Choosing A Pediatrician: Plus 8 Questions You Will Want To Ask

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The person that you choose to provide healthcare for your child is an important person. This individual plays a crucial role in your child’s health. They will get to know your child very well in those first few years.

Babies have many visits during their first 3 years of life. You can expect to take your child for an exam when they are first born, at 2 weeks, at 1 month, at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months, 12 months, 15 months, 18 months, 24 months, 30 months, and 36 months. After their third birthday, they will begin yearly annual check-ups, along with any sick visits. 

When you first start looking for a provider for your baby you may not know where to start. If you have a friend with children ask them about their pediatrician. You can look online. Ask in mom groups for recommendations. You can also ask your insurance for a list of providers. You do not need to use the pediatrician that your insurance assigns your child or the one the hospital recommends. In fact, I recommend choosing a pediatrician during your third trimester of pregnancy. At this point in your pregnancy you are preparing for your baby and your postpartum period.

Choosing A Doctor For Your Child

There are a few factors you will want to consider when choosing a doctor for your child. Once you figure out what factors you want to consider you can begin compiling a list of potential providers. 

Once you have a list of potential providers, you will want to arrange to go to some meet and greets. Some providers hold routine meet and greet events for new parents. However, some providers prefer making one on one appointments. 

Tips for choosing a pediatrician. Includes 8 questions you must ask. Plus questions the breastfeeding mom needs to ask. #newmom #newborn #pediatrician #postpartum #breastfeeding

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Meet The Provider

Meeting with the provider will give you an opportunity to see if you “click”. You will be able to look around the office. At that time you should also bring along any questions that you have for the provider.

At the office observe the waiting room. Is it clean and well kept? Is it child friendly and baby-proofed? Do they have a separate waiting area, or separate waiting room, for sick children? 

Questions To Ask The Pediatrician

Below is a list of questions. As you read through the questions decide which questions apply to you and your family. Those are the questions that you will want to ask and have answered.

What credentials do you hold? 

Some medical doctors become board certified by the American Academy of Pediatrics. A nurse practitioner might be certified by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board, like myself. Some providers have further studies in homeopathy or functional medicine. 

What are your office hours? Do you schedule same-day sick visits? 

Many primary care offices are beginning to offer extended weekday and weekend hours. This allows you flexibility around your own schedule. Additionally, if your child becomes ill and needs a visit, you can take them to their primary care provider instead of an urgent care setting. 

Do you offer in-house laboratory or diagnostic tests? 

There may be times where your child requires blood work to be drawn and tested. While some offices provide these services in their office, other offices provide an order and request that you take your child to an off-site laboratory. Offices that do provide in-house blood draws can provide a slip for you to complete the testing off-site, if you wish. 

There are multiple diagnostic tests that a primary care provider can choose to use in their office. These tests includes ones that are able to check for strep throat, influenza, urinary tract infections, or blood sample. Some providers like to use a blood check to help determine if an infection is viral or bacterial. 

What is your vaccine policy? 

Some providers will not deviate from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommended vaccine schedule. You will need to decide if that’s the route you want for your child. 

Additionally, there are various combination vaccines available. There are provider offices that do not carry single vaccines, and therefore cannot follow a slower schedule. Will you want to look at vaccine inserts? Would you like to have vaccine discussions with your provider regarding your child as an individual?

What is your stance regarding antibiotics?

I personally reserve antibiotics for when they are definitely necessary. Whereas some providers will prescribe antibiotics more frequently. As parents you may prefer to treat symptoms and take a watchful eye approach, when safe and appropriate. 

For parents that plan to breastfeed, the below 3 questions may be of importance.

Side Note: If you are breastfeeding (or planning to) then you will want to take this course! It’s the BEST online breastfeeding course available. If you’ll be pumping, she also has a “back to work pumping” class and a class just for those that are planning to exclusively pump! You can’t go wrong with any of these classes!

