Five Things to Consider When Choosing a Pediatrician

What to think about when selecting a new doctor for your baby

Find out what questions you should ask when looking for a pediatrician for your child.

Finding the right doctor to care for your newborn is an important decision. The pediatrician you choose will come to know your family well, and you need to be comfortable with your choice. During your baby’s first year alone, you will be visiting the doctor at least six times for well-baby checkups — not to mention unplanned visits for a fever or a first cold. So take some time to think about the following, and you will be on your way to finding a doctor you like and trust.

1. Check for experience.
A pediatrician specializes in the care of infants, children and adolescents and has completed training in pediatrics following graduation from medical school.

Also take into account the range of experience and how long the pediatrician has been in practice. Has the doctor worked only in a private practice office setting, or is there some experience in a group practice, urgent care, hospitals or emergency departments? Working in different health care environments can broaden a pediatrician’s knowledge.

2. Your pediatrician should listen to you.
You should be able to view your pediatrician as your partner and advisor and have confidence that your own approach to caring for your child is taken into account.

“Parents need to feel they can trust their pediatrician, and that the doctor will consider how they want to care for their child,” says Gurinder Dabhia, MD, a pediatrician at Scripps Clinic in Rancho Bernardo .

For instance, there are many different methods of helping a baby learn to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night, from the “cry-it-out” approach to the “no-tears” approach. If you have reservations about letting your baby “cry it out,” you need to feel that you can talk to your pediatrician honestly and find another method to try.

“There are many different approaches to parenting,” adds Dr. Dabhia. “Every child is different, and parents know their children better than anyone, so we, as pediatricians, need to listen to them.”

3. Make sure the doctor stays up-to-date with current practices.
Medicine and health care practices change rapidly, and staying current with the most recent research ensures the best care for your family. For example, parents were once told to swab the umbilical cord stump with alcohol after every diaper change, but new studies show this practice might actually delay the natural healing process. Current practice is to keep the area as clean and dry as possible, using plain water and drying it with a clean cloth.

4. The doctor should be comfortable with your child.
“Most pediatricians go into this specialty because we love being with kids,” says Dr. Dabhia. “But during your first few visits, assess how your doctor interacts with your child to ensure it’s a good fit.”

Your infant will develop a special bond with your pediatrician, and you want your little one to be comfortable with your choice as she or he grows and develops.

5. Open communication is important.
Make sure you can speak openly about any of your concerns throughout all the stages of your child’s growth. As your child develops, you may have a lot of questions that you want to talk over with your pediatrician, from the minor to the more serious.

If you are worried about anything, even seemingly small concerns like your child refusing a favorite food, you need to feel comfortable bringing it up to your doctor. If you feel that your child may be displaying speech delay or signs of autism, talking candidly with your pediatrician will help calm your fears and get you the specialist help your child may need. As your child enters the middle school and high school years, anxiety and depression may be concerns that need to be addressed.

When you do bring up issues, your pediatrician should ask questions and make some recommendations. You should feel free to ask the doctor about the reasoning or research behind the recommendations.

Many pediatricians offer free “getting to know you visits,” which allow you to meet the doctor and ask him or her questions about their style and philosophy of care before you choose them as your family’s pediatrician. If you are considering one or more doctors, call their office and ask whether they offer this valuable service.

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