There are so MANY things I could/should have done differently when I had my kids. Even though hubby is peds pulm, I feel as though we had a few bumps along the way choosing a practice that fitted our family. Since I’m a firm believer that mom/parent guilt is a total waste of time for me, I decided instead to share some of my thoughts on what I wish I had known, or what I might have asked if I had just known to ask when choosing a doctor for my newborn twins.
I will say that of all the things we did right, choosing a pediatrician BEFORE the littles came was one of the best. Knowing there was someone in place ready to watch over our premies was so comforting. If you’re having multiples this seems even more important since even though 36 weeks is considered full term (for twins at least), it is still premature AND there is no guarantee you’ll make it there. There is no way of knowing if you’ll have issues, or deliver early, but I would recommend that you have your ducks in a row (and not leave it till the end of your pregnancy) if there is any chance that you might deliver early.
In no particular order, here are the things I wished I had asked about or known about when picking a pediatrician, and things I encourage all parents explore when finding a doctor or practice to take care of your new bundle of poop and spit (ahem, I mean, joy).
- Find someone whose values and style aligns with yours, or who is willing to accommodate your choices. This includes, but is not limited to: circumcision, vaccination, breast/bottle feeding, diapering, sleep (co- vs training), introduction to solids, etc. This also includes how you like to receive health information. Basically, you want someone who will give you their medical advice, and help you find a way to align that with your lifestyle choices in the best way for your child and family. Find someone you connect with, someone you feel you can trust, someone who you can have difficult conversations with in a crisis, who you feel will not judge you, but give you sound and up to date scientifically based advice.
- How quickly can they accommodate non-emergency sick appointments? What about same-day/urgent appointments? Do they have open visit hours/walk in hours? What is the average wait time for routine visits?
- After hours: try and find a clinic that has an after-hours on-call person (this can be a doctor, but often is a nurse or triage specialist) so you’re not forced to go to the ER or patient care clinic every time something happens.
- Do they respond to email? Our office has a portal where we can communicate with our doctor, and we are encouraged to send in questions ahead of routine visits so that the doctor can prep for the visit better.
- Our new practice also has a well-call hotline, where you can call in and have questions answered by nurse. These are basic well-baby questions that most new parents might have.
- If you are planning to breastfeed, find out what lactation support they offer, and how hard they will push if you decide to stop.
- Find out if the practice accepts families (without medical cause) who are on an alternative schedule (why, I don’t know) or who do not plan to vaccinate at all (for the love of everything, why??). You don’t want your unvaccinated newborns (or even yourself, btw, do you have all your boosters?) exposed to sick kids who might be spreading ancient diseases.
- If you are in a high-risk category (that you are aware of), for example if you are carrying multiples, or are of advanced maternal age, or your child has tested positive for a birth defect/chromosomal anomaly, find a practice that has doctors experienced in those issues. Find a practice where they routinely do NICU visits, or provide support for your particular case.
- Hospital affiliation – if your local hospital has a good pediatric division that’s fine, otherwise you’ll want your doctors to have privileges at the local children’s hospital
- Find out if they do lab testing in-house (and whether the lab they use is in your network)
- Do they have separate sick/well waiting areas?
Things to look for over time, but you can ask about/observe for now:
- Make sure you like the nurses and other medical support staff who you might have to interact with.
- Competent front desk/billing staff: dealing with insurance snafus and incomplete or unfiled paperwork from a doctor’s office is a HUGE pain and time suck. Ask about staff turnover.
- How easy is it to switch primary doctors within the practice in the future? This is important for larger practices especially if you decide you like a doctor other than the one you initially signed up with as your PCP.
- As your kids get older do they allow the kids to have private visits with the doctors to discuss things they might not in front of parents? If so, do you trust these doctors to give your kids medical advice that is not shaming, that is sex-positive, that aligns with how you would provide it, in a safe space?
Ask your friends in the area, or on local parenting groups about local pediatricians. You’ll get a good sense of who is popular (although that may or may not work for you) and gives you a good starting point!
In the beginning you have SO MANY appointments and so many questions, making sure you like and are comfortable with your pediatrician is so important to raising well and happy babies and parents. Good luck!!