How to screen a pediatrician is a question that came up over Twitter recently. It’s a topic that I gave a LOT of thought while I was pregnant with Menininho, so I figured I’d blog about the process I went through and what questions I asked.
First: Yes, you DO need a pediatrician picked out before the baby is born. Don’t wait till the last minute to find someone because it might take a little while. Check to see whom your insurance covers, as your friends, look around online, then call a few offices to see about making prenatal interviews. I even called the National Marfan Foundation to see if they had any suggestions and they were able to put me in touch with someone in my area who could help me.
Here are questions you may want to consider asking potential pediatricians, in no particular order:
1) What are your thoughts on breastfeeding vs. formula feeding? What do you know about breastfeeding? You want to find a doctor who is aligned with your views. If you want to breastfeed and the pediatrician has free formula samples everywhere, that could be an indication of how supportive they will be. On the flip side, of you’re planning to formula feed and the pediatrician is dead set against formula, you might feel uncomfortable. As a general rule, I don’t depend on pediatricians for breastfeeding advice. Check out breastfeeding support groups in your area or find a certified lactation consultant instead.
2) What are your thoughts on feeding on demand vs. scheduled feedings? This can be a contentious point if you and your doctor don’t agree on philosophy.
3) When do you advocate starting solids? While many people start rice cereal as early as 4 months, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding or formula feeding exclusively until 6 months of age.
4) What are your thoughts on vaccines? If you plan on doing anything than the traditional schedule, you’ll want a pediatrician who is on board. I knew we were mostly pro-vax, but probably didn’t want to do a traditional schedule. I was very grateful that our pediatrician was not only ok with this, but had done reading in the area and could guide us into the best schedule for Menininho based on our family’s specific health issues.
5) What are your thoughts on co-sleeping? Sleep training? Again, this can be a contentious point if you and your doctor don’t agree on philosophy.
6) What are your thoughts on circumcision? If you decide not to circumcise your son, you’ll want your pediatrician to be informed (i.e. – not retract the foreskin).
7) How familiar are you with both physical and behavioral milestones? How much of the well visits will be spent discussing these? We all want to make sure that our kids are on track, and it’s pretty easy to look up the physical milestones online or in a book, but I think the behavioral ones can be even more perplexing. A doctor who spends time at each well-visit letting you know what milestones to expect for the next visit is a doctor who will help you catch any problems early, when intervention is most effective.
8 ) Do you have separate well child and sick child waiting rooms? This could help prevent your healthy child picking up a virus while waiting for his turn to be seen.
9) How far in advance do you need to make a well-visit appointment? How long does it take to get in a sick visit? Will your child see her pediatrician for a sick visit, or another at the practice? Our pediatrician is very popular, so we get great well-visit appointments with her but rarely see her when Menininho is sick. The trade-off is that we always get same day appointments.
10) What happens when there is an after-hours emergency? Is there an answering service? Who is answering the phones and who gets paged? At our practice, a nurse practitioner answers the phone (we’ve experienced this first hand a couple of times), takes the information, dispatches some medical advice, and then pages our particular pediatrician.
What questions did you ask when screening pediatricians, or did you screen any?