Inside: Don’t get stuck wishing you had a different doctor. Check out these 15 questions to ask the pediatrician and choose the right doctor from the start.
Did your OBGYN tell you that you needed to choose a pediatrician for your newborn soon? Are you confused about where to start?
You aren’t alone. Many parents don’t know that you can set up consultations with pediatricians before your baby is born. And, as with most doctor’s appointments, it’s easier if you come prepared with a list of questions to ask the doctor.
Don’t make the same mistake I did and choose the wrong doctor for your baby.
Why do you need to schedule a meet-and-greet with the pediatrician?
Both of my best friends and I never visited any pediatricians before having our babies. As a result, we’ve all switched from our original pediatricians.
- One of my friends is against vaccinating her child and didn’t make sure that this was OK beforehand with her pediatrician. During her newborn’s first appointment, the pediatrician lectured my friend on the dangers of not vaccinating and told her that the office couldn’t accept her son as a patient.
Don’t forget to check out my complete guide on how to get your baby to sleep through the night by 12-weeks-old at How To Create A Baby Awake Time Chart For Better Sleep.
- My other friend is self-proclaimed “anxious” and didn’t trust the laid back, wait-and-see style of her original pediatrician. She switched to a different doctor that she felt would take her concerns more seriously.
- I was unhappy with the professionalism and compassion that the staff showed to my son during his first few appointments. I wanted to show my son that going to a doctor shouldn’t be something that he fears.
Basically, all of us could have avoided switching pediatricians if we just would have scheduled consultations from the start.
When should you call a pediatrician when pregnant?
Listen, I’m a planner. I have PTSD from the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants style of parenting that I grew up with.
Because of that, I decided on a pediatrician about midway through my second trimester. However, for a more realistic timeline, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends visiting a pediatrician during your third trimester as an important first step in establishing a trusted and supportive relationship for your child.
And while I may have chosen early, that doesn’t mean I chose correctly.
I naively listened to one of my husband’s friend’s suggestions and blindly chose the pediatrician that they went to for their children. I didn’t do any interviews, make any calls or visit any offices.
Where did this get me?
…switching pediatricians eight months in.
What should I look for when choosing a pediatrician?
The number one thing that I wish I would have looked for, and, I believe would have told me a lot about the pediatrician, was the office morale.
You may be able to assess the office administrator’s enthusiasm for her job through a simple phone call, but this is where actually visiting an office in person is going to be a huge advantage.
Here is a common list of things to look for when choosing a pediatrician:
- Does your OBGYN recommend the pediatrician? In retrospect, I should have put a higher priority on choosing a pediatrician recommended by my gynecologist, rather than listening to you someone that my husband knew. I loved my OB-GYN and trusted their opinions. Once I finally decided to switch pediatricians, I asked for their referral list. From there, I made a spreadsheet of options.
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- Is the pediatrician in-network for your insurance? You’ll usually be able to find this by looking at the pediatrician’s website, or you can also log into your insurance provider and search for pediatricians in-network.
- How far is the pediatrician’s office from your house? On the spreadsheet, I included how many miles from my house they were and what part of town they were in. I also factored in the times a day when traffic was the busiest. So while one pediatrician’s office might have been closer in mileage, another pediatrician’s office on my side of town would actually be easier to get to.
- Take note of online reviews. Look at reviews from other patients to get an idea if a pediatrician will be the right fit for your family. I included the review rating on my spreadsheet to help me narrow down my options.
- Will the doctor do the first checkup at the hospital? Ask potential pediatricians if they will visit your baby at the hospital. Some pediatricians will not visit babies at hospitals they’re not affiliated with; therefore, you’ll meet with a different pediatrician at the hospital and then meet your actual pediatrician at your newborn’s first appointment.
I met my pediatrician for the first time when he walked into my hospital room while I was trying to breastfeed. I literally met him wearing only my underwear, with no one else in the room. We both made intense eye contact while trying not to acknowledge the awkwardness of the situation.
- Note whether the waiting room is well equipped with toys and books to keep a child entertained: This means a lot, because (1) You don’t want to instill the perception thaht the doctor’s office is something to fear. You want it to at least seem like a fun environment. (2) When your child is getting something painful done, like getting shots, you want to be able to distract them with something else.
- Considered factors about their office, like:
- Does the office allow same-day or last-minute appointments?
- Are the office hours convenient for your schedule?
- Does the pediatrician offer evening and weekend hours?
- If it’s a group practice, will your baby see different doctors or the same pediatrician each time?
15 Questions to Ask the Pediatrician Before Your Baby’s First Visit
- Why did you get into pediatric care?
- How many years have you been in practice?
- What hospital are you affiliated with?
- Do you visit newborns in the hospital after they’re born?
- Where do you stand on the issue of _______? For instance, raise some of your values, like:
- Allowing your baby to sleep in your bed
- Feeding on demand
- Placing a six-week-old or twelve-week-old in child care
- Starting to feed solid food
- Bonding immediately after birth.
- Are you a solo practice, or do you have other doctors on staff? If solo, who fills in while you are away?
- What are your office hours? Do you have hours in the evenings or weekends?
- What’s your walk-in policy?
- If there is an emergency, how can I get in touch with the office?
- Will you take minor questions via a phone call or email in-between visits?
- What is the typical response time?
- How long does a typical check-up last? Ideally, it should last at least 20 minutes.
- Which tests do you do in the office vs. in a lab? If at a lab, where is the closest location?
- Do you help with sleep training?
- What is your policy on antibiotics?
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Final Thoughts on 15 Questions to Ask the Pediatrician Before Your Baby’s First Visit
I hope this article will give you an idea on what to look for in a pediatrician for your baby. There are so many things to think about when planning for a baby, that a lot of things can get lost in the mix. Don’t make the same mistake I did and trust someone else’s opinion on something that can impact your life as much as a doctor can.
Did you switch pediatricians? Are there any questions that you would add to this list? Tell me in the comments below!
Allie Schmidt is a rare disease advocate and disabled mom living with motor neuron disease. She founded Disability Dame in 2020 to provide tips to other moms living with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
In her spare time, you can find her traveling with her husband (she's been to 38 states and 16 countries!), watching reruns of Survivor, or tending to her near-constant sunburn from spending too much time outside. You can follow her adventures here.