I’m six months pregnant and I just read that I need to find a pediatrician before my baby’s even born. This seems weird to me. Is it really necessary? How do I even begin? I live in New York City, so there are hundreds (thousands?) of options, and I don’t have any friends with kids I can ask.
– Dr. Who
Dear Dr. Who,
You’re not required to sign on with a doctor before birth, but if you don’t, you’ll end up working with the pediatric equivalent of a public defender: whoever’s assigned to you at the hospital. These doctors are often great, but they may not be in the geographic or philosophical neighborhood you’d prefer. So you’ll probably want to find someone more closely aligned for long-term pediatric care. (You can see one doctor in the hospital and then switch to a more permanent doctor afterwards – this is sometimes necessary if the pediatrician you choose doesn’t work with the hospital where you deliver).
Since you don’t have any first-hand recommendations, you can ask for ideas on local parenting websites (the Babble boards are a good resource, for example) or in person, if you feel like approaching random parents in a playground. You can also go through your insurance company and get a short list, then ask others for opinions (or not). If you take any prenatal classes, the instructors may have some suggestions. We recommend trying to look for a doctor who is relatively easy to get to. Babies get lots of check-ups their first year, and then, there’s actual sickness – and schlepping a sick baby up and down numerous subway steps is never fun.
The pre-baby pediatrician hunt is always a little odd, like clothing shopping for a baby you haven’t met. But really, your own relationship with the doctor is as important as your child’s – much more so at first. A good way to check out the vibe of a place/doctor is try to go in there for a brief meeting. Prenatal interviews are pretty standard; they help you get a sense of the office and the pros before you sign on and show up with a newborn (and all the accompanying anxiety). Most doctors are used to meeting nervous new parents and will help you through the process.
Since it can be hard to know what you’re looking for, these are some questions that may come in handy:
Who’s in the practice?
Will the same person see your baby each time?
What’s everyone’s experience/years practicing?
What are the hours?
What hospital are they affiliated with?
What’s the after-hours policy?
Is there an arrangement for contagious children? Newborns?
How does the doctor feel about . . . breastfeeding, formula, vaccinations, circumcision, co-sleeping, sleep-training and/or other choices that may be relevant to your family?