There’s a lot to consider when you’re preparing for a new baby. From deciding on a name to choosing the best car seat to finding the right pediatrician … It can feel overwhelming and exciting at the same time.
While we can’t help you choose your baby’s name, we can share some pro tips on how to select your baby’s doctor.
David Levine, MD, a board-certified pediatrician with Atlantic Health System and chief of general pediatrics at Atlantic Medical Group, explains how and when to start looking for a pediatrician and what to consider when making your decision.
What is a Pediatrician?
A pediatrician is a doctor with special training in child development and health issues. Or as Dr. Levine puts it, “Your child’s pediatrician is the quarterback of their healthcare team from birth through young adulthood. We are experts in children’s health, development and behavior.”
When Should You Start Looking?
Dr. Levine suggests starting your search for a pediatrician at the beginning of your third trimester, around the 30-week mark.
“By then, you’re usually a bit more settled in your pregnancy and maybe have even started going to parenting classes,” explains Dr. Levine. “Starting a few weeks before your due date gives you time to research options and meet with a few pediatricians, virtually or in person. Waiting too long, on the other hand, can feel frantic and cause you and your baby unnecessary stress.”
How Do You Find a Pediatrician?
The best place to start is with referrals. Ask your friends, family members and neighbors — anyone who’s a parent living in your area. Members of your prenatal classes may also have suggestions for you.
If you’re new to your area and don’t know anyone yet, you can also ask your obstetrician or midwife for recommendations, search online or check your insurance company’s in-network provider list.
“Using your town’s moms’ Facebook page is another place to find recommendations for pediatricians who are local to you,” Dr. Levine says.
Things to Consider
After you’ve checked your potential pediatrician’s education, training and board certification, Dr. Levine advises considering the following five points before deciding:
- Personality — According to Dr. Levine, this is probably the most important factor to consider. “If a doctor has all the credentials but you don’t feel like they’re listening to you or you just don’t get along, that’s a problem,” he says. The best way to gauge personality is to meet with doctors in advance and follow your intuition.
- Care philosophy — You need to be able to trust your child’s doctor, so being on the same page about important parenting decisions like breastfeeding, sleep training, vaccinations and nutrition is key to a successful relationship (especially if you feel strongly about a given topic).
- Insurance and/or cost — Working with a pediatrician who’s an in-network provider, if you have insurance, can save you a lot of money in the long run. Knowing the costs for office visits, co-pays and other out-of-pocket fees will help you determine if this is the right match for you and your family.
- Location — In the first year alone, your baby will visit the doctor seven or eight times for well-checks. Having a pediatrician whose office is nearby is more convenient — especially when your baby is sick.
- Availability — Assuming the pediatrician is taking new patients (an important first question to ask), make sure the office hours work with your schedule. Also, find out how easy it is to schedule same-day appointments, how they handle after-hours inquiries and who you’ll see if they’re out on vacation.
“While some of these can be determined by viewing the doctor’s website, like which insurance policies they take and where the office is located, the ideal way to learn about a pediatrician’s personality and care philosophy is to meet with them before you give birth,” says Dr. Levine. “If you can, schedule a prenatal visit — in person or virtually — so you can ask questions and get a sense of whether you can work together or not. If that feels overwhelming, remember: It’s not a contract. You can always change your mind.”
Choosing a pediatrician is a very personal decision. It’s about who you vibe with and who you trust. As Dr. Levine reminds us, “Without trust, there is no relationship. As the parent, you’re in control. Trust your gut.”
Be Proactive About Your Health
To stay safe and healthy, it's good to have a primary care provider who knows and understands your health history and wellness goals.