Of all the decisions new parents need to make, choosing a pediatrician or family doctor is one of the most nerve-wracking. After all, you’re selecting a person who will help you make decisions—possibly life-saving—about your child’s health. Finding a doctor for your child doesn’t have to be stressful, however. If you do a little research, you can choose your child’s doctor with confidence.
When to Look for a Doctor
Dr. Christopher Stille, section head of general academic pediatrics at Children’s Hospital Colorado, says to begin looking for a doctor when mothers are seven to eight months pregnant. You want plenty of time to do research and meet with your top candidates, and you don’t want to worry if your baby should come early.
How to Find a Doctor
Rather than jumping on your insurance website and clicking at random, ask for recommendations from friends and people you trust.
“Forget online ratingsasking my trusted fellow mamas in the neighborhood who they loved for their kiddos was my route to picking the perfect local pediatrician,” says Erica McClaugherty Swenson, a Denver-area producer and mom of two. Stille agrees that sometimes online ratings can be misleading. Just because a pediatrician wasn’t a good fit for one family doesn’t mean he or she won’t be perfect for yours. Talk to other parents whose values align with yours. If you’re new to the area, post the question on Facebook, Nextdoor, or other moms” groups. Don’t just go with their opinions, though. Find out why people are recommending the pediatricians to see if you agree.
Choosing a Doctor
Stille says once you have a few suggestions for doctors, the first thing to do is make sure those doctors are board certified. Check the practice’s website or call and ask about the pediatrician’s qualifications. You also want to make sure the practice is actually taking new patients. If you”ve chosen a larger practice, ask if your child will see the same doctor each time, or will rotate and see each of the doctors or nurse practitioners on staff. Both methods have advantages—it will be up to you to determine which you prefer. Finally, make sure the practice takes your insurance.
Once you have some background information, it’s time to visit. Some offices will schedule set times for people to meet the doctors and ask questions. If not, your doctor should be open to a visit so you can get to know them. “It’s important to get an idea of the fit and feel of a practice…when you’re stressed out because your kid is sick, you want to be comfortable with your doctor,” says Stille.
This is also a good time to talk about how the practice runs and what they value. Talk about any specific concerns like immunizations or shared decision making if your child has special needs. Parents of children with special needs may also have access to a care coordinator at bigger practices who can help you navigate all the practitioners you”ll need to see. Different pediatricians may also have more experience with certain special needs, so you may want to find a doctor with an interest in the area of your child’s diagnosis.
Stille recommends that, if you have the time and ability to do so, you visit two or three practices before making a final decision. Though research and time is involved to meet with potential pediatricians, it’s worth it. In the end, you”ll find a doctor that will not only treat your child well but also will treat you with the same compassion and respect.
Laura Falin is a Denver-based writer and mother.