Choosing a Pediatrician

Often, when your baby is born, time moves at warp speed. You take them home from the hospital and before you know it, they’re crawling around! In order to help them grow as quickly as they do, having access to a good pediatrician is essential. Switching from prenatal to pediatric care happens abruptly, and it’s good to know who your pediatrician is before that happens. To make sure you’re choosing the right provider in enough time, we’ve compiled some tips!

When should I look for a pediatrician… 

Even though the pediatrician is your baby’s doctor, they often work to support the whole family, especially right after birth. To make a good connection with this doctor, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends finding a pediatrician about three months before your due date. Not only does this help navigate potential waiting lists, but many pediatricians offer prenatal visits [1]. This visit is a great way to start to build a relationship between you and your doctor, which can help with communication once your baby arrives. In addition, pediatricians look for warning signs of postpartum depression, and establishing good communication prior to the baby’s arrival can be very helpful for this. It is recommended that all parents participate in this prenatal visit, and it may be especially helpful for women with high-risk pregnancies, or with multiple babies on the way. Finally, oftentimes after labor, the hospital will ask who the baby’s pediatrician is. Finding one beforehand will be one less thing you have to worry about once your baby is finally here!

What should I look for in a pediatrician… 

Ideally, a pediatrician will look after your child throughout childhood and adolescence. They come to really know your baby and your family. Knowing how to choose the right pediatrician for your child is important, since they will be influential in many healthcare decisions for years. The first step is to make a list of pediatricians in the area that you are interested in. If you’re able, ask friends and family about good (and bad) experiences they’ve had, to see if they have any recommendations for doctors. If they don’t have suggestions, the internet is your friend! Look up reviews, or use a search tool to find doctors in your area. Once you have a list, write out questions in order to find out more about both the doctor and the practice they are a part of. You can ask these questions during a prenatal visit, or over the phone. There are many different questions you can ask, some may be specific to your child and their needs. Here are some general questions to get to know the pediatrician [3]

  1. Ask about their background, education, and board certification. They may have done a residency in family medicine or pediatrics, either are qualified to treat your child, but a pediatrician is more specialized. Inquire if they have a specialty, this could include adolescent medicine, gastrointestinal, or many more [4].
  2. Which hospitals does the doctor have privileges in? This helps to know where the best place to go in case of an emergency may be.
  3. How can they be reached outside of the office’s hours? Does the practice have a nurse on call for questions? Are last minute appointments available? 

There are many other things you can assess at the first appointment, like whether or not you feel comfortable expressing your concerns to them, or how seriously you think they will take any potential health problems in your child. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and if you have any concerns, don’t feel bad about going to a different provider who better fits your needs. 

What should I expect at the visits… 

For the first two years of your baby’s life, they will see the pediatrician fairly often, and complete a series of tests to ensure that their development is on track. The AAP recommends that children be seen by their pediatrician at 3-5 days old, 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 1 year, 15 months, 18 months, and 2 years old [5]. The measurements and screening procedures that take place at each appointment will vary by age, but many attributes of physical and behavioral development are retested at each appointment. The pediatrician will measure length, weight and head circumference at each appointment for the first two years to ensure they are following their growth curve. They will do a psychosocial and behavioral assessment each time as well, and the first few months will also include a maternal depression screening to look for signs of postpartum depression. Each visit will also include a full physical examination and immunizations. Other testing such as for vision, hearing, or blood pressure may be done if the pediatrician feels it is necessary to check on [5]. Remember to ask any questions you may have and address any concerns with the doctor during these appointments. 

Resources

  1. Cohen, G. (2009, October 01). The Prenatal Visit. Retrieved December 10, 2020, from https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/124/4/1227
  2. Find a Pediatrician. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2020, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/tips-tools/find-pediatrician/Pages/Pediatrician-Referral-Service.aspx
  3. How to Choose a Pediatrician. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2020, from https://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/health-management/Pages/How-To-Choose-A-Pediatrician.aspx
  4. Pediatrics. (n.d.). Retrieved December 14, 2020, from https://www.aamc.org/cim/explore-options/specialty-profiles/pediatrics
  5. Periodicity Schedule. (n.d.). Retrieved December 23, 2020, from https://www.aap.org/en-us/professional-resources/practice-transformation/managing-patients/Pages/Periodicity-Schedule.aspx

Claire Dowell