In Sickness & In Health: 5 Tips for Choosing a Pediatrician

At certain times, we as adults can get pretty good at blocking things out of our minds, especially the unpleasant kinds- like Monday mornings while we relax with our families on Sunday evenings, inevitable staff meetings, visits to the dentist, and so on and so forth. What I’ve recently come to realize is that I definitely blocked things out from my childhood as well, which would explain why I cannot honestly recall traumatic visits to the pediatrician’s office. However, I can’t deny that they probably happened, especially when I’m at my son’s doctor these days, hearing kids screech like banshees as I sit in the waiting area, my own baby soon to join in their ranks.

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Picking a pediatrician isn’t something I gave a whole lot of thought to while I was expecting. Honestly, my husband and I waited until the very end of my pregnancy to even decide on one. But now that I’ve been through a year and change of parenthood, I can’t imagine how I would’ve slept or survived my first year as a mom without my pediatrician and being absolutely in love with her. It’s a way bigger deal than I ever gave it credit for, and if you’re like me, I’m here to help you realize it and make your decision, too. If you haven’t given your child’s doctor much thought, here are some things to consider.

1. Set up a prenatal visit.

Yes, this is totally a thing! Your OB should tell you to, but you can set up prenatal visits with any pediatricians you are interested in, so long as they are accepting new patients. Most of the time, you’re able to receive an office tour from the office manager, and then sit down with your doctor. If you’re looking at a practice with multiple doctors, you may not be able to meet a specific one, but rather whoever is available, so keep that in mind.

2. Go for like-minded.

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This involves having the right questions, but you want to choose a pediatrician that sees things from your perspective. That means that if you’re an anti-vaxxer, know that you won’t be able to walk into just any practice. If the idea of giving your child milk derived from a bovine is downright offensive, an old school, traditional doctor might not fit your bill. Go to your prenatal visits with an open mind, but also make sure you have your hills to die on clearly defined, and if the practitioner you’re visiting doesn’t see eye-to-eye, cross them off your list.

3. Be realistic.

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Don’t pick a doctor that’s an hour away, just because she’s great or he’s been in the family for generations, because you’re going to hate yourself with the number of visits you have to make in the first year. If you’re neurotic, go for the office with an answering service that will have a doctor in your practice call you back even at odd hours. I cannot tell you the thousands of dollars in emergency room visits I’m positive I’ve saved myself because my pediatrician has an answering service and she or her partner have called me back at 1am to assure me that my baby sounds fine and is, in fact, probably not dry drowning (but thank you, round-the-clock news coverage, for the anxiety attack). Know yourself when you’re choosing your practice.

4. Trust your gut.   

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You’ll likely get plenty of recommendations for pediatricians from co-workers, friends or family, and you may schedule appointments to see a few of them. Your instincts will steer you pretty clearly toward what will work for you and away from what you won’t like. So if your mind is telling you not to go with a practice, even though your best friend loves it and she and her baby are so happy there, try again elsewhere. You’ll probably be glad you did. Just because something works for someone else, doesn’t mean it will work for you.

5. It’s never too late.

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So you’ve already brought your precious tiny human into the world, and maybe you’ve even been at this parenting thing for a few months or even years now. Among the things you’ve learned, you’re pretty certain that you’re not head over heels for your pediatrician. It’s okay to walk away. My parents did when my older brother was constantly in a state of unhappiness at 1 month old and his doctor insisted nothing was wrong. Switching was the best thing they could’ve done, because having a pleasant, smiling baby was as simple as feeding him more than the 3 oz of formula the previous pediatrician had restricted them to offering at mealtimes. You are responsible for a little life now, and you need a practitioner who is going to feel like a teammate, not an opponent, so don’t be afraid to do what you feel is right for you and your family. There are too many options available to be unhappy with your child’s doctor, so if you aren’t quite on the same vibe, try again.

You’d think that someone who you’ll see at least a few times a year for the next 18 years of your kid’s life would be a person you’d give a little more thought to, but if you’re anything like me, you probably haven’t. That being said, you and your practitioner getting to know each other over the span of your baby’s childhood into those rough adolescent years can be significant in easing your parenting, at least in the health department. So the sooner you find someone to love you and your baby, the better! May you find these tips helpful in guiding you towards the perfect doctor for your family!

Happy mommin’,

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