April 7, 2008
Advice on Choosing Your Child's Pediatrician
When I was seven months pregnant, I began my search for my daughter's pediatrician. A dear reader left a comment with the following questions on yesterday's post about vaccines where I mentioned some of my trials in finding the right doctor:
"...I am preparing to have my first child this summer (June) and have been wondering how and when to start looking for a pediatrician. Do you have a resource for questions to ask or a timeline in which to start looking? I'm already the patient "that reads way too much" and "asks too many questions." I want to be educated in a way that I can remain level-headed during this emotional time..."
Thank you for posing these questions. From a new mom's point of view, here's my input on choosing a pediatrician. These are not listed in order of importance...
1) This may seem obvious, but make sure the pediatricians you'll be meeting with are fully covered by your health insurance plan. You'll be seeing them quite often, and you won't want to foot the bill, or even a percentage of it!
2) Proximity is key. Choose someone with a practice as close to where you live as possible. This was a big factor living in Los Angeles, where traffic can add an hour to a 2 mile journey. If your child is sick, you don't want to drag them on a road trip in addition to having to take them to the doctor.
3) Buy a spiral notebook and take notes on each doctor you visit. Believe me, late pregnancy wipes the memory like six tequila shots with a beer chaser. Place your list of questions on the first page of the notebook so you won't have to memorize them.
4) I am big on reading someone's "energy." You know when you walk into a room and you can tell whether you jive with your surroundings, it's like a gut feeling? If you feel at all uncomfortable or ill at ease with the doctor, keep looking. You'll be discussing poop and boobs, crying and vomit, and you need to feel like you can call them at 2am if need be.
5) Does it seem like the doctor authentically likes children? Try to arrive early for your consultation and get a feel for how the office runs, how friendly the staff and nurses are, and how the children are being treated.
6) Does the doctor have hospital privileges where you are delivering your baby? Ours did, and she was able to come see our baby during our stay, as opposed to us having a hospital appointed doc tend to her.
7) Most important in my opinion... will the pediatrician work with you to tailor the immunization schedule to suit your individual child's needs? If you don't want your baby to receive the Hep B shot at birth, will your doc uphold this decision? Will she take the extra time to discuss the benefits and risks of certain vaccines and forgo the ones your child doesn't absolutely need?
8) If you will be co-sleeping, make sure you find a doc who supports this decision as well. Sleeping will probably and hopefully be the most major issue you have with your baby.
9) Referring to the questions posed above... don't let any doctor make you feel like you are asking too many questions or reading too much... you are looking out for your child's best interest and you will know your child better than any doctor ever can. However, for your own peace of mind, and I speak from experience, sometimes Google-ing the heck out of your child's symptoms can backfire and cause you unnecessary anxiety and fear. But, it may also provide great clarity and comfort... so do your best to ride that fine line and stay sane.
Once you choose your pediatrician: Be kind to every single person who works in the office. (This should be common practice anyway) You may be calling frantic and the young girl who was replacing the water jug may be your only access to speaking with a nurse or the doctor. These folks remember every mom and how the moms treat them, so be sure to shine.
Now for a professional and thorough take on choosing a pediatrician from a doctor's standpoint, please read on...
Dr. Sears is my favorite doctor to always have in my back pocket. I have his books, and his website is an invaluable resource. Read his advice on Choosing a Pediatrician, and while you're at it, sign up for his newsletter to receive input from a caring pro. He is a wizard in my humble opinion. I love him.
Good luck and I hope you find the perfect pediatrician for your journey into parenthood!