Top Tips for Choosing a Pediatrician for Your Newborn
Contributing Expert: Ryan Carroll, MD
This post is part of our newborn health and wellness series. For more information from our pediatric experts, visit our Newborn Resources page.
If you’re expecting or getting ready to bring a new baby into your home, you’ll need to choose a pediatrician. Through well visits and sicknesses, your pediatrician will be your partner in care for your child. You want a doctor you feel comfortable talking to and a practice that is accessible and welcoming.
In terms of when to choose a pediatrician, you’ll need to have a practice chosen by the time you leave the hospital with your newborn. You’ll want time to research a pediatrician, so start earlier in your pregnancy rather than later.
How do you go about making the decision? Here are four tips from our pediatricians, who have shepherded thousands of Chicago-area families through the process.
Tip #1: Make a List of What You Want in a Pediatrician
When you think about the ideal pediatrician, certain things probably come to mind. Do you want a pediatrician similar to the one you had growing up? Do you hope to see someone who feels more like a peer and fellow parent than an intimidating expert? Or are credentials the most important factor?
While credentials can vary, any pediatrician you choose should be either an MD or DO and have completed a pediatric residency. You also want someone who is certified with the American Board of Pediatrics.
Beyond training, think also about location and availability. Obviously, you need a practice that takes your insurance. How about location and number of offices? Do they have weekend hours? Are they able to do labs onsite? Are they convenient to public transportation?
Accessibility and technology matter, too. For example, do you want to be able to email questions through MyChart or a similar patient portal, and use telemedicine? Start by making a list of the most important factors for you.
Tip #2: Narrow Down the Pediatric Practice First
You don’t need to know the exact doctor you will see when you leave the hospital. You just need to select a practice where your records can be sent and you can schedule the first appointment.
When looking for practices, ask for referrals from parents in your network and neighborhood groups. Don’t just ask them for a practice name. Ask them why they love that practice. You can also ask your obstetrician or primary care doctor who they recommend.
Seek to understand how the practice works. Do they rotate doctors, so that you have the chance to meet with various pediatricians in the early months? Do they have an association with a hospital and are able to round on kids who are in the hospital? Do they have a patient portal available to use? How difficult is it to get an appointment?
Tip #3: Interview Pediatricians
Pediatric practices commonly offer “get to know the pediatrician” meet and greet events. This is your chance to ask questions about credentials, procedures and policies, logistics, accessibility — essentially, all the things on your wish list.
But it’s also a chance to simply have a conversation and notice how you feel. Does it feel like the doctor “gets” you? You want to feel more confident when you leave the room than you felt when you walked in.
It’s also okay to switch doctors inside of a pediatric practice. It’s very common for parents to start with one doctor and gravitate toward another. Don’t worry about doctors being offended: They won’t be. Pediatric practices expect this shuffling around. In fact, some practices encourage parents to see different doctors for this very reason.
Tip #4: Understand the Difference Between a Pediatrician and a Family Doctor
A family doctor takes care of both adults and children. Everyone in the family sees the same doctor. If you see a family doctor and want to continue your baby’s care there, you can absolutely do that. A good family physician is well-versed in pediatric care.
However, if you are going the family doctor route, look for a doctor who is associated with a hospital that provides excellent pediatric care.
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