s boss.
How Did You Pick Dr. Right?
How did you choose your baby’s doctor?
Share it with me in the comments and help other moms trying to make this difficult decision!
Meet Chelsea Stanley
Chelsea is the ultimate boy mom. Whenever she's in distress, she can count on her three little musketeers and their sidekick pup, Sir Duke, to come to her rescue. If the task is too great, her Prince Charming of a husband saves the day with a magical elixir called Diet Coke from underneath the Golden Arches. Get to know her and visit her blog, Daughter Redeemed.