Pediatricians -- Choosing the Right Doctor for Your Baby

by Melissa Jaramillo

Choosing PediatricianIf you intend to have your baby seen by your family doctor, your job's already done.

If you plan to have a pediatrician tend to your child, you'll want to start looking for "Dr. Right" long before your baby's due date. Personal referrals from friends and family are always a great place to start.

You might already have a few of your preferences jotted down. Which of these will you add to your list? What others can you add in the comments?

✓ I would prefer a green" pediatrician.
✓ Our doctor must be in our network.
✓ We want our clinic to be within easy driving distance.
✓ My "Dr. Right" has kids.
✓ The right doctor for my baby supports different types of raising kids, like attachment parenting.

What should you look for in a pediatrician? We've pulled together questions for the office staff and doctor to help you narrow down your choices and find a pediatrician who meshes with your schedule and your needs.

What to Ask the Office Staff

• Is the doctor in my insurance network?
• What is my co-pay amount?
• How does your office handle billing and insurance claims?
• Where does the doctor have hospital privileges?
• Does the practice have pediatric nurse practitioners or physician's assistants? What is their role in my child's care?
• What are your office hours? Are you open on weekends or extended hours for working parents?
• Are certain days or times set aside for well-child visits, immunizations or special consultations?
• Does the waiting room have separate areas for well and sick children?
• How long will I have to wait to see the doctor?
• How far ahead should I schedule well-child visits?

What to Ask the Doctor

• How long have you been in practice?
• If you're not available, who will see my child? What are their qualifications and philosophies?
• Do you reply to phone calls during the day from patients? How long does it take to get a call back?
• How soon after birth can you see my baby?
• What is considered routine care during the first two years?
• Do well-baby visits include discussion on development, discipline and parenting problems?
• When would you like me to contact you? What situations indicate I should take my child directly to the emergency room?

Do You Agree on Philosophy?

It's a given that you'll want a pediatrician who's top-notch medically. You'll have a better fit if your doctor supports many of your parenting choices. As you're interviewing, politely ask questions to help you gauge the physician's thoughts. Here are some examples:

• Do you encourage breastfeeding versus bottle-feeding?
• What are your recommendations for birth control while nursing?
• Do you offer referrals to a lactation consultant or nutritionist?
• Do you prefer feeding on demand or on a schedule?
• How do you address a baby's slow weight gain?
• What is your usual treatment for ear infections?
• Do you accept families who use alternate immunization schedules?
• What advice do you give new parents about introducing solid foods?
• What is your stance on circumcision?
• How do you feel about the "family bed"?

Are you all set to pick out your pediatrician? What item is most important to you as you choose the best doctor for your baby? What questions didn't we ask that you would?

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.