Does your practice use the World Health Organization growth charts for infants 0-2? 

This should be standard practice. However, prior to 2012 many US based pediatric primary care offices were using growth charts developed by the Centers for Disease Control. These growth charts were based off of infants in the United States that were primarily fed with formula. The growth pattern of a formula fed infant and a breast fed infant is not the same. You can read more about the differences in the pattern of growth here at kellymom.

In using these growth charts, many breastfed infants were seen as falling off their expected pattern of growth. This sometimes results in undue stress for families who are then led to believe that breastmilk is not providing adequate nutrition to their infant.

The WHO growth charts provide a larger picture of infant growth. Infants that are exclusively fed breastmilk are not as likely to fall off their growth curve on a WHO growth chart. 

Most offices are now using the WHO growth charts for ages 0-2 and the CDC growth charts for 2-18 years of age. 

When do you encourage supplementation with formula? 

Breastfeeding, especially for the first time, requires a strong support system. If you feel strongly that you would like to breastfeed then you require a healthcare provider that will support you. A supportive pediatric provider will be able to assist you with recommendations for a lactation consultant, if they are unable to assist personally, when necessary. A provider who encourages supplementation before an assessment for latch difficulties, tongue tie, or other issues is not being supportive.

Please note, there is nothing wrong with supplementation. However, I would strongly advise that supplementation be done with the assistance of an IBCLC, especially for younger infants. Breastmilk is a demand and supply system. If you are providing supplementation, and therefore decreasing stimulation, your supply can go down.

When do you suggest starting solids? Are you familiar with baby led weaning? 

It was previously believed that starting solids at 4 months of age was okay. However, research has shown that the infants gut is not ready for anything other than breastmilk or formula until approximately 6 months of age. This due to the gut biome.

Additionally, there are signs that a baby is ready for solid foods. Before introducing solid food to a baby, the baby should be able to sit up unassisted, no longer have the tongue thrust reflex, and be showing interest in solid foods. The tongue thrust reflex is when a baby pushes out with their tongue when something touches their lips. 

Changing Healthcare Providers

Choosing a pediatrician for your child should not be scary. Remember, you can always change providers if you decide that you want to. My oldest two children saw the same pediatrician for a few years until we all switched to our current provider. Though it’s nice to stay with the same provider for continuity of care, there is no rule that you cannot change if you find that you are not pleased with your current provider.

Tell Me

I hope you have found these tips helpful. I would love to know if you used these tips! If you have a favorite tip that I left off, comment to share.

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Till next time…

~B

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8 Comments

  • Brandi Wiatrak

    Wow! Such important questions to ask your pediatrician that I never thought to consider. This is a great help for new moms!!

  • Nicolle

    Excellent advice. We ended up going with a family doctor, so our whole family could see the same providers. One of our providers is also a midwife, and she delivered our second child. I love that she delivered him and now is his doctor.

    So important to make sure your providers are up-to-date with current recommendations and breastfeeding-friendly (should you choose to breastfeed).

    A lot of the doctors in our area wouldn’t even take the time to meet with us face-to-face! That certainly made our decision a lot easier for us.

    One more thing I would add, along with the office hours, is if they take after hours calls, and who you would be talking to. I love that we can always get ahold of our doctors after hours, no matter what time, and that we actually talk to OUR doctor, who knows us well.

    • Brooke, MSN, APRN, CPNP

      A family doctor, that stays up-to-date on Pediatric care can also be an excellent option! I’m sorry to hear that many of the doctors in your area wouldn’t meet with you. I can understand not wanting to choose a Pediatrician that won’t give you the courtesy of a meet-and-greet.

  • Ashley

    These are questions I never would have thought of prior to having kids! These are definitely great questions to ask a potential physician.

  • Jeanne

    Great tips for first time parents on how to pick a pediatrician. Another thing I found helpful was asking friends, that already have kids, who their pediatrician was and if they liked him or her.

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