For new parents, the early stages of pregnancy are all about keeping the mother healthy and preparing for labor. You might be so preoccupied with these concerns that you forget about the years of parenting that will follow the birth. While some tasks can be saved until later, there is one thing that must be taken care of as early as possible: finding a doctor for the baby. Parents should start thinking about this early in the pregnancy, and it is best to have a doctor chosen by the seventh or eight month.
This is an important decision. Of course, you may move out of the neighborhood eventually, or you may decide to find a different doctor. But assuming everything goes well and you stay in the area, this is long-term commitment. The doctor who meets your baby for an early check-up in the first weeks of life is the same person who will be seeing your child as a teenager. And you must trust this doctor and feel comfortable with him or her. This is the person you will call when your child has a fever or aches and pains, so you need to feel that you can reach out at any time.
Types of doctors
Many new parents assume that every child needs a pediatrician, but this is not necessarily the case. Family practitioners are general doctors who are trained in dealing with routine health concerns for all types of people. If you already have a general doctor whom you trust a great deal, you may not need to find a pediatrician at all. Everyone in your family can use the same doctor.
But while using a family practitioner can be a great choice if you have a great relationship with your doctor, there are some advantages to having a pediatrician. Pediatricians receive deeper training in all issues relating to child health, so they are generally more attuned to what is going on with kids’ health.
Meanwhile, there are a few other important decision when it comes to the type of doctor you work with for your child. There are solo practitioners, who provide great, personalized care but are generally less available than the alternatives. There are partnerships in which one doctor is available at any time. And there are larger, group practices, which are often less personal, but it is nice to know that you can get an appointment at practically any time.
Other than the type of doctor and size of the practice, here are some other important considerations to keep in mind when choosing your child’s doctor:
- Location: When your baby cries inexplicably or your child gets sick, you do not want to have to drive a long distance to see your doctor. Try to find someone nearby.
- Hospital affiliation: Many doctors are affiliated with hospitals. In the event that your child needs a specialist or emergency care, it is nice to have a doctor who can refer you to the proper place at a nearby hospital.
- Office atmosphere: You want to feel welcome at your doctor’s office. You do not want to feel that you are being rushed through your appointment or that your questions are annoying. Choose an office where the staff is friendly and the doctors have time to give you personal care. Plus, remember that pediatricians’ offices can be hectic places and you might have to wait a while, so make sure the waiting room is clean and kid-friendly.
- Call availability: You will not have to bring your child into the office for every concern you may have. Sometimes a phone call is all you need. Many doctors set aside a certain amount of time every day to field phone calls. Find out what your doctor does, and make sure that phone calls are accepted daily or as often as possible.
Many pediatricians welcome the prospect of a prenatal interview prior to making your final decision. If you have questions or concerns or simply want to get a feel for a doctor’s style, do not hesitate to make an appointment, and bring plenty of questions. This will help you get a feel for the doctor’s philosophy and make sure it meshes with your own.
Prenatal interviews are not always necessary. If a particular doctor comes well recommended from people whom you trust, then you may not feel an interview is necessary. Meanwhile, many first-time parents are unsure of what exactly they need from a doctor, in which case they may simply pick one who is reputable and adjust later on if needed. There is nothing stopping you from changing doctors if and when you feel the need.
By Lisa Pecos