May 14, 2024
Developmental milestones
May 14, 2024
Developmental milestones

First-time parent? How to choose a pediatrician

Choosing your child’s pediatrician is kind of like hiring someone for a job. You browse through your options, complete some background checks, and then meet them to see if they're a good fit for your family. It's a big decision because hopefully, you'll be sticking with them for the next 18 to 21 years! This guide will lead you through the process of choosing a pediatrician, covering what to look for, factors to consider, and how to find the perfect fit to meet your family’s needs. And remember, if you have any concerns or need help deciding between two candidates, Summer Health’s pediatric experts are only one text away.
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Written by
Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
Dr. Marcy Borieux
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Marcy Borieux

Why do you need a pediatrician?

Parents make frequent trips to the pediatrician during their child’s first year. From routine checkups (about seven of them) to sick visits and the occasional (or not so occasional) anxious visit spurred by first-time parent worries, you'll find yourself there quite often. Pediatricians will assess your child's growth, ensuring they hit all their developmental milestones, feed well, and sleep soundly. They'll handle vaccinations, track growth on growth charts, and offer reassuring advice to calm any newbie parent jitters you may have.

When should you begin your pediatrician search?

It’s best to begin your search a few months before your baby’s due date, because once your baby arrives, there’s little time for much else. You’ll want time to do a thorough search, researching and gathering information to make sure you choose the best doctor for your baby.

Finding a pediatrician ahead of time also allows you to familiarize yourself with their practice, their policies, and address any questions you may have about upcoming appointments. Depending on the hospital where you deliver, some pediatricians will visit your baby in the hospital, and will be your designated pediatrician during postpartum care.  

How do you find a pediatrician?

Begin your search by researching pediatricians that have offices conveniently located near your home. Since you'll be visiting frequently, accessibility is key. Here are some helpful tips to kickstart your search:

  • Ask for referrals: Seek recommendations from your OB/GYN, certified-nurse midwife, or primary care physician. They often have professional networks and can suggest pediatricians they trust.
  • Seek personal recommendations: Tap into the experiences of friends, family members, or coworkers who recently had babies. They can provide firsthand insights into the quality of care they received.
  • Research online: Conduct a simple Google search to compile a list of pediatricians in your area. Visit their websites to gather more information about their qualifications, practice approach, and areas of expertise. Be sure to check online reviews which can offer a wealth of insider information.
  • Check your insurance coverage: If you have medical insurance, your provider likely offers a list of in-network pediatricians based on your zip code. Ensure your pediatrician accepts your insurance to help manage healthcare costs. They definitely add up.

5 steps when considering a pediatrician

Selecting a pediatrician isn't as simple as picking your favorite jelly bean color from a candy bag. Each pediatrician has a unique approach to pediatric care, so it's important to choose wisely. Here are some steps to get you started on your pediatrician search:

Step 1: Check certifications

As you narrow down your search, make sure your physicians have board certifications. This certification confirms that they have completed the necessary education and training in pediatrics. You can verify a doctor's certification by searching their name on the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP) website.

Step 2: Confirm office hours and parking

Since you'll be making frequent visits to the pediatrician’s office, check their days and hours of operation. If you’ll be driving, take a look at parking. Some offices have pricey parking lots, while others rely on street parking, which can be frustrating to navigate, especially with a crying baby in the car.

Keep in mind that many pediatrician offices close around 5 pm, with after-hours calls directed to a larger hospital or a nurse-on-call. Some offices have multiple providers, with physicians who rotate after-hours care responsibilities. Don’t forget: Summer Health’s pediatricians are available around the clock, whether during work hours or in the middle of the night, and are just a text away.

Step 3: Research and review

If you've received referrals or recommendations from your general doctor or friends, take the opportunity to ask them questions about their experiences with the pediatrician. Their firsthand insights can help guide you in making your decision.

If you don't have any referrals or recommendations, consider checking out Google or Yelp reviews. These online platforms can provide you with a better understanding of quality of care or problems with the practice.

