How to Choose a Pediatrician

The doctor you choose will be an important part of your child's life -- and yours.

By Familytime


Many first-time parents-to-be are so caught up in the thrill of the pregnancy and imminent delivery, they forget that their baby will need a pediatrician very soon after birth. Choose your child's doctor before the baby is born.

Interview Doctors
Early in the third trimester, begin interviewing pediatricians. Trust your instincts, recommendations from friends and family members, and guidance from other health-care professionals.

Put together a list of three or four potential doctors and then call for appointments. If one refuses to meet with you, cross him or her off the list.

Ask Questions
Ask the doctor about the length of regular appointments (at least 20 minutes is preferable); the availability of a doctor after office hours; what the practice's procedures are for emergencies; and how the practice handles questions by telephone.

In some pediatric practices, telephone questions are screened or answered by the nurse. Others schedule call-back hours for the doctor. In some, there is a charge for the calls. Make sure you are clear on the procedure and comfortable with it.

Ask the doctor how he or she feels about breastfeeding and other feeding options. Discuss your childcare plans with him or her. (if this is an exploratory interview, keep these explanations short and don't expect a lot of feedback.)

Ask how soon after birth the baby will need an appointment. Most doctors want to see the infant in the first week of life.

Find out what hospital the doctor admits patients to and which insurance plans they work with. The pediatrician you choose should be board certified in pediatrics or family medicine and have at least three years of training in these fields.

Discuss local infant and toddler programs with the doctor. It's a good sign if he or she is familiar with those in the area.

As you talk to the doctor, gauge how your personalities and styles mesh. Is this someone you will be comfortable working with? Could you discuss difficult problems with him or her? Does the doctor listen to you? Do you feel he or she could explain developmental issues as well as serious health problems with you clearly and kindly?

Observe the Staff
Finally, observe the way the staff interacts with the children in the office. Do they seem to enjoy their work? Is the waiting room cheerful and playful? Is it calm, clean, and safe?

Remember that the decision is not irreversible. You can change doctors if you are unhappy with your choice. But with luck and good research, you won't have to!