Picking Your Baby’s Pediatrician or Healthcare Provider

Jan 13, 2022 | 3 Minute Read

Pregnancy includes a variety of trips to various health care providers; from ultrasounds to obstetric check-ups, the health of you and your baby are paramount from the beginning. But wait, have you considered what your baby’s health care will look like after birth?

It’s a question people often don’t answer until closer to birth. However, there are important factors to consider when choosing a pediatric health care provider that may take time to sort through, so start looking at your options as early as possible.

Ask yourself, what is important to you about your pediatric provider? Do you care if the provider is male or female? Do you care if they are a doctor or nurse practitioner? Do their basic beliefs about health align with yours? What type of insurance do they accept? Prepare a list of questions before you begin your search.

Get Recommendations

Getting recommendations from friends, family, and your pregnancy care provider is a fantastic way to start your list of potential pediatric health providers. The relationship you have built with your own pregnancy care provider gives them insight into the kind of provider that would be a good fit for you and your baby.

For those friends who seem to love their baby’s healthcare provider, ask specifically why they like that person or their practice. What is important to one family may not be as important to you. The same can be said if someone had a bad experience; be cautious about online reviews, people are much more likely to write about negative experiences than positive ones.

Ask your friends and family if they ever feel rushed during a visit, if the providers seem empathetic, and if they feel like they are listened to and heard. Gather all the information from the people you trust but choose the best fit for you.

Keep Care Close and Convenient

Convenience is one important consideration. The first year of your baby’s life includes several trips to your pediatrician or advanced practice nurse to ensure your baby is healthy and developing appropriately, and these visits are important in addition to any visits for illness or emerging health concerns.

Choose a practice that is close to home, or work, or childcare, or all of those options, if possible, for convenience. Search for pediatric practices that work within your distance requirements, call to make sure they are taking new patients, and then schedule a visit if possible. At a minimum, you should be able to ask any questions you have about the practice over the phone.

Choose Your Preferred Practice Type

Think about the type of practice environment you would prefer and ask any of the following questions:
  • What size is the practice? Small with one or two providers? Or large, and will you always see the same practitioner?
  • Does the practice rotate you through all of the practitioners on staff?
  • Does the waiting room or the exam rooms have separated “well” and “sick” sections?
  • How long do providers stay with the practice? High turnover can affect the care your baby receives.
  • What kind of office hours or “on call” services do they provide?
  • Do they offer evening and weekend “sick” hours without an appointment? If you know you will only be able to see someone on Saturdays, make sure they have regular weekend hours.
  • Is the waiting area “kid friendly”?
  • When you visit the practice do you get a sense of warmth and welcome, or does it feel uncomfortable? Go with your gut!

Ask the Hard Questions

Don’t be afraid to ask the questions that are important to you about sensitive topics. Being on the same page with your baby’s health care provider is critical. Parents often want to understand their pediatrician’s views on immunizations, co-sleeping, feeding preferences, antibiotic treatments, and circumcision, to name a few.

Health care providers are accustomed to answering these questions and should not seem surprised by your inquiries. Good communication is a crucial part of the relationship you will build with the provider you choose; how they respond to sensitive questions will help you determine if they support your beliefs.

After your initial visit with a potential pediatric provider, ask yourself the following questions:
  • Was the provider open to answering my questions?
  • Were they a good listener?
  • Do I feel comfortable talking to this person about my child’s health?
  • Does this provider’s philosophy of care match my beliefs and desires?

Some providers are affiliated with hospitals, meaning the pediatrician provides care in both a private practice office setting as well as the hospital. If your provider is affiliated with a hospital, it can be helpful if your child needs to be admitted to the hospital for any reason but is not a requirement of a good provider. Double checking the providers’ medical credentials is not a bad idea, and they are usually provided on the practice website.

Learn if the pediatrician you are interested in will be the one who sees your baby immediately after birth in the hospital (if you are having a hospital birth). Typically, your baby gets a visit in the hospital, and then another visit a day or two after you are discharged home.

If you are birthing outside the hospital, in a birth center or at home, try to schedule several pediatric appointments near your due date, and see your provider within a day or two of giving birth.

Ensuring Baby’s Health

Remember, your pediatrician is someone you will have a long-term collaboration with. Although you can change practices if needed, finding a good fit early is a big benefit throughout the life of your child. It is challenging to imagine, but the provider you choose will likely see your child until they are 18 to 21 years of age.

Not only do good pediatric providers care for your baby as they grow, but they help you navigate the ups and downs of parenting. Pediatric providers are instrumental in helping with decisions that affect your child’s physical and mental health, sports, school forms, and medications. Set yourself up for success by getting an early start by picking the best pediatric provider for your family’s and children’s needs.

Heather Watson, PhD, MSN, RN

Heather Watson, PhD, MSN, RN, is a nurse scientist at Johns Hopkins Health System.

The information contained on this article should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your health care professional.