How to Choose Your Pediatrician


During the first few years of life, your baby
will have frequent visits for routine checkups and illness; so selecting a
healthcare professional you trust is important. These tips and checklists can
help you as you make this decision.

Decide which type of healthcare provider

Different types of healthcare professionals
are qualified to care for your baby:

A Pediatrician is a medical doctor with specialized
training in caring for children from birth through adolescence.

A Family Physician or General Medical Practitioner
 is a physician who is educated and trained in family practice,
which is medical care that covers every member of the family for well and sick
care. You already may have a family physician for your own healthcare.

A Nurse Practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) with advanced
education and training. Nurse practitioners often work in partnership with a
licensed physician.

Once you’ve determined what type of
professional you would like to consider, find prospective doctors through these

  • Recommendations from friends who have children
  • Your obstetrician
  • Your local hospital’s referral service
  • Medical schools and medical directories
  • The American Board of Pediatrics (

Determine your insurance company’s requirements

Check out the rules of your insurance policy
prior to choosing your baby’s doctor. You may have to designate your baby’s
doctor for your health insurance carrier, or you may be required to have your
selection approved in advance. Many health plans have strict rules about which
doctors you can visit, so it’s important to determine if your choice of primary
care physician also decides which specialists and which hospitals you will be
able to use if your baby should need specialized care, since oftentimes these
are linked together by the rules of a health plan.

Consider your parenting philosophy

Choose a doctor who has a similar philosophy
with regard to important parenting issues, since most parents turn to their
pediatrician for advice and guidance on more than just health-related issues.
While this similarity in outlook is not crucial, it certainly makes for a more
complete and enjoyable relationship that allows open conversation and precludes
the need to avoid topics on which you disagree. A like-thinking pediatrician
understands your starting point when advising a particular course of action and
is more likely to prescribe one that suits your ideals. An easy way to find out
what a doctor’s opinion is to ask open questions, such as, “What are your
recommendations about breastfeeding and bottle-feeding?” Here are just a few of
the important topics you should consider:

Feeding –
Does the doctor support your goals for breastfeeding, bottle-feeding and

Sleep –
What is the doctor’s opinion on sleep-related issues, such as co-sleeping and
letting the baby cry herself to sleep? Are these views similar to yours?

Immunizations – Will the doctor provide you with ample
information to make decisions about various vaccinations? Do their standard
recommendations suit you?

Discipline – Does the doctor believe in the same approach
towards discipline as yours?

Take the time to interview prospective doctors

Most medical professionals are happy to
provide a brief interview meeting at no charge. This gives you an opportunity
to meet the doctor and ask questions. Here are a few tips to make this a productive

  • Make an appointment.
  • Arrive early and observe the waiting room, staff and other patients. Is the staff helpful? Is the atmosphere child-friendly? Is the office clean and tidy? How long do people wait for their appointments?
  • Be prepared with a brief list of questions.
  • Stick to your most important topics.
  • Refrain from small talk or lengthy explanations.
  • Remember that your main purpose is to listen, not to talk.

Before your interview

If you do a little research and handle the
technical details before your appointment, you can use your time with the
doctor to obtain answers to your most important questions.

You can obtain information about a doctor,
such as certifications and residency background, from:

  • The American Board of Pediatrics (
  • American Academy of Pediatrics (
  • The American Medical Association (
  • Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of
    Canada (

You often can get information from a
receptionist or secretary at the doctor’s office. First, ask for a brochure or
other written information about the doctor and the practice. If the following
information isn’t covered, then call the office and ask for the following:

  • The background and experience of the doctor.
    (Asking for a verbal answer from the doctor during your upcoming appointment
    may well take up a large portion of your meeting.)
  • What are office hours? Are there evening or
    weekend hours?
  • How is billing handled?
  • What insurance is accepted?
  • What are your after-hours and emergency
  • What hospitals is the doctor affiliated with?
  • How do you handle questions by telephone?
  • Will my doctor personally see us for every
    scheduled appointment?
  • If he is unavailable, who will see us?
  • How many doctors share this office?
  • Do you have a special waiting room or a
    separate entrance for sick children, or how do you separate them from others?
  • Do you have a lactation specialist in the
    office? If not, can you recommend one?

Interview questions

Arrive at your appointment to interview a
medical professional with your list of questions. Don’t ask about issues that
sound good but don’t really matter to you; the meeting likely will be short,
maybe ten to 15 minutes (ask in advance how much time you will have). Stay
focused on your own priorities. Relax and be friendly, but stay on track. Here
is an assortment of sample questions to help you create your own list:

  • Can you explain how we will work together on
    my child’s health issues?
  • What is your typical advice to new parents
    about… Circumcision? Breastfeeding? Bottlefeeding? Sleeping through the night?
  • Can we come to you with questions about
    non-medical issues, like feeding or behavior?

After your interview

Consider the answers to these questions to
help you make your final decision:

  • Is the office conveniently located for you?
  • How long did you have to wait in the waiting
  • Did you feel good about the office and staff?
  • Did the doctor listen thoughtfully to your
  • How willingly and thoroughly did the doctor
    answer questions?
  • What was their attitude when they answered
    your questions? Did you feel listened to and respected?
  • Do you feel comfortable with the doctor’s
    specific child-rearing philosophy?
  • Did you feel that you could freely ask
  • Did the doctor appear knowledgeable and
    current with his information and advice?
  • Would you feel comfortable bringing your baby
    to this person for care?
  • Would you feel confident having this doctor
    handle an emergency with your child?

Excerpted with
permission by McGraw-Hill Publishing by Elizabeth Pantley –

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