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Paging Dr. Right Parenting

Paging Dr. Right

What to consider when picking a pediatrician.

When I was six months pregnant, I didn’t know who my child’s pediatrician would be, but I did know exactly what I was looking for. (Or so I thought.) However, as my husband and I went through the process of finding and meeting different doctors and weighing out the many factors that ultimately guided our decision, we ended up with a pediatrician that wasn’t what I’d wanted— but was what my family needed.

As you begin the search for your little one’s health care provider, here’s what you need to keep in mind (and that includes keeping an open mind). Like me, you might be surprised where you end up.

Polling places
A quick Google search will reveal your options for pediatric care, but don’t start tapping on your keyboard just yet. You’ll undoubtedly find plenty of potential but no quick way of sifting through it all. So, begin by asking friends, family members and co-workers with young children if they’d recommend their pediatrician. Jot down any contenders, and if a particular practice or doctor’s name comes up a lot, start there.

Another resource you may not have considered is your OB. Mine gave me three suggestions of places nearby, which worked out well because my doctor’s office is a two-minute drive from my home.

Once you have your list, now’s the time to do a bit of research. Visit a practice’s website to get a feel for its approach to care. Find out the basics, like where it’s located (and if it has multiple branches), what the operating hours are, if they accept your health insurance and how many care providers they have. Look for information specifically for new and expectant parents; many will have a list of FAQs or a number to call to schedule an introductory visit.

Meet and greet
Narrow down your list to the top contenders that you’d like to get to know in person. Most pediatricians offer a regularly scheduled open house for parents-to-be to meet the doctors, take a quick tour of the office and ask any questions they might have. These informal get-togethers are usually held in the evenings after the practice has closed, so you’ll have the whole place to yourselves … well, you and all the other pregnant mamas.

Worth noting: In my experience these occurred monthly, and not every care provider would be at every event. So, don’t wait too long to call and ask when the next open house is and which doctors will be attending, especially if you’re interested in meeting someone in particular.

During your visit, pay attention to the three P’s: the place, their philosophy on care and the pediatrician.

The place

  • How long has the office been in practice?
  • Is it close to home? (When your child is sick and crying in the backseat, you’ll be grateful if you don’t have to drive across town.)
  • How clean is it? Is the waiting area— including furniture, books, toys—sanitized regularly?
  • Are there separate waiting rooms for sick and well children? (Some even have a third room designated for newborns.)
  • Are the exam rooms clean and well maintained?

Their philosophy on care

  • Does their approach to feeding, sleeping, vaccines, etc. mesh well with your family’s?
  • How do they handle questions/concerns after hours or on the weekends? Do they have extended hours in the mornings or evenings?
  • Can they fit you in for a same-day appointment if need be?

The pediatrician

  • Does the doctor’s personality fit what you’re looking for (whether that’s someone warm and fuzzy or someone more to the point)?
  • How long do they typically spend with each patient?
  • Do you feel comfortable sharing things with them? Do they ease your concerns? Are you confident in their care?

Final answer
With all of your questions answered and good ol’ gut instinct by your side, it’s time to weigh everything out. I was certain I wanted a cheery atmosphere with plenty of handholding because it was my first baby. I’d narrowed it down to two practices, both highly recommended but with totally different feels. (The best example of this was when I first called to ask about open houses. One staff member said congratu- lations and gushed about how excited she was for me. On the second phone call, the person was perfectly nice, but she was all business and gave me dates and times of upcoming meetings. I picked one, she added my name to the RSVP list, and that was that.)

In the end—and after many discussions with my husband—we went with the latter practice. I loved how friendly the first was, but I realized I wanted a doctor who made me feel like my baby was safe, even if they don’t coo over how adorable he is at every appointment. That was the right choice
for my family.

I encourage you to figure out what’s most important to you and your crew, and see who meets those needs. Once you make your decision, all you have to do is include your new pediatrician’s name and contact information on the forms at the hospital or birth center for your delivery.

The next time you see doc, either in the hospital or for the first well-check, you’ll be a brand-new mom.