As you’re working your way through (your seemingly endless) to-do list before birth, one important task is choosing a pediatrician for your newborn.
Maybe there are a few different practices close to your home, or maybe you’re just trying to choose a primary provider within a certain practice.
I know this can feel overwhelming, because like…what should you even be looking for in choosing a pediatrician? What questions should you ask? Should you use a pediatric practice or a family practice?
The list goes on and on.
That’s why I put together this little guide to help! Here you’ll find a list of considerations for choosing a pediatrician, questions to ask a pediatrician before deciding, and even a little bit about what to expect from your newborn pediatrician visits.
Let’s tackle this item that’s been sitting on your to-do list mama! And let’s take it on with confidence!
Choosing a pediatrician for your newborn
Choosing a pediatrician for your newborn is a must-do for the third trimester! Most experts recommend you start your search at the beginning of the third trimester – sometime between weeks 28 and 30.
What a lot of mamas don’t realize is that your newborn’s pediatrician info is usually required for your hospital pre-registration packet. Often you can opt to leave it blank, but why not tackle this before the craziness of birth sets in?
One thing that’s for sure, you won’t be allowed to leave the hospital until you’ve indicated what pediatrician you’ll be using. It’s important so that the hospital can send over all the birth info and any health concerns from birth and the hospital stay.
7 things to consider before choosing a pediatrician for your newborn
Okay so you’re ready to tackle this task, but where should you begin? Let’s break it down with a list of considerations to think through. Sure, you could just google pediatrician near me, but why NOT do your due diligence here?
Once you’ve given some though to these points, you’ll be ready to actually call and ask some questions or even schedule a meet and greet with a potential pediatrician.
I recommend first going through these yourself and then setting aside some time to talk about it through with your partner before making a decision.
1. Proximity to your home
While it may seem obvious, the location of your newborn’s pediatrician is definitely important. As you begin your search, make a list of options within a 20-30 minute radius of your home as a starting point.
Having a pediatrician that’s right around the corner is a huge benefit:
- If your baby isn’t feeling well proximity is key! Being just 5 minutes away from our doctor, I’ve managed to get in for appointments during last minute cancellations because I can get there so fast.
- It’s also less time in a car for a sick baby, and you won’t have to wake them from naps (quite as early, anyway) just to make it to your appointment in time.
- In the first year of baby’s life, you’re going to be there a LOT! Shorter drivers make for shorter outings which is always easier with a newborn in my opinion.
Now, I don’t want you to think distance is the end all be all. I’m really lucky in that my awesome doc happens to be so close to my home.
But I know plenty of families that opted for a practice that was a bit further away to get the care and feel that they wanted from their pediatrician.
This is just one piece of the puzzle!
2. Family practice vs pediatrician
Okay, next I want you to think about what type of practice will be the best fit. I think a lot of people automatically assume baby = pediatrician. But actually, family practices can care for newborns! And this can be a wonderful fit for a lot of families.
In short, pediatricians are medical doctors that specialize in children’s health, up to 21 years old. They are certified through the American Board of Pediatrics and do their residencies in pediatric care.
On the flip side, Web MD explains that family doctors are medical doctors that complete their residency in a variety of medical niches including pediatrics, internal medicine, and gynecology (among others).
Benefits of using a family practice:
- You can build a strong relationship with the provider because the whole family can see the same doctor
- Family doctors are more aware of your family’s complete medical history which can help them in providing care
- Family practices may have a bigger support staff or other providers with different specialties that may be necessary as the years pass
- A family doctor will likely check in with you as much as your baby during their appointments, especially during the first year as you adjust to motherhood
- As your child grows, they may like seeing a family practitioner rather than a “little kid” doctor
- Family doctors can offer gynecological care for girls once they are of the age
Benefits of using a pediatrician:
- They specialize 100% in pediatric medicine and care
- They may be more in tune with current research and recommendations for pediatric care
- Pediatricians only work with children and may be better at interacting with your young child
- Pediatrician offices are usually very child-friendly with fun waiting rooms, stickers, decorations, and other details that make kids comfortable
- Pediatricians may be a better choice for children with high anxiety about going to the doctor because they often don’t feel as clinical
- Pediatricians are preferred for babies that are born premature, have special needs, or have a birth defect (source)
3. Size of the practice
As you narrow down your choices, definitely pay attention to the size of the practice. Again, I don’t think there is a one size fits all answer here, but there are pros and cons of large AND small practices.
- Large practices with many doctors mean there are many experienced and knowledgeable people that can weigh in on your newborn’s care. Providers can lean on each other and easily get second opinions and input.
- On the flip side, at a larger practice, your provider may not get to know you and your family as personally. It may also be difficult to regularly get in with your chosen pediatrician.
- In a smaller practice, your provider may know you and your family better and you’ll always get to see them for well visits and even sick visits!
- The downside is that smaller practices may not have extensive support staffs, and if you need a second opinion or more input, you’ll have to seek out medical advice somewhere else.
4. Support staff in the practice
As you look at practices, find out what kind of support staff they have right in-office. While support staff shouldn’t make or break your decision it’s definitely a nice perk!
Keep in mind that support staff will vary, especially between family practices and pediatric groups.
Here are a few things to look for:
- Lactation consultants
- Mental health therapists/specialists (particularly pediatric mental health specialists and family counselors)
- Behavior specialists
- Early interventionists/developmental therapists
- Phlebotomists/in-office blood work
5. Affiliation with hospital or healthcare networks
Sometimes pediatrician offices or family practices are located within a medical park or are a part of a larger healthcare network. This is a nice perk because everything is under the same system and online portal.
