By Elizabeth Pantley, author of The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns ~~~
Choosing your baby’s doctor several months before the expected arrival is a great idea. This way, you won’t feel rushed and can calmly take the time to make the right decision. During the first few years of life your baby will have frequent visits for routine checkups and illness; so selecting a healthcare professional whom you trust is important.
Decide which type of healthcare provider
Different types of healthcare professionals are qualified to care for your child:
A pediatrician is a medical doctor with specialized training in caring for children from birth through adolescence.
A family physician or general medical practitioner (GMP) is a physician who is educated and trained in family practice, which is medical care that covers every member of the family for well and sick care. You already may have a family physician for your own healthcare.
A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) with advanced education and training. Nurse practitioners often work in partnership with a licensed physician.
Once you’ve determined what type of professional you would like to consider, find prospective doctors through these sources:
- Recommendations from friends who have children
- Your obstetrician
- Your local hospital’s referral service
- Medical directories
- Pediatric associations
Consider your parenting philosophy
Choose a doctor who has a similar philosophy to yours in regard to important parenting issues, since most parents turn to their pediatrician for advice and guidance on more than just health-related issues. While this similarity in outlook is not crucial, it certainly makes for a more complete and enjoyable relationship. A like-minded pediatrician understands your starting point when advising a particular course of action, and is more likely to prescribe one that suits your ideals. One way to find out what a doctor’s opinion is to ask open questions, such as, “What are your recommendations about breastfeeding and bottlefeeding?” Here are just a few of the important topics you should consider:
Feeding – Does the doctor support your goals for breastfeeding, bottle-feeding and weaning?
Sleep – What is the doctor’s opinion on sleep-related issues? Are her views similar to yours?
Immunizations – Will the doctor provide you with information to make decisions about various vaccinations? Are his recommendations in line with your plans?
Take the time to interview prospective doctors
Most medical professionals will provide a brief interview meeting at no charge. This gives you an opportunity to ask questions. Here are a few tips to make this a productive event:
- Make an appointment.
- Arrive early and observe the waiting room, staff and other patients. Is the staff helpful? Is the atmosphere child-friendly? Is the office clean and tidy? How long do people wait for their appointments?
- Be prepared with a brief list of questions.
- Stick to your most important topics.
- Refrain from small talk or lengthy explanations.
- Remember that your main purpose is to listen, not to talk.
- Most doctors have limited time for these meetings, so respect this by staying on track.
Before your interview
If you do a little research and handle the technical details before your appointment, you can use your time with the doctor to obtain answers to your most important questions.
You can obtain information about a doctor, such as certifications and residency background, from:
- The American Board of Pediatrics (www.abp.org)
- American Academy of Pediatrics (www.aap.org)
- The American Medical Association (www.ama-assn.org)
- Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (rcpsc.medical.org)
- Canadian Paediatric Society (www.cps.ca)
You can get information from the doctor’s office. Ask for a brochure or website address. If the following information isn’t covered, then call the office and ask for the following:
- The background and experience of the doctor.
- What are office hours? Are there evening or weekend hours?
- How is billing handled? What insurance is accepted?
- What are the after-hours and emergency procedures?
- What hospital is the doctor affiliated with?
- If your doctor is unavailable, who will see you?
- Is there a special waiting room or a separate entrance for sick children, or how are they separated from others?
- Is there a lactation specialist in the office? If not, do they recommend one?
Arrive at your first meeting appointment with your list of questions. The meeting likely will be short, so stay focused on your priorities. Relax and be friendly, but stay on track. Here is an assortment of sample questions to help you create your own list:
- Will you examine our baby at the hospital (or at our home) directly after birth?
- How we will work together during the baby’s first year?
- What is your typical advice to new parents about…
Circumcision? Breastfeeding? Bottlefeeding? Sleeping? Immunizations?
- Can we come to you with questions about non-medical issues, like feeding or behavior?
- What do we need to know about our newborn’s health and care?
After your interview
Consider the answers to these questions to help you make your final decision:
- Is the office conveniently located for you?
- Did you feel good about the office and staff?
- Did the doctor willingly and thoroughly answer questions?
- Do you feel comfortable with the doctor’s child-rearing philosophy?
- Did you feel that you could freely ask questions?
- Did the doctor appear knowledgeable and current with his information and advice?
- Would you feel confident with this person in an emergency?
Elizabeth Pantley is a mother of four, grandmother, and author of the bestselling book, The No-Cry Sleep Solution for Newborns plus 8 other books in the No-Cry Solution Series, which helps Moms and Dads through all key stages of parenting. Visit her at nocrysolution.com
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