During the first year, your baby will have six routine well visits alone, not taking into account any visits for vaccines or illness. Whether you’re a new mamí or a seasoned one choosing a pediatrician for your little one can be a pretty overwhelming experience, surrounded by a million questions. Do you want a private practice that caters to children only or do you want a family practice that can serve all members of your family? Do you prefer a male pediatrician or a female pediatrician depending on the gender of your baby? Do you want to go for a general pediatrician or one with a specific specialty like a neo-natal specialist? Are you interested in strictly Western medicine or holistic healing as well?
While it’s a good idea to start researching before the baby comes, that’s not always the case and knowing what to ask your potential pediatricians can be a huge help. It’s also helpful to have a list of a few doctors narrowed down. Most hospitals will provide you with a list of local pediatricians you can choose from, while they won’t specifically recommend any, and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also offers referrals to certified practitioners on its HealthyChildren.org website. Plus, let’s not underestimate your own network of local moms, friends, and family.
Once you’ve got it down to a few prospects and you’ve done some research on each, put them in order of closest proximity to your home. Choosing a close pediatrician can come in handy when you’re dealing with a sick baby or a traffic jam, plus it’s just more convenient during the first year. After you have their basic details, like hours, location, parking situation, whether or not they take your insurance, years in service, and appointment availability in terms of sick, same day and well visits, there are a few more things you might want to know. There is no one “right” answer, so just listen to what they have to say and at the end of the day, go with what feels right.
Here a few suggested questions to ask your potential pediatrician:
- How many doctors are in your practice? If it’s a group, will the baby mainly see you or will she see all the doctors equally?
- Do you have any sub-specialties?
- Do you have separate sick waiting areas and well waiting areas?
- Can I get in touch with you directly via email, phone or call service for routine and non-emergency questions?
- What are your views on vaccines schedules, bottle feeding vs. breast feeding and alternative medicine? (Here you can also add in any specifics that you want to know, maybe about circumcision or sleeping training, or even diet and parenting styles.
Once you find a doctor you like, make an appointment and come prepared. Some of the questions listed above you may end up asking in person, but it’s also important to pay attention to how the baby reacts to the doctor and the overall office vibe.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- How long was the wait?
- Is the office staff patient and helpful?
- Does the doctor take time to discuss problems and listen to your concerns? Is he/she up to date with the latest medical advances?
- Does the doctor offer choices and let you decide which one works best for you? Do you want that or would you prefer a doctor that’s less flexible and provides more direction?
- Do you feel comfortable with the doctors overall style?
Although it can be nice to have a few prospective pediatricians in mind, you may find that the first one is just right for you and your little one. In that case, you can always keep the left over prospects as backups if needed. If you don’t like the first one you meet, don’t panic. There are plenty of pediatricians with varying styles and approaches to medicine and you should take the time to find the right one for your family.
Your pediatrician should be someone you trust, feel comfortable asking questions, and generally like them as human beings. I mean they are treating your tiny human after all. So relax mamí and take your time.