When you’re expecting your first child, you have dreamy thoughts about the heart-to-heart talks you’ll have with your child’s pediatrician. You imagine the middle of the night phone calls to get advice about fevers and medicine dosages. You think about the helpful input you’ll receive about milestones and your child’s behavior.
And this can be a reality, but only if you work ahead to make sure you choose the pediatrician that is right for you and your family.
I’ll skip ahead and assume that you already know how to check a doctor’s credentials, since you have been seeing your own doctors all your life. Let’s just say you’ve already looked at the pediatrician’s education, residency, and checked with the Federation Of State Medical Boards to make sure they don’t have major disciplinary actions in the past.
Let’s also assume you have already called a couple of pediatric practices and asked about things like their regular hours, if they take your insurance and how many doctors they have on staff.
Most pediatricians will be more than happy to set aside time to meet with you for a prenatal interview. Most will not even charge a fee (but make sure to ask). So, without further fanfare, I give you several things I feel are important to remember when interviewing potential pediatricians.
When to Start Looking
Start making phone calls about seven months into your pregnancy. You’ll want to have time to interview between two and four doctors and then make your decision. Once you decide on a doctor and a practice, you’ll want to go ahead and fill out some preliminary paperwork for the pediatrician so they are all ready to roll once your baby is born.
Ask Your Friends
Sometimes the answer is right under your nose. Ask your friends, coworkers, and neighbors if they have any recommendation about who to use or who to stay away from when it comes to pediatricians. When I was looking, our best friends across the street were a great resource. Of course, that’s because Tom IS an pediatrician. We didn’t use him, due to conflict of interest. But, I did consider the pediatrician they use for all five of their children and ended up going with one of the doctors in that practice.
Just like any good relationship, you want to make sure you communicate well with the pediatrician you choose. Do you prefer a doctor with a slow, thoughtful way of speaking? Or, so you like them fast-talking and aggressive? Believe it or not, I was looking for a more aggressive personality in a pediatrician. I’m aggressive myself and wanted to make sure I didn’t roll over the doctor when it came to important issues.
Feelings About Immunization
If you have strong feeling about immunization, then it is best that you and your pediatrician see eye to eye. My sister, for example, does not agree with immunizations and takes her son to a doctor who feels OK about allowing my nephew to not have certain shots. I am fine with all immunizations, but had strong feeling about delaying certain ones. I found a pediatrician who felt strongly that all children should be fully immunized, but agreed that delaying the shots would be fine.
Ideas About Nursing
Whether or not you intend to breastfeed is a very important issue when it comes to choosing a pediatrician. There are doctors who feel as strongly one way or another as you might. Some pediatricians are vocal proponents of nursing, and even of extended nursing. Make sure you discuss your choice with the doctors you interview and that you are supportive of one another’s views, otherwise you can end up feeling hurt over this very personal issue.
Feelings on Antibiotic Use
Know how you feel about the frequent use of antibiotics before you interview doctors. That way you can see if you both have the same feelings about the issue. This is a biggie. Many sources say that the overuse of antibiotics has fostered more aggressive bacterial strains of many illnesses, as well as made our own bodies less able to fight illness on our own. Each pediatrician has their own style of antibiotic use. I’ve seen children that seem to be on antibiotics endlessly and others who are given the opportunity to try and fight infection naturally before relying on antibiotic use. I went into parenting with strong feelings against overuse and found a doctor who agreed. Unfortunately, my daughter was prone to ear infections in her first two years of life and we used them far more than I wanted to, but the situations merited the use. In the end, though, I felt confident my doctor and I saw eye to eye.
Beliefs on Discipline
Spanking, raised voices, time outs, chores, etc. Everyone has an idea about what they think is right and wrong when it comes to disciplining children. It’s a good idea to make sure you have some of the same idea as your pediatrician. I have friends who are strictly a no-spank household. Their feelings are so strong that they have a couple outside of their own family as legal guardians if anything ever happens to them, because their relatives did not have the same no-spank philosophy. When it came to choosing pediatricians, they made sure they found one with the some way of looking at spanking so that when it came time to discuss disciple and behavior.
You’d be surprised how many ways there are to go about this. The pediatrician I chose told me that if I had a boy, she would like to wait a week or ten days to circumcise if I was going to breastfeed. Why? She does not believe the theory some doctors have that circumcision doesn’t hurt and feels that doing it right away interferes with the baby’s edibility to get the hang of nursing in the beginning. I had a girl, but I still very much agree with our doctor’s thoughts.
You’ll probably have even more questions of your own. Make sure you write up a list to take with you to your interviews.