The nursery is complete, the stroller purchased and the car seat installed. You and your spouse have even agreed on a name for your baby. The only thing left to do is pack your bags for the hospital, right? Wrong.
Choosing the right pediatrician also should be on your to-do list before baby arrives.
“It’s one less thing you have to think about after your baby’s born,” said Dr. Emma Raizman, a pediatrician at Akron Children’s Hospital Pediatrics in Medina. “You’re going to need to follow up with a pediatrician a day or 2 after discharge from the hospital, so it takes a little bit of the stress away.”
A good time to begin your search is about 3 months before your baby is expected. Babies often come early, and you’ll want to be sure you’ve found someone whose style and personality work with your own.
Ask people you trust for recommendations — your relatives, friends, neighbors, co-workers, as well as your doctor, obstetrician or nurse midwife.
Once you have some recommendations, it’s time to check them out more thoroughly. Dr. Raizman offers 5 things new parents should consider when choosing a pediatrician.
First and foremost, the pediatrician’s personality should fit well with yours. It’s important you feel comfortable discussing your concerns and not feel intimidated. You want to get a good feeling from her and trust her advice.
“As a first-time parent, you’re going to have a lot of questions so you need to feel confident in their advice,” said Dr. Raizman. “Trust is an important aspect in building a strong relationship.”
Also, good communication between a doctor and parent is essential. Look for a pediatrician who is willing to explain things carefully and is a good listener. Is she responsive to your concerns? Does she see parents as partners in a child’s care?
Points of view
You’ll want to make sure that your parenting style matches the pediatrician’s on important issues, such as antibiotic use, natural therapies, breast-feeding and vaccinations.
Some of these issues are controversial. You’ll want to meet with a doctor who has a similar point of view, so you don’t clash when making important decisions on your baby’s health.
Location and office hours
The pediatrician’s office should be convenient for your family. You’ll be visiting the doctor for well-visits at least every month — and more if your baby gets sick — for your baby’s first few months of life. “Even if a friend recommends a fabulous doctor who’s an hour away, the fact is you’re going to be traveling back and forth so much during that first year that the drive will get tedious,” said Dr. Raizman.
Also, flexibility of the doctor’s schedule is an important factor, especially if you work outside the home. Some pediatricians work part-time, so make sure she’s available when you will be coming in. In addition, if you need evening or weekend hours, make sure the doctor offers them. Kids get sick on the weekends, too.
Especially during your baby’s first year of life, you’ll be interacting with the pediatrician’s office often. You’ll want to make sure the office staff is friendly, helpful and courteous in the office and on the phone.
Also, look for waiting areas that are clean and child-friendly. If there’s a place where sick kids can be separated from those in a well visit, that’s even better.
For practical measures, it’s important the doctor’s office accepts your insurance and is in your network to avoid additional costs.
For convenience’s sake, find out what other services the office provides. Is there a nurse triage line to call, say if your baby is sick at 3 a.m.? Be sure to ask how after-hours calls are handled because at some point, you’ll need it.
As your child gets a little older, he may need other services such as lab work or X-rays. It’ll be convenient if you can get this done at the office.
In addition, find out if the office is connected to a hospital system. If your child is referred to a specialist, it’s more convenient if you’re already in the system.
“The most important thing is finding a pediatrician who is pleasant and someone you want to spend time with,” said Dr. Raizman. “Then, look for the practical aspects, such as location and hours.”