Expectant parents will want to get it right when it comes to choosing a pediatrician for their soon-to-be-born, given all the critical stages of child development.
Who better to offer advice than an experienced pediatrician like Dania Lindenberg, MD, of Scripps Coastal Medical Center Hillcrest? Dr. Lindenberg teaches a prenatal class that focuses on getting ready for your baby and meeting your pediatrician. She is also the mother of four children.
In this video, Dr. Lindenberg, who was expecting her fourth child at the time of taping, and San Diego Health host Susan Taylor discuss what to consider when selecting a pediatrician, when to make that first visit and what questions to ask.
Think of pediatricians as key members of your child’s health care team, Dr. Lindenberg says. They provide care from birth to young adulthood.
They are trained to diagnose and treat various childhood illnesses. They are experts in preventive care.
Expect to see your pediatrician often during your child’s first year. Early on, they can provide you with important information about everything from breastfeeding to sleeping at night.
“I'm there to help to guide you during those early days, to care for your child’s health needs, care for your emotional needs, guide you through breastfeeding and answer any questions that may come up,” Dr. Lindenberg says.
It’s common to ask friends, colleagues or family members to recommend a pediatrician, and for the expectant parents to check those recommendations and put together a list of questions and concerns.
Dr. Lindenberg stresses checking whether the pediatrician you’re considering accepts your health insurance before proceeding. Location is also important, she adds.
“The location of the practice, especially in the first couple of years, is critical because you are going to be coming in a lot initially,” Dr. Lindenberg says.
Plan to make frequent doctor visits during your child's first year.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends a checkup within 48 to 72 hours after your newborn is discharged from the hospital.
“I like to follow babies at least weekly until they’re back to their birth weight. Sometimes it’s more often, depending on whether they’re having feeding issues or jaundice or if the parents are very anxious,” Dr. Lindenberg says.
After those initial exams, additional visits are recommended at 1 month, and then at 2, 4, 6, 9 and 12 months of age.
During the baby’s second year, checkups are recommended at 15, 18 and 24 months, followed by annual visits from 2 to 5 years of age, according to the AAP.
The AAP recommends that parents select a pediatrician during the third trimester of pregnancy. Many pediatricians will meet with parents for a getting-to-know you visit before the baby is born so you can see if you are a good fit. You cannot schedule an appointment for a newborn until the infant is born.
If you are currently searching for a pediatrician, you may wish to enroll in a prenatal class to learn more about childbirth preparation and caring for a newborn.
Scripps offers a wide variety of classes taught by certified instructors who specialize in prenatal and postnatal education. Dr. Lindenberg, who leads a class, says expectant parents tend to have plenty of questions.
If you are meeting with your pediatrician for the first time, come ready with questions. Get to know the doctor as well as possible.
This is your opportunity to discuss various issues and topics, including breastfeeding, circumcision and their views on antibiotics and immunizations. “No question is a bad question,” Dr. Lindenberg says.
Some common questions to ask:
- Are they part of a medical group? If so, who covers for them when they are not available?
- What are their office hours? Do they offer same-day appointments?
- Do they offer evening and weekend hours?
- Where will they refer you for after-hours care?
“For new parents, I say have faith that you will learn things quickly and that no question is a bad question. We’re here to help you,” Dr. Lindenberg says.