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How to Choose a Pediatrician

Updated on April 27, 2015

What's a Pediatrician?

Making essential health decisions for your child begins even before she is born. One of the most important is who will be her pediatrician. This is the person who will examine her, treat her for childhood aches and pains, and who will be on the other end of the phone at two in the morning when she is running a fever that isn't responding to medicine.

Just because someone has an MD doesn't mean he/she will be the best choice for your child. What else should you look for? Here are some tips for choosing a pediatrician.

Image courtesy of weallfallapart on Flickr.

Image by funbobseye on Flickr
Image by funbobseye on Flickr

Start Early

Because many hospitals and clinics require a pediatrician to examine your child after he is born, it is a good idea to have one in place before the big event. A few months before your due date, take the time to make appointments with three or four pediatricians in your area. When you are scheduling the appointment, you can ask the office staff questions like:

  • Is my insurance accepted here? How does billing work?

  • Are you accepting new patients?

  • What are your office hours?

  • What are your procedures for after-hours calls and emergencies?

  • How long does it take to get a non-emergency appointment scheduled?

Image by Alex E. Proimos on Flickr
Image by Alex E. Proimos on Flickr

Talk to the Doctor

Pediatricians are busy people; but they should be able to make time in their schedules for expectant parents or those who want to interview them. If they can't, take that into consideration as well.

What should you ask the pediatrician? Here are some suggestions:

  • Will you see my child in the hospital after he/she is born?

  • Can I call with questions? Is emailing more convenient?

  • Who covers your patients when you are away/sick/on vacation?

  • Which hospital are you affiliated with?

  • What are your views on breastfeeding, circumcision, co-sleeping, attachment parenting, etc.? It is important that your pediatrician be supportive of your lifestyle and able to offer help.

Pay attention to the answers you will get from simply observing the staff and office. Are the reception people, staff, and nurses friendly and helpful? Is the office clean, tidy, and welcoming? Does it have toys to entertain cranky kids who are waiting for their appointments? Is there a separate waiting room for sick children? Does the doctor seem willing to spend time with you, answering your questions? Or is he/she impatient, already thinking about the next appointment?

Beyond that, when you find a doctor who you absolutely adore, be sure to thank them. These doctors are great catches. I like to show my gratitude by sending little 'thank you' cookies every now and then to show them I appreciate all their hard work.

How to Choose a Pediatrician

Image by basykes on Flickr
Image by basykes on Flickr

Think Logistically

Is the pediatrician's office conveniently located, either close to your home, your child's school, or your place of employment? Do the office hours work for your schedule? If, for instance, you work until 5:00 each weekday, does the doctor offer extended hours once or more a week?

Another question to ask is whether you prefer a male or female doctor. It may not make much difference when your child is an infant, but if you have an older child, he/she may feel more comfortable with a doctor of the same sex.

If you're looking to create a baby basket of items a new parent would need, consider one of these helpful books:

Image by edenpictures on Flickr
Image by edenpictures on Flickr

Check Credentials

Pediatricians complete four years of medical school, and then three years of residency devoted to pediatrics. Beyond this, check to see if your doctor is board certified, which indicates he/she has passed rigorous exams and routinely retakes them.

You may also check that your doctor is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). A great resource for parents is the Federation of State Medical Boards, which allows you to verify credentials.

There are many baby book gifts out there that will help new moms out when it's time to choose a pediatrician. Consider these for baby shower gifts, they'll thank you later!

Image by abbybatchelder on Flickr
Image by abbybatchelder on Flickr

Do You Like the Doctor?

Education and credentials are important, but it is also essential that you like and trust your pediatrician. Do you feel comfortable asking him/her questions? Do you feel that he gives you all the information you need in a clear manner without talking down to you? Does your child respond positively to him? How does the doctor react if your child hides under a chair and refuses to come out?

A pediatrician is one of the most important people in your child's life, and while you hope they won't see too much of each other throughout the years, you do want to make sure that he/she is someone you can both rely on. Take the time to choose the best; your effort will be repaid with each visit.

Daddy Files - Ask Your Mother - How should I choose a pediatrician?

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    • squid-janices7 profile image

      squid-janices7 5 years ago

      What a useful lens....AWESOME tips!

    • kimmer1491 profile image

      Kim 5 years ago from Big Lake, MN

      GREAT suggestions, I agree with them all! We selected our pediatrician very carefully, and were heartbroken when we had to switch after 10 years. Fortunately, we've found another great one, based on many of the recommendations listed above.