Choosing your child's doctor is something many parents don't think much about, but it is something that means a lot.
- Ask friends, your own doctor, obstetricians or nurse-midwives for recommendations
- Even if your best friend really likes her child's doctor, you should try to meet them and ask questions
Good questions to ask
The doctor's staff can answer many basic questions.
- Call in the afternoon (when they are less busy) when someone in the office can spend a few minutes answering your questions
- You should be able to get these answers on the phone:
- How do you make an office visit - by phone, e-mail and/or web?
- Can the doctor be reached by phone and/or e-mail?
- What are the office hours?
- Does the office have extended hours - early morning, evening or on the weekend?
- How long does it typically take for them to return a phone call?
- Will it be the doctor or a nurse who typically calls back?
- Don't assume that nurses and other health worker in the office aren't able to answer your questions, but you should be able to talk to the doctor if you want to
- How will your phone call be handled when the office is closed or when the doctor is out of the office?
- Who will cover for the doctor when he or she is out of town?
- How are emergencies handled?
- At which hospital(s) is(are) the doctor able to work?
- Will you have to go through a pager or answering service?
- Will the doctor meet you at the hospital if there is an emergency or sudden event that must be handled right away?
Visit the doctor's office
When you visit for the first time, notice the way business is done.
- Was the front-office staff polite when you came in?
- Do they seem helpful to the other families in the waiting room?
- Are ill children shown into exam rooms quickly to lower the spread of germs?
If you feel like it, ask a couple of parents what they like and dislike about the office. But in the end, it's likely best to trust your own instincts.
Questions to ask the doctor
If you're satisfied with the answers to your first round of questions, ask if you can plan a visit with the doctor in person. During this meeting you should:
- Build a relationship with the doctor to see how well you will get along - you want to feel good about your choice
- Try to get an understanding of the doctor's philosophy by asking:
- How do you feel about breastfeeding? Or circumcision (removal of some or all of the foreskin from the penis)?
- How do you feel about the use of antibiotics (drugs that treat infections caused by germs)?
- What do you think about co-sleeping?
- How do you feel about children being on a vegetarian diet?
- If my child has disabilities, will you be able to help with them, or be willing to help me find specially trained doctors if you can't?
It might be okay if you and the doctor don't agree on every topic. But it's good to know early on whether you share philosophies.
My baby's first visits
You and your baby will likely see this doctor more during the first year of his or her life than at any other time.
- The baby's first exam will happen right after he or she is born
- Monthly or bi-monthly visits will likely be needed until his or her first birthday
- Here's what the doctor will likely do at these routine visits:
- Give shots or immunizations (at specific times)
- Measure your baby's height, weight and size of his or her head
- Check your baby's sight and hearing
- Check your baby's physical, motor and cognitive growth (this includes asking you questions about his or her actions)
- Talk about your baby's diet and sleeping habits
- Ask you about any special concerns you may have
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