By Hayley Oakes LM, CPM ~

Finding a pediatrician who’s right for you and your family’s needs is important – your child’s health and wellness will be in their hands.

pediatricianHere are some things to consider when choosing a pediatrician:

Insurance coverage

It’s important to find a pediatrician within network of your insurance provider for the in-case scenario that your child falls ill and the need to be hospitalized arises. You want to be able to go to a facility where your doctor has privileges in order to receive optimal care for your little one.

I also recommend seeing a naturopathic doctor for “well visits”, whom unfortunately most likely won’t be covered by insurance. The benefit of supplementing your medical care with a more holistic approach is that there’s an emphasis on looking at the whole body – physically and emotionally to maintain your child’s health. This can be especially beneficial for chronic illnesses instead of treating only the symptom at hand. In the long run, this can prevent your baby and/or child getting sick more often by focusing on maintenance, wellness as well as treatment of the whole system. Here is a great article about the ‘whole kid’ philosophy and how it can complement more ‘traditional’ western medical care.

The downside about this approach is that these practitioners are usually not covered by your insurance. This care would be an out-of-pocket cost. However, I feel it’s worth it in the end. If finances are tight (as they usually are when planning and caring for baby), perhaps some adjustments can be made in order to save up here and there for these visits.

Location

‘Location is everything’, as they say. You don’t want to drive across town with a sick kid. Finding someone local will be less stress and obviously more convenient for everyone. Some care providers offer home visits, however, that comes at an additional fee.

When you begin your search for your child’s health care provider, consider if he or she offers consultations about their services. Some practices offer group information sessions and tours of their offices. If not, then I recommend having a phone consult with a prospective pediatrician to get a sense of their services. One way of getting to know your doctor’s true colors as well as their philosophies, education and background are mentioning the following ‘hot’ topics:

Out-of-hospital birth

Is this practitioner familiar, on board, and/or educated about the option and safety of birth center or home birth? When you deliver in a hospital, if your pediatrician does not have privileges at that facility, the pediatrician on duty will discharge your baby and then your little one won’t need a follow up for 2 weeks. With out-of-hospital birth, we assess the baby’s vital signs and do a full physical exam after the birth, however, midwives and even OBs who practice outside of the hospital are not specialists in pediatric care. Therefore, someone with that skill and expertise should have eyes on your baby within the first week. Inquire as to when he or she would like you to come in for your baby’s first visit after the birth?

Breastfeeding

What’s their stance or philosophy on breastfeeding? Do they have referrals for lactation consultants at the ready? How often do they recommend formula supplementation?

Co-sleeping

What are their feelings (pros/cons) about bed sharing, side-car arrangement, or a different bed in the same room?

Vaccines

More and more parents want options and if not, at least the discussion and right to informed consent about risks, benefits, and alternatives to the vaccine recommendations. How flexible is this care provider? Will they even care for you if you decide a delayed schedule is better suited for your family’s needs?

In the end, hopefully you choose the right care provider for you and your family. But know that if you go to your first appointment and it’s not the right fit, you’re not married to this person. So don’t hesitate to switch to a different provider. You won’t hurt their feelings. It will be more stressful to stay as it will only create distrust and suboptimal communication, which can negatively impact your child’s health.

Do your research, narrow down some options based on insurance and location, and then use your gut instinct. Good luck!