One of the scariest parts of preparing for the arrival of Bean Man and Gracie was choosing a pediatrician. It’s not that it’s necessarily a hard decision to make, but it is an incredibly important one. We have had two particularly significant events involving our pediatricians and both have shaped how I choose and interact with our doctors.
First, when Bean was four months old, he was hospitalized unexpectedly. I try to keep our family’s health issues private, so without going into too much detail, he was having trouble breathing and was in the hospital for a week. It was incredibly stressful and made me so thankful for the pediatrician we had chosen. You never want to think about your baby having health issues, but at least if you are left facing them, you will know you have chosen a great pediatrician to help guide you.
The second experience with pediatricians that really impacted us was not necessarily a health issue, but a logistical problem. When we first moved to Orlando, we chose a pediatrician close to where we were living. But when we moved across town, we kept our pediatrician thinking that it would be easier than trying to change doctors again. It was a huge pain. Any time the kids were sick (which happens fairly often because they are in daycare), I had to haul them an hour away to the doctor and then an hour back to our house. Basically, it was a half a day affair for the kids to have a doctor appointment. For basic, quick immunizations, I had to take a half day off of work. It was such a pain!
1. Reputation of the doctors–I scoured message boards online for feedback from real families about doctors in my area, and while I don’t put a whole lot of weight behind message boards, it was a good starting point. It gave me a handful of pediatric practices to begin researching. Once I had about five practices in mind, I went to each of their websites and read the profiles of each doctor. Even though I prefer to see one doctor so that they get to know my kids, in large practices (and even medium or small ones nowadays) it is pretty safe to say that you’ll see other doctors at some point. I wanted the majority of the doctors in the practice to be established and respected in the medical community. One thing that really attracted me to the current practice where we go was that several of the doctors were on the board of the two local hospitals in our community.
2. Hospital affiliations– You’ll want to make sure that the pediatrician you choose makes rounds at the hospital where you are delivering. So, if you have a specific hospital in mind for your delivery, ask the pediatrician if they are affiliated with that hospital. Also, make sure that the pediatrician is affiliated with whatever hospitals are closest to you in the event of an emergency. That way, if you have an emergency with your child and must go to the hospital, you know your pediatrician (or at least their practice) will be making rounds there, in the event that your child is admitted.
3. After hours clinic– We’ve had three pediatricians so far, but our current one is the only practice that has had an after hours clinic and IT ROCKS MY SOCKS, Y’ALL. As many ear infections as Gracie got last year, I would have missed so much work just to take her in for a five minute appointment where they confirmed her ear infection. But with the after hours clinic, I could wait and take her after work. While we’re talking about hours, let me tell you something I ran into that really bothered me at our last pediatrician’s office. Their office didn’t open until 9:00am, closed for an hour during lunch, and then closed every day at 4:00pm and at noon on Fridays! It was IMPOSSIBLE to reach them! With my work schedule, I was always calling and getting their voice mail. Be sure to check not only the after hours clinic hours, but their daily operating schedule, too. You should be able to reach them all day, so be sure to ask when you interview what their policy is on calls received after hours. If there’s an answering service, do you speak with a live person or a machine? And if it is a real person, is it a nurse or an answering service? You want as much contact with a real, live nurse and/or doctor as possible. In those first few months with a newborn, middle of the night calls are almost a guarantee, so make sure you know what the practice’s policy is on that.
4. What’s important to you– Before you interview the pediatrician and their practice, make a list of things that are important to you. Maybe that’s breastfeeding or formula feeding, maybe it’s choosing to not vaccinate your children, maybe it’s a vegan or vegetarian diet, maybe it’s co-sleeping or baby wearing. Whatever it is that is a non-negotiable with you and your family, put that on your list. And then speak up when you interview them. Ask them directly, “What is your practice’s view on co-sleeping? How do you feel about formula feeding?” Being upfront and asking them ahead of time will save you later on when you are constantly dealing with a pediatrician who is trying to change your mind about something that is important to you. There is a pediatrician to treat every kind of family. Make sure you find the right one to treat yours.
5. Confident guidance– For this one, I have no idea how you can identify this quality in a doctor ahead of time. But the best pediatrician we’ve had had this quality and it made all the difference for our family. Our doctor in Connecticut had this amazing ability to calm me down when I was worried or nervous about some symptom or illness that Bean had by telling me what a great mom I was, how wonderful I was at taking care of him, and by asking me what I thought our next step should be. That sweet doctor made me feel like I was not only an active part of my child’s care, but was an equal part of the team. When Bean was in the hospital, she came in to see me one afternoon and put her hand on mine, smiled a huge, happy smile, and said, “Look how calm that baby is in that scary hospital bed! You must really be calming him down! You’re such a good mommy! Tell me, how has Michael’s day been today?” Now, she had his hospital chart right in front of her, but she wanted to hear ME. So, I told her, and she said, “Well, that all sounds normal to me for his condition. Does that seem expected to you? Would you expect him to be better or worse now?” And I told her that, no, I thought he seemed to be doing fairly well. “Excellent! I think so, too! Now, do you think we should give him something to help him sleep, or do you think he’s sleeping pretty good on his own, Mommy?” I told her I thought he seemed pretty calm to me, but that maybe if he woke up in the middle of the night the nurse could give him something. “I like that plan! I agree that he could probably sleep well himself, so let’s let him try. You know that baby so well! He’s a lucky guy!” Seriously, to a new mom, you have no idea how empowering the conversations with that doctor were. She made me feel like I was doing it right, which is such a rare feeling for a new parent! If you can pick up on this trait in a pediatrician during an interview, SIGN ON THE DOTTED LINE!
You’ll never regret a doctor who makes you a part of the team and process. Choosing a pediatrician, like many parts of being a new parent, can be intimidating and overwhelming. But when you find the right doctor for you and your family, it will be worth the effort.
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