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Picking A Pediatrician Part 2

You’re pregnant. You are in the beginning of your third trimester.
You’ve narrowed down your list of potential pediatricians to two or
three. What’s next?

Believe it or not, job interviews.

pediatricians will offer some sort of pre-natal consultation or
get-to-know you appointment. They fully expect new parents to want to
meet with them and, well, put them through their paces a bit. Such
appointments used to be always free; some doctors now charge a
small(ish) fee for them. Our doctor’s practice offers a third
alternative: a group interview. Some offices will offer “open houses”
of some kind a few times a month. It’s a way to see a lot of people in
a short amount of time. 

Our doctor’s office has these opportunities several times a month. The
night we went there were perhaps a dozen more parents there. The doctor
offered a brief speech covering the “get to know you” bit: how many
doctors on staff, basic procedures like well-baby visits, etc., then
opened the floor for questions. I left having gotten to ask all the
questions I wanted and feeling confident I knew enough about the doctor
to trust her with our baby. We got a feel for the practice at no cost,
the doctor saw several parents at once, and everyone was happy.

sort of questions do you want to ask the pediatrician? Here I’ll refer
you to the Baby
 book; they’ve got a great section on questions designed
to help you get past the standard party line answers. But here’s some of
what was important to me:

First, as I mentioned yesterday, find
out what sort of connections the doctor has. The hospital he uses most –
is it a good children’s hospital? Does he speak confidently of his
referral circle? These seem like small things now but are huge in the
middle of a crisis. And you should find out if your doctor has admitting
privileges at the hospital you’re using for delivery; otherwise you’ll
be using whatever pediatrician that hospital has on staff. Which is
fine; it’s just good to know up front.

My girlfriend
Rebecca recommends finding a pediatrician that fits your personal stress
level. Some doctors will order tests and referrals and second opinions
much more quickly than others; ordering bloodtests if your baby’s not
gained quite enough weight, sending out for x-rays at every pain, etc.
If you like thoroughness, pick a more active one. If you live under the
assumption that rare things happen rarely, pick a more mellow one.

this is a part of your life, ask the doctor how she feels about
alternative therapies. Some doctors encourage herbal remedies (under
supervision!), infant massage, and so forth. If the doctor dismisses
anything natural as “hocus pocus” and you run a health food store, she’s
probably not the doc for you. You and your future baby buddy want to be
on the same page on this.

Try to get a feel for the doctor’s
child-raising philosophies. Asking how he feels about breastfeeding is a
great way to get into this. When the subject of breastfeeding came up at
my pediatrician’s meet-n-greet night, she said she usually has the mom
“whip the boob out” at the baby’s first visit so she can observe and
make sure everything’s going ok. I knew then that she’d be supportive of
my desire to breastfeed. You can see if the doctor recommends any
parenting books; a Brazelton doctor will be very different from a
Babywise doctor, and believe me, you will be turning to your doctor for
advice on a variety of topics like sleep-training, sharing a family bed,
introducing solids, and so forth. If you want to try attachment
parenting and the doctor scoffs at using a baby sling, it’s probably not
a good fit.

Check out office hours and staff. Sounds small, but
having appointment times after or before your work will make your life
much easier. And since you’ll be dealing with the nurses and desk staff
most of the time, you want to find a place that’s nice to you on the

Discuss vaccinations. Will the pediatrician spread them
out a bit more if you don’t want four shots given at once? Is she open
to talking to you about why they are important, or does she get
impatient with your questions? In this Internet age doctors have a lot
of people walk in having done research on a specific topic; do they roll
their eyes at you and act hurt that you don’t trust them, or are they
willing to explain why the site’s wrong or it doesn’t apply?

listening to our pediatrician talk about different things, what
impressed me most was that she was both flexible and a hard-liner. I
want a pediatrician who will allow me to choose when to wean my child,
but put her foot down over an issue that puts my child at risk. I’m
happy she humors my questions about vaccines but still insists that they
are done.

Finally, make sure you are comfortable with more than
one doctor in the practice. You’ll be seeing the same doctor for every
well-baby visit, but when your child’s sick they’ll squeeze you in
wherever they can so be prepared for that.

And remember, on this
first interview you don’t have to ask all your questions. Discussing the
appropriate time to introduce, say, wheat, may be better left for a
well-baby visit further down the line. On a side note, your running list
of questions should not be brought to a sick baby visit; the doc’s
squeezing you in to a tight schedule to help you out, and discussing
sunscreen brands is not appropriate at that time.

As I said, Baby
has a great section on questions for a prospective pediatrician
and I highly recommend it. But hopefully, you’ll feel a bit bolder now
about finding a doctor for your future pumpkin.

‘Cause the time’s
going faster than you think!


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