Choosing a doctor for your child is a task that deserves a lot of thought and some amount of research, because even if your child stays relatively healthy, you can bet on spending a significant amount of time in your paediatrician's office - Height, weight check-ups, colic, vaccination shots, foreign objects placed in nasal orifices, bumps and bruises - So making sure that you've got the right doctor for your child is absolutely imperative. And once chosen, the ideal is to maintain continuity in the child-paediatrician relationship.
Ask for recommendations from your gynaecologist and friends. Once you have a few names, you'll need to list your own priorities - the tangibles and the slightly less tangibles. The tangible aspects are those practical things that will make visits and interactions with the doctor and office more enjoyable and practical. Philosophy is a somewhat intangible. Different ways of looking after the health and rearing of children are not right or wrong, just different. Therefore, it is important that your philosophy and way of doing things are compatible with your paediatrician's.
It's a good idea to meet up some baby doctors before the baby is born. When you call to make the appointment ask how much time you'll have with the physician, so that you can pace your questions. Have your questions written down, and take someone with you -- your partner or a friend.
Here's a list of common questions, the answers to which will help you decide -
A male or a female paediatrician?
Actually it makes no difference, unless it makes a difference to you. In medical school, paediatricians are trained to care for patients of the opposite sex - it's a vital part of their education. Some parents worry that they should change to a same-sex paediatrician when the child hits a certain age, but a male paediatrician can just as adequately care for adolescent female patients as a female paediatrician can. In most cases, it is the parent and not the child who makes an issue of the choice. And it is important to keep in mind the continuity factor. The comfort factor of the child should be kept in mind, if he/she is feeling uncomfortable, the change should be done, not otherwise.
Age of the doctor?
Before you wipe off all paediatricians under 50 from your list, consider continuity and the importance of being up-to-date - the most important thing is that your paediatrician should be well qualified and up to date with the latest treatments and theories.
How far is his clinic?
The doctor's office should be conveniently located. It makes sense to opt for a less-famous option closer to home than a famously brilliant doctor twenty kilometres away. This is particularly true if your child is under the age of one, since frequent visits are a hallmark of the first year of life.
Check up about the after-hours system.
It is important to know certain things about the clinic. Like how early does the office open, how late does it close and do they have weekend and holiday hours. Evening hours may be absolutely necessary for you, especially if you are a single parent
How long do you have to wait in the office and also the scheduled length of his appointments?
Is there a sick-child waiting room and is it nice with enough toys to make the wait less painful?
How much the doctor charges and how are the bills handled?
Some of the doctors take payment on each visit, others bill you. You should inquire about how this is handled and all the more if you are dependent on insurance.
Where does the doctor have hospital facilities?
Should your child need to be hospitalised, you should be comfortable with the hospital where your doctor attends.
If laboratory tests are needed, can they be done right in the office or will you have to go elsewhere to have them done?
Who covers for the physician when she is sick or on vacation?
It is important to ensure there is a well chalked back up system. Acquaint yourself with the doctor who acts as the back up also.
It's important to get some sense in advance of how much a baby doctor and you agree on child rearing. Otherwise, if you disagree often, you'll probably change baby doctors later anyway.
Discuss - Breastfeeding
If you are very eager to breast feed or have strong feelings about how long you want to breastfeed, you will want a physician who knows a lot about the subject and is supportive.
His opinion about infant circumcision and vaccinations. Also asking about their immunisation rates would not be improper. His philosophy about antibiotics or other medication for children who have colds or other ailments. When your child gets a cold which does not require antibiotics, you do not want a physician who is all too ready to give them to you for no good reason. His recommendation about babies sleeping in the same bed with their parents and about weaning.
So do not rely just on the word of the mouth, do your homework to ensure that you get a doctor who's good for your child. Ultimately that is the objective.