How to Choose the Best Pediatrician for Your New Baby
Selecting a pediatrician for your new baby is one of the first and biggest healthcare decisions you’ll make for your child. A pediatrician specializes in the physical, behavioral, and mental care of children all the way up to 18 years of age. They diagnose and treat illness, administer immunizations, and monitor your child’s development.
You’ll likely visit the pediatrician at least six times for well-baby checks before baby’s first birthday, so it’s important to choose a pediatrician you like. If you’re expecting a new baby soon, think about what you want in a doctor for your child, especially since he or she will probably be part of your family’s life for years. Then take a look at our tips on choosing the best pediatrician for your newborn.
What To Look For in a Pediatrician
There are several important considerations to evaluate when selecting the best pediatrician for your baby, including:
- Location. Your search may begin with something as simple as an Internet search of “best pediatrician near me.” Ideally, you’ll want a doctor who is not only nearby, but who is easy to reach. Will you have to drive, walk, or take the subway? Is it a quick journey, or will you likely face lots of traffic?
- Cost and coverage. This may be even more important than location. Does the pediatrician accept your healthcare plan? Are they affordable? It’s probably also worth a phone call to your insurance company to clarify what you’ll be responsible for in terms of deductibles, co-pays, and out-of-pocket expenses.
- Hours. This is less of an issue if one parent is home with the baby, but caregivers who work outside the home from 9 am to 5 pm may have more of a challenge when it comes to scheduling appointments. Does the pediatrician’s office offer weekend or evening hours? Are there nurses or other staff who can answer questions or see your baby if the doctor is unavailable? How much advance notice do they need to schedule an appointment?
- Personality. Every doctor is different. You’ll find some you love, and some that maybe you just don’t sync with. Do you feel listened to when you speak? Or are they trying to hurry you out the door? Are they kind or dismissive when you share your concerns? Your newborn’s health is paramount so trust your instincts and keep looking until you find a pediatrician that feels like a match.
Questions to Ask Your Pediatrician Candidates
When searching for the best pediatrician for your baby, your goal is to find the best fit for your family’s needs and wants. You may not immediately find a doctor who checks off every item on your list, but it’s alright to interview several and ask questions. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Do you accept my insurance?
- Where did you attend medical school?
- How long have you been practicing?
- Are you board-certified?
- With which hospitals are you affiliated?
- Are you outpatient only or will you visit us in the hospital after delivery?
- Who handles after-hours sick calls?
- Can you perform tests or blood work in your office?
- Do you accept same-day appointments?
- Do you have a philosophy on formula-feeding/breastfeeding/potty training/sleep training/circumcision/(anything else that’s specifically important to you)?
- If my baby needs to see a specialist, how would your office handle that?
When to Start Looking for a Pediatrician
If you’re pregnant, you should have a pediatrician selected by the end of your second trimester if possible. This allows you plenty of opportunity during the first few months to focus on yourself and your health, while still giving you time to get recommendations and interview candidates without feeling too pressed for time.
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Finding the Best Pediatrician for Your Newborn
Begin your search by reaching out to friends with children or asking for suggestions from other parents in the neighborhood. They may even tell you who to avoid! Another way to find a pediatrician? Do a map search on your insurance company’s website to see which in-network providers are near you.
You can also check the American Board of Pediatrics' directory of board-certified practitioners. These doctors commit to continuing education in order to maintain their membership. That means you can feel confident that your pediatrician has current knowledge of the most up-to-date research and treatments for children.
Plan a visit to meet the doctor before your baby is born. Ask questions, learn more about one another, and see if it feels like a match. Call their office to find out if they’re taking new patients and whether they will accept your healthcare coverage. Also, ask if they offer a free initial consultation or if there is a fee for these types of meetings.
The initial consultation is your chance to be direct with the doctor about what is important to you. Not everyone will feel like a good match, and it’s better to know as soon as possible and move on to your next candidate.
Your Baby’s First Pediatrician Visit
Your baby will need to visit the doctor for their first checkup within the first day or two of leaving the hospital. Be sure to bring along any discharge paperwork from the hospital so that your new pediatrician can add it to your baby’s records.
Finding the right doctor for your newborn can seem like an overwhelming task, but with a bit of research, you’ll choose the best pediatrician for your family. And when you’ve found “the one,” rest assured they’ll be by your side for the next 18 years to care for your child and answer questions along the way.
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