Tips for Choosing a Pediatrician for Your Newborn

New parents experience a whirlwind of emotions, especially the mother-to-be. Naturally, you want a healthy baby, and preparing to become parents can be an anxious, yet exciting time in a couple’s life. Choosing a doctor for your baby or maybe for the entire family, is a very personal decision.

One of the most troublesome questions that expectant parents ask is: What doctor will have my baby’s best interest at heart? Some of the best people to trust with this question are close family members and friends. They will most likely be brutally honest with you about the doctor they take their children to, whether it is a pediatrician or a family practitioner. Word of mouth is the best way to learn the reputation of the doctor, his good points, and his not so good points.

There are a few other paths you can use to your advantage to help you gain information about the best doctor for your newest and most fragile member of your family, your newborn. First, you can talk to your obstetrician and ask for pediatricians they will refer to you. They will probably not refer you to a particular pediatrician; however, he may provide you with a list of pediatricians located in your area. Another option is to contact your insurance company and ask if they have a list of pediatricians and family practitioners they participate with. They will most likely refer you to their website, which can be a good way of learning about a specific doctor and her techniques and medical beliefs. For example: Dr. A may prefer to take a more preventative approach to healthcare; whereas Dr. B treats his patients when the illness arises. There are also websites which record how patients rate their doctors.

So, what is the difference between a pediatrician and a family practitioner? Pediatricians are doctors who specialize in treating children, adolescents, and depending on the doctor, sometimes young adults, usually until the patient is 21-years-old. Due to the age range, this means that he is well versed in treating childhood illnesses and in caring for the overall health of children. A family practitioner, on the other hand, is a doctor whose expertise is in a wide range of illnesses, from childhood illnesses to diseases that affect elderly patients. He is also more likely to be familiar with genetic diseases as well.

How do you know what to look for in a doctor for your baby? It is not as complicated as you might think. You want to ponder things that are important to you, things that you are comfortable with, or not, with your own doctor? These concerns and thoughts should carry over when it comes to choosing a doctor for your baby. Some thoughts to consider are:

  • What kind of atmosphere does the overall office have? Is it friendly, caring, stressful, a bit careless, unorganized, and hap-hazard?
  • How clean and tidy is the office? Is it free of dust, vacuumed, and is the bathroom clean?
  • What kind of rapport does the doctor have with is staff? Is he polite and respectful when he asks for something to be done?
  • How is the office staff towards you and other patients? Friendly, kind and understanding, or somewhat distant and matter-of-fact?
  • What is the doctor’s philosophy of treating her patients? Is he focused on preventative measures you can take, such as healthy eating habits?
  • Which hospital is the pediatrician or family practitioner affiliated with? Will he introduce himself to me at the hospital after delivery, or at his office when I take my baby for the well visit?
  • Does he encourage you to breastfeed your baby even when you are discouraged, or is he quick to tell you to supplement with formula?
  • Does he genuinely listen to your concerns and questions? Does he take you seriously as a concerned parent, or simply brush you off as a mother with an “over-active” imagination?
  • If this is a group office, are you required to see any doctor that is available, or do you have a choice as to what doctor you are most comfortable with? Sometimes it is good to familiarize yourself with other doctors in the practice should your doctor not be available.

There are many things to consider, but above all, you will want to observe how your baby responds to the doctor and the nurses. Your child’s reaction can tell you a lot even though she cannot verbalize her feelings. Your baby’s body language will tell you a lot. This is important in choosing a doctor for your baby. And if for any reason, you are not satisfied with the doctor, you can always try a different one in your area.

Just as the decision to offer the bottle or breast to your baby is very personal and only a decision that you can make, so is choosing your baby’s doctor. Only you know what is best for your family; trust your instincts.