Congrats, you’re a parent – and the work has only just begun!
The responsibilities begin early—way before baby ever arrives. Selecting the right doctor for your son or daughter usually takes place before you give birth. The pediatrician you choose will get to know you and your child very well. He or she will see them through fevers and infections and viruses and vaccinations and well-checks and who knows what else.
It’s important, therefore, to be comfortable with your choice.
“Parents need to feel they can trust their pediatrician, and that the doctor will consider how they want to care for their child,” says Gurinder Dabhia, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Clinic Rancho Bernardo.
Here are five steps to help you pick out the perfect pediatrician for your precious new family member:
Do your research
Kick off your search by utilizing one of your best resources: your friends and family. Get referrals from your OBGYN and family doctor, too. Once you’ve got a list of names, compare office locations, hours, and accessibility. Is there a nurse line? Is there after-hours care? Make sure the pediatrician accepts your health insurance and that the doctor is accepting new patients.
Check credentials and experience
A pediatrician specializes in the care of infants, children, and adolescents and has completed training in pediatrics following graduation from medical school. After completing their residency, many pediatricians become board-certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.
Also take into account the range of experience and how long the pediatrician has been in practice. Has the doctor worked only in a private practice office setting, or do they also have experience with group practice, urgent care, hospitals, or emergency departments? Working in different health care environments can broaden a pediatrician’s knowledge.
Make sure the doctor is up-to-date with current practices
Medicine and health care practices change rapidly, and staying current with the most recent research ensures the best care for your family. For example, parents were once told to swab the umbilical cord stump with alcohol after every diaper change, but new studies show this practice might actually delay the natural healing process. Current practice is to keep the area as clean and dry as possible, using plain water and drying with a clean cloth.
Ensure you “click”
Most pediatricians offer free “getting-to-know-you” visits. These visits allow you to meet the doctor and ask him or her questions about their style and philosophy of care. Your pediatrician will be your partner and advisor when caring for your new baby. You want to have confidence that your own approach to caring for your child is taken into account.
For instance, there are many different methods of helping a baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night, from the “cry-it-out” approach to the “no-tears” approach. If you have reservations about letting your baby “cry it out,” you need to feel that you can talk to your pediatrician honestly and find another method to try.
“There are many different approaches to parenting,” says Dr. Dabhia. “Every child is different, and parents know their children better than anyone, so we, as pediatricians, need to listen to them.”
See how your doctor interacts with your newborn
During your first few visits after your baby is born, pay attention to how the doctor interacts with your child.
“Most pediatricians go into this specialty because we love being with kids,” says Dr. Dabhia. “But during your first few visits, assess how your doctor interacts with your child to ensure it’s a good fit.”
Your infant will develop a special bond with your pediatrician, and you want your little one to be comfortable with your choice as she or he grows and develops.