This makes it easy for different offices within the network and even the hospital to pull paperwork and medical files (with your permission).
6. Who do your family and friends use?
Another thing to consider as you research options is where your friends and family are going for pediatric care! There’s often no better recommendation than word of mouth from people you know.
This can be especially helpful when it comes down to choosing a provider within a practice. Personal anecdotes and recommendations are the BEST!
7. Other amenities
I figured I’d throw this in just to put it on your radar, but sometimes doctors offices have other little perks that just make it a nicer experience for everyone.
My friend’s pediatrician’s office has a playground out front! Um, hello! Essential? No. But kind of awesome.
Here are some of the things I’m talking about that are nice to have but not totally necessary:
- Walk-in/urgent care hours on weekends and evenings
- 24 hour nurse support line
- Parking spaces reserved for caregivers of newborns/sick children
- Separate entrance instead of going into a large complex
- Separate entrances and/or waiting rooms for sick and well patients
- House calls (Yes! Some practices still do this for the first few newborn visits!)
- Child-friendly waiting rooms (your newborn will be a busy toddler/preschooler before you know it)
- New parent support group
- Nursing mothers support group
Questions to ask a pediatrician: Pediatrician meet and greet
Once you narrow down the practice that you are interested in, you’ll have to pick a primary provider (if the practice has more than one option that is, hah). If it’s kind of a one person show, it’s still a good idea to set up a time to do a meet and greet before baby arrives.
Most practices are totally comfortable and used to this kind of thing, so don’t be shy about calling to set up a little meet and greet.
When you go in to meet your potential pediatrician, it’s a good idea to have some questions in mind to get the conversation going. Sometimes the most important part of the meet and greet is just your overall impression.
It’s SO important that your newborn’s pediatrician is someone that you can easily talk to and connect with!
12 questions to ask a pediatrician
- How long have you been in practice and why did you choose pediatrics/family medicine?
- Do you have any specializations?
- What are your thoughts and opinions on topics like…(choose issues that are important or relevant to your family)
- Sleep training
- Developmental delays
- Introducing solids
- Growth curves and nutrition
- & any other parenting or newborn care topics that feel important to you! This is a great chance to get some input as well as get to know your potential provider
- What is your schedule and when are you generally in the office?
- How far out do I need to schedule well visits to get in with you?
- What is your general healthcare philosophy? For example, some providers take more of a watch and see approach, and others offer a more aggressive, preventative care approach (and there are totally benefits to both!)
- Is vaccination required to be a patient at this practice (this is a hot button issue and can be perceived as a pro or con depending on your personal stance on vaccines)
- Can you recommend any parenting books or resources (sometimes this gives a clue into their philosophy or approach)
- How digital is the office? Can I contact you about non-urgent matters via a healthcare portal? Do you offer telehealth visits?
- Are well visits and sick visits separated in any way? How are rooms sanitized between patients?
- Is lab work available in the office?
- What hospital are you affiliated with?
Want to learn a little bit more about some of those hot button newborn care questions listed above?
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- Navigating fevers, colds, and other safety precautions
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Newborn pediatrician visits
So while we’re on the topic of choosing a pediatrician, it makes sense to talk about pediatric care a bit. You should head to this article for the complete guide to pediatric visits in the first year of baby’s life!
But here’s a quick overview of what you can expect at each appointment (especially in the first 6 months):
- Measure baby’s height and head circumference
- Weigh baby
- Look at baby’s growth curve
- Check baby’s O2 levels
- Physical exam of baby’s eyes, ears, moth, skin, hips, legs, abdomen, heart, lungs and genitalia
- Physical exam of baby’s soft spots on their skull and general skull development
- Discussion of eating and sleep patterns
- Discussion of baby’s diaper output
- Any vaccinations according to the AAP vaccination schedule
Tips for your first newborn pediatrician visit
- Make sure you bring your discharge paperwork, from wherever you gave birth! Your pediatrician may ask you some questions about your birth, and some specifics about baby that is on that paperwork! They also may want to make a copy of it to put in baby’s record.
- Start keeping track of baby’s feedings, pees & poops right after birth! The easiest way I’ve found to do this is with an app! I like the app “baby tracker”-it’s super easy to put in all that info, and it even has a growth chart!
- Don’t worry too much if baby has lost some weight from birth! This is normal, and as long as baby is having an appropriate amount wet & dirty diapers, weight loss is fine! Your pediatrician will let you know if baby has lost TOO much weight, and what to do if that happens! Sometimes they will recommend that you supplement with donor milk/formula/pumped milk for 24-48 hours, and come back in for a weigh-in!
- Start keeping track of questions you have for your first appointment! Whether that’s writing them down, or keeping a note open in your phone. Your memory is NOT going to be great in those first few days of postpartum, so it’s really important to do this if you start thinking of questions!
Timeline for newborn pediatrician visits
According to the AAP here is the recommended schedule of appointments for the first year of life:
- 3-5 days
- 2 weeks
- 1 month
- 2 months
- 4 months
- 6 months
- 9 months
- 12 months
Ready to choose a pediatrician for your newborn, mama?
I know this might feel a little overwhelming, but now you’re ready to tackle it, mama! Do yourself a favor and get this taken care of now, before birth becomes all you can think about.
Give yourself some time to get the research done and ask the questions you need to in order to find a pediatrician for your newborn that you totally love.
And you know what? If for some reason it doesn’t work out, you can always switch! None of this is bound in blood.
But doing your due diligence on the front end may save you a headache down the line.
Good luck, Mama!