Choosing a Pediatrician for Your Baby

Newborn exam with peditrician
Photo © Robert Lang Photography/Getty Images

Choosing a doctor for your baby may not be something you've given a lot of thought to during pregnancy. Many women don't realize that this is something that should be done well before baby is born to prevent any hiccups in baby's care after the birth. In many areas, unless you're using a family practitioner and sometimes a nurse midwife, the moment the cord is cut the obstetrician or other doctor is technically no longer responsible for your child.

By allowing yourself time to interview and select a pediatrician or family practitioner for your baby you will be able to research your feelings of parenting and your partner's feeling as well as how likely of a match you are with your particular candidate. This person is going to be someone that you will be seeing quite frequently for well baby care and in cases of illness and emergency.

It's very important that you find someone who has a style, personality and skills to match your needs.

In determining whether your philosophies are similar, ask yourself how you and your partner feel about the following issues, and then ask your potential pediatricians:

  • Antibiotics:

    In the past many pediatricians have over prescribed antibiotics. Due to the potential ramifications of overuse and the questionable benefits in some cases, many pediatricians are using them less frequently. When do you feel that they should be used? What about your potential doctor?
  • Breastfeeding:

    Is this person knowledgeable in the subject? Do they have a myriad of resources available or will they suggest weaning at the first sign of trouble?
  • Parenting Style:

    While it's really hard to determine how you will parent before having the baby and adapting your lives accordingly, is this person someone that you would agree with on parenting issues like discipline, the family bed, feeding issues, etc.? If not you may be setting yourself up for a lot of strife.

    The Basics of the Practice

    There are many other issues which may be important to you, like office hours, phone call rules, on call schedules, vaccination issues, waiting rooms situations, etc. Anything that you think is important should be addressed in an interview prenatally. This interview is usually best done in person. It allows you to get a feel for how the office is run and what the staff and nurses are like. It will give you a chance to check out the location for convenience, cleanliness, and atmosphere. It's also much easier to get a feel for the practice in this hands-on manner.

    Meet and Greet Appointment

    When you have your appointment, bring your birth plan with you. Show it to the potential doctor(s). Since they will be the ones in charge of your baby's care in the hospital or birth center you will need to know if they will support your ideas at the birth. Things you might address are rooming in, breastfeeding, doing newborn exams in the room instead of the nursery, what will happen if baby needs to transfer to the intensive care nursery, when will you see the doctor at the hospital, etc. If you're planning a home birth, ask when they would like to see the baby. Will they do a home visit or are you required to come in with the baby within a certain amount of time?

    Most pediatricians are very used to dealing with these types of questions.

    While there are certainly a lot of factors that will go into your final decision (insurance, hospital affiliation, gender preference, etc.), your gut feeling about the partnership you will have with this person is often a very good indicator. Don't hesitate to check with your local medical association to see if complaints have been lodged. It is also a good idea to ask local moms and dads to see how their experiences have been. This is particularly true if you know that the parents in the group have a similar philosophy to yours in terms of parenting.