When you are expecting, there are a lot of decisions to make. One of the most important is choosing a pediatrician. This choice will shape your child’s health care journey.
Many health care providers will recommend that you research and choose a pediatrician around 28-31 weeks of pregnancy. Here are some expert tips and questions to help you select the right one for you and your baby.
Why is a pediatrician important?
A pediatrician is a doctor who specializes in the health and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. Their care begins at birth and continues through a child’s 21st birthday, or longer as needed. Pediatricians play an important role in preventing, detecting and managing many physical, behavioral and developmental issues that may affect children.
What is the difference between pediatricians and family practice doctors?
“A board-certified pediatrician has spent three years of residency training exclusively working with and learning about children’s health care and passed an examination covering these topics from birth, through adolescence and into early adulthood,” noted Dr. Kelly Henchel, medical director of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla.
“A board-certified family practice doctor has spent the same three years learning about health care in all people from birth through adulthood, aging and end-of-life care, and has passed an examination covering all of these topics. Both groups can provide primary care for children,” she added.
“In the first year of life, infants will see their pediatrician for at least seven well-care visits,” Henchel noted. “From the first birthday until 3 years, they will be seen an additional six times for well-care and then yearly following that.”
How to choose a pediatrician for your child
“Pediatricians care only for children, which allows the entire practice to be tailored to fit the needs of the parents and children,” Henchel noted. “Pediatricians focus on all of the factors that allow children to develop into the best version of themselves, including safety, nutrition, developmentally appropriate anticipatory guidance, immunizations, screening tests and growth.”
As a parent, it is natural to want to find the best pediatrician for your child.
Tips to finding the best pediatrician for your child and their needs
Choosing the right pediatrician for your child is a significant decision. The Cleveland Clinic offers the following tips to help you find the best pediatrician for your child’s needs:
Step 1: Ask people you trust
Get recommendations from friends, family or coworkers who have children and whose opinions you respect. If you are pregnant and expecting, your OB/GYN provider may also provide recommendations based on their knowledge and expertise.
Step 2: Scan the pediatrician’s website
Gather basic information about pediatricians in your area. Many pediatricians have their own practice websites or are listed on health system websites. You’ll be able to see important details such as:
- The doctor’s medical background and training
- Years of experience
- Office hours and location
- Demographic information, such as languages spoken
- Partnerships with other health care providers
Step 3: Meet the pediatricians
Choose two or three pediatricians and, if possible, arrange meetings with each one. Most pediatricians offer virtual or in-person interviews. During these meetings, ask questions about:
- Office location and accessibility
- After-hours care
- Other providers at the office
- Alignment with your child’s specific health care needs
- How they address topics important to your family
- Hospital affiliations
- Accepted insurance
- Board certifications
It’s important to recognize that not all pediatricians are the same. Follow your gut when selecting the best pediatrician for your child. Ask questions, understand how they align with your value, and trust your instincts. This will help ensure that your child is in capable and compassionate hands.