Finding the Right Pediatrician for Your Baby
Know how to find a good one—and what to ask.
After nine months of pregnancy—nearly 10, if your baby arrives on schedule—you likely wouldn’t want to leave your precious infant in the care of just anyone. And we would never blame you. Especially if you’re gearing up to be a new, first-time mom, it’s normal for you to be somewhat anxious about your little one’s arrival. With all the preparation that goes into planning for childbirth, what you’ll need with you at delivery, stocking the nursery, and making sure your infant’s room is safe (just to name a few), it’s easy to get overwhelmed.
Then, there are some areas where you might not even know where to begin—like finding your baby’s first pediatrician. (How early you should start looking for one may surprise you.) Obviously a reputable, competent pediatrician who’s great with babies and kids is the ideal way to go. But how do you go about tracking a good one down?
Try not to worry and instead read on. You’ll discover when would be best to start your search, as well as how you can help whittle down the right one who’s aligned with your preferences and needs. (Bonus: We’ve even compiled a list of questions you can ask about prospective pediatrician visits to help make sure you’ve got all your infant’s bases covered.)
How Do I Find a Pediatrician?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends taking your newborn to their first pediatrician within two to three days of bringing them home. So, it’s optimal to start looking for a pediatrician in the months before your baby arrives, if you can. The best place to start is by asking other parents that you trust and know well (and who know you well). You can always ask your OB/GYN or midwife who’s best to see too. There are also many online sites that you could search using your zip code, which have patient reviews and grades. Or, you can try calling healthcare facilities in your area or your insurance company.
Once you’ve done your research, compile a list of your top choices (in case one you like isn’t accepting new patients), and start calling around to schedule an in-person interview, if possible, or a time to speak with them directly. Many pediatricians understand how important it is for you to be comfortable placing your child in their care and are happy to partake in a preliminary interview. Plus, you’ll want to ensure they share your parenting philosophy and style.
This is also an opportune time to get some housekeeping issues out of the way such as whether they accept your insurance or managed care plan, what their office hours are, and how billing and insurance claims are handled. You can also ask if payment or copays are due at the time of your little one’s visit. If you can, bring your partner or a support person along. After all, it never hurts to have a second opinion or someone who’d be comfortable taking your child to the pediatrician if you’re unable to.
But, before you even step outside the door to meet the potentially new kiddy doc, make a list of some other—more child-specific—questions to ask.
What Are Some Good Questions to Ask a Potential Pediatrician?
Above all, at any pediatrician visit, just be open and honest with your questions—even the embarrassing ones. (Trust us: There’s a strong likelihood they’ve heard them all.) Then, try asking them the following.
How soon after your baby’s born can they see them: While it’s true that the AAP recommends bringing your kid to the pediatrician two to three days after you bring them home for the first time, you could ask if the good doctor would be able to see them when they’re born. Most hospitals or midwives ask for your pediatrician's name as soon as you arrive in labor. They then usually notify them of your little one’s arrival. Although your newborn will be examined anyway within their first day of life, it could be beneficial to have their pediatrician present from the very beginning. Ask them if this is something they could accommodate, or if they will be able to check on them virtually or over-the-phone in their first few days. If not, confirm with them that you can bring your infant to see them within the first two or three days of coming home.
What their preferred methods of communication are and when: Times have changed, and while dialing up your pediatrician used to be the standard form of communication, nowadays, some prefer email or virtual calls. Ask them what they prefer and if there are specific hours that they answer routine questions, or if you’re free to contact them anytime. It’s also a good idea to ask what their staff’s training is, in case you end up speaking with them instead. And ask for guidelines on what types of issues can be fielded remotely versus in-office.
Their preferred hospital: Most physicians are affiliated with specific hospitals. In case of emergency, ask which one would be best to take your child. If it’s a teaching hospital, ask who would be most likely to be providing care: an intern, resident, or MD.
What to do after-hours: Ditto if there’s an emergency at night or on the weekend. Find out if they take their own emergency calls or if they’re forwarded to a service.
Who covers their practice when they’re unavailable: No one can work day and night, and everyone needs a vacation once in a while. Doctors in practices generally have rotating on-call duties. Whereas, single-practice physicians usually have a small pool of other local docs who cover their patients when they're out. Find out who they are, then, later, make arrangements to meet with them too. And, once your pediatrician is back on duty, be sure to contact them to fill them in on what occurred in addition to what’s already been communicated with them.
How often should you bring your baby in for checkups and immunizations: Though the AAP has its recommendations for checkups, see if your pediatrician’s match—or, if not, what they recommend. And your infant will need a lot of vaccinations from birth, some of which will take multiple doses. Ask your pediatrician about their recommended timeline.
What the cost of care is: Ask what they charge for office, hospital, after-hours, and, if they make them, home visits. They should have a standard fee structure in place that they can share.
When all is said and done in your initial meeting, take a moment to evaluate everything you’ve discussed, as well as their demeanor, and the general rapport you developed in the short time speaking with them. The most important thing is that you’re comfortable with them and feel like you’d be able to have an open line of communication. If anything bothered you about them or anything they said struck you in an off way, discuss it with them. And if they don’t seem receptive, move on to the next pediatrician on your list and repeat the process.
However, if everything went smoothly, you felt they showed competence and compassion, and you think you’d feel good about them taking care of your kid, congrats! You’ve found your baby’s first pediatrician.
Next: Now that you’re comfortable with who you’ll be headed to on your baby’s first doctor visit, learn how to prepare for it and some first pediatrician visit questions to ask.