Step 4: Conduct an interview

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that expectant parents visit a pediatrician during the third trimester of pregnancy. The visit can be an informal conversation-style interview, which can be really helpful in narrowing down your choices. Many offices offer 20-30 minute time slots specifically for these kinds of appointments, whether in person or virtually.

These visits, or interviews, are a chance to really get to know the doctor, learn about their background, and see what their bedside manner is like. It's also a great opportunity to discuss important topics like their stance on COVID vaccines, breastfeeding, and starting solids, so you can ensure their philosophy aligns with yours.

Here are some interview questions to think about:

  1. Which hospital is the doctor affiliated with?
  2. Will the doctor conduct rounds in the postpartum unit for newborn patients?
  3. What are your thoughts on extended breastfeeding?
  4. At what age do you recommend starting solids?
  5. What are your thoughts on antibiotics and ear infections?
  6. How can we communicate with the doctor between visits?
  7. Is your office staff trained to answer medical questions?
  8. Do you offer same-day appointments for sick visits?
  9. Do you offer weekend hours for urgent concerns?
  10. Are there separate waiting rooms for routine visits and sick visits?
  11. Does the doctor offer virtual visits?
  12. Can I access my child’s medical records online?
  13. Do you partner with other physicians to coordinate care?

Step 5: Verify medical insurance

If you're specifically looking for a pediatrician who is an in-network provider with your medical insurance, it's important to double-check coverage. The pediatrician's office can verify your insurance coverage, or you can call your insurance provider directly to confirm. You don’t want to end up with a surprise bill later on.

FAQs: All about pediatricians

Here are some frequently asked questions when it comes to choosing your child’s pediatrician:

What education does a pediatrician need?

Pediatricians complete a four-year medical school program, where they study general medicine and participate in specialty rotations, including pediatrics. Following medical school, if a doctor decides to specialize in pediatrics, they’ll enter a pediatric residency program. During this specialized training, they’ll learn the ropes of both general and specialized pediatric care.

What happens during newborn appointments?

After you leave the hospital, your pediatrician will want to see your newborn within two days of discharge. At the beginning of the appointment, a nurse will take your baby’s weight and height. Then your doctor will come to complete a body check and have conversations about feeding and sleep.  

This is also the perfect time to bring up all those burning newborn questions with your pediatrician. If you’re a first-time parent, you’ll likely have a bunch of them!

What if my chosen pediatrician isn’t accepting new patients?

Despite all the effort you've put into finding the right pediatrician, it's frustrating when they're not taking new patients. This is a common hurdle, especially in big cities or with highly sought-after pediatricians. In this situation, consider putting your name on a waiting list in case a spot opens up later. You might also find that your second choice turns out to be the perfect fit!

What are some things that pediatricians recommend new parents prepare for?

Some classes pediatricians find useful for new parents are:

  • New parent classes
  • Birthing classes
  • Infant CPR
  • Baby and parent classes

What’s the difference between a pediatrician and an OB/GYN?

A OB/GYN or obstetrician-gynecologist is a doctor that specializes in pregnancy, childbirth, the reproductive system, and fertility. A pediatrician is a doctor that treats newborns, children, adolescents, and young adults until 18 to 21 years of age.

What should I do if I have newborn care questions for my doctor between visits?

In many pediatrician offices, there are nurses or trained office staff who can answer some of your questions. For more pressing or urgent matters, it’s always best to get an answer directly from a pediatrician. Remember, our pediatric specialists at Summer Health are here to help too.

What happens if I don’t like my chosen pediatrician?

It happens all the time. Sometimes, a candidate might seem like a perfect fit on paper, but in practice, personalities may clash or you may not agree with their bedside manner. That's okay – you always have the option to switch to a different doctor who better suits your preferences and needs.

Can my baby see our family doctor instead of a pediatrician?

Family doctors are doctors that can provide medical care to each member of your family, including adults, children, and babies. We recommend choosing a pediatrician who has advanced and specialized training in pediatrics.

Dahlia Rimmon, RDN
Content Writer
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