Choosing a pediatrician was the one part of my pregnancy journey that I felt the most unprepared for. Since most of us first-time moms haven’t set foot in a pediatrician’s office since around age 18, it’s hard to know where to start. My husband and I attended a prenatal education class where they handed us a sheet of paper with the city’s pediatric offices listed and told us to choose one before we came to the hospital for delivery. After soliciting some input from other mamas, I have compiled a list of things to consider when choosing your child’s pediatrician that will hopefully eliminate some of the stress for first-time moms!
Kids inevitably get sick at 5:01 p.m. or on the weekend. The first item on my list when searching for a pediatrician was availability after hours and on the weekends. Most pediatric offices have an after-hours call line, but consider choosing an office that also takes sick visits on the weekends. It will be so much easier to see your regular doctor instead of waiting in an emergency room or reciting your child’s entire medical history at an urgent care office.
One of my first questions when looking for a pediatrician was, “Will my child always get to see her own pediatrician?” Most likely, if you come in for a last-minute sick visit, you might have to see another doctor in your child’s practice, but it was important to me to have continuity of care from the same physician for our well visits. I also checked out the waiting areas and chose a practice that had separate well/sick waiting areas, plus a completely separate room for newborns! Lastly, I suggest choosing an office that has its own lab facilities — bonus if they also have radiology capabilities and in-house billing. The last thing you want to do with a sick kid is drag them to an outside facility for their labs to be drawn or x-rays to be taken.
Go with your gut! Find a pediatrician who listens to you and takes you seriously. There is nothing worse than having a mama’s intuition that something isn’t right and having your concerns dismissed by a doctor. It’s important to strike a balance between a physician that you trust to talk you off the ledge when your mind goes straight to the worst case scenario, and having him or her listen to you when your gut tells you something isn’t wright with your little one.
If you want your pediatrician to see your baby in the hospital immediately after birth, it’s important to know where your doctor has hospital privileges. Ask their office which hospitals they visit, and if the hospital will notify them directly when your baby is born or if you need to call for yourself. If your pediatrician doesn’t visit the hospital where you are delivering, make sure you take home all of your baby’s hospital records so you’ll be prepared for that 2-3 day old check up! When checking on hospitals, also ask about specialty network affiliations (Children’s of Alabama, etc.) If your child ever needs specialized care, it is much easier to schedule appointments, if your primary pediatrician is a part of those networks as well.
Possibly the most important tip is to call ahead and discuss these questions with any potential pediatrician’s office – or stop in for a visit. Some offices can schedule “interview” appointments where a physician is available to answer all of your questions and give you an orientation to the practice. My husband and I attended an expectant parent open house where we got to meet all of the pediatricians at the office, take a tour, and ask any questions we had related to our child’s care. It definitely put our minds at ease and made us feel more comfortable walking into that first newborn check up!
I hope this list will help ease the anxiety of choosing a pediatrician for your little ones! Comment below with your tips for new moms searching for a pediatrician!