It’s never too early to start looking for a pediatrician, but the second trimester is a great time to begin your search, if you haven’t done so already. Remember, you’re looking for a partner. You want someone you’ll feel comfortable asking about everything from a funky smelling diaper to your postpartum mood. Once you’ve identified and feel good about your pediatrician, remember to use them! Pediatricians have on-call services so you don’t have to sit at home wondering, “is this normal?”. If you’re concerned about something related to your child, you’re not overreacting. It is your pediatrician’s job (that they are paid for!) to answer your questions– even at 2AM.
So, where to begin? First and foremost, you want a pediatrician that is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. This is the national standard for practicing pediatricians and identifies providers who have fulfilled the minimum training requirements. In general, it matters less where someone went to medical school and more what their practical experience has been. To figure this out, I love asking people for referrals! If you have a friend or cousin or neighbor who you think may have a similar parenting style and philosophy as you, ask them who they see for a pediatrician. The best test is that a provider has worked with a family like yours, and that family has been pleased with their care.
Beyond the basics of someone’s training and experience, lie the practical concerns. Things to consider include: office location, availability of parking, what insurance is accepted by the practice and office hours. The typical well visit schedule for the first year includes visits at 3-5 days of age, 2 weeks, 1 month, 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 9 months and 12 months. In other words, there are a lot of visits! You want to choose a practice that is close to your home, easy to get to and has plentiful parking, if you’ll be driving (because no one likes lugging around a carseat).
It’s also important to think about what office hours work best for you and your family. Do you need a practice that has evening and weekend appointments? Are daytime appointments best for you? Additionally, you want to make sure the practices you are considering accept your health insurance so you don’t end up with a big bill after the fact.
How do you figure this out? It starts with identifying what’s important to you, doing a little research (many of these questions can be answered right on a provider’s website) and setting up in-person visits. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask the hard questions, whatever that means for you. Being open and honest with potential providers about what is most important to you now will save you endless hours of worrying and stress later. Check in with yourself at each stage (website, phone call, in-person) and take notes so you remember how you felt in that moment. Last but not least, remember that a good pediatrician knows their role is to be your partner, not your superior. Pediatricians may be experts in medicine and development, but you are the expert in your baby!