Choosing the *Perfect* Pediatrician
Do you remember your Pediatrician from childhood? I do. And when the time came to choose one for my first child, I knew exactly what I was looking for. I had experience too, in knowing about not so great Pediatricians from my hospital work- the ones who didn't do a thorough job with their patients were often viewed "at fault" for a child's admission to inpatient care.
Things that I knew were important to me were: kindness and a kind bedside manner, acceptance of my approach to delaying/spacing vaccines as I saw fit, openness to homeopathic remedies before prescribing drugs, availability for both sick and well visits, and of course supportive of breastfeeding.
I didn't feel like these things were too much to ask from a Physician who guides a first time parent through raising a healthy child.
We only went to one open house. It was with a group of Physicians who was "in network" with our insurance, had multiple locations, and... said they were supportive of breastfeeding. I did notice however, the cans of formula on the counter at the front desk. But I had a friend who was working there as a Nutritionist and she took her own kids to see one specific doctor, who she highly recommended. Another friend named the same group and Physician as the best one, and so we were sold.
At Camden's first visit 3 days post partum we were already struggling with breastfeeding. Y'all, I had all the book knowledge there was to have. I had a very supportive partner, and I had a full term healthy baby. We saw a Nurse Practitioner who I had not met or seen before. I am partial to NPs because they used to be nurses, and I feel that the experiences gained from nursing makes for realistic expectations and exceptional care more often than not. But in this case, she was my worst nightmare. She shamed me for ineffective breastfeeding, and recommended formula. She pointed her meaty fingers at the growth chart and in the five minutes she spent in the room with me she broke my confidence and my heart. I left there in bad shape, and it should have been the opposite. I should have felt supported, and uplifted, and I should have left with a care plan that I was on board with. None of those things happened.
After that visit, I saw different practitioners each time. I was looking for something that I could not find. I was looking for a doctor who cared about us as a whole, and who could help us succeed at not just feeding, but at life. I saw some that I liked enough, but none who I wanted to stay with long term.
Fast forward to Camden's 9 month visit, where weight gain is no longer an issue (but we are 100% coming back to this in another post) and we are seeing *Dr. B (whose name is obviously not being shared in this post) exclusively, though she is hard to get appointments with due to her popularity. There is a list of questions parents are asked at each visit, the same every time. This time I voiced that his speech had seemingly regressed. He was no longer chatting and repeating "mamamamama and dadadada" like typical children his age, or like he had been just a couple of months prior. Dr B. said "It's nothing to worry about. Boys are slower than girls. We can repeat the hearing test to make sure he's hearing everything, but his ears look fine".( I am really skimming over this story that impacted our family immensely, and will circle back to this in another post as well.) The hearing screen was repeated in the office two times that same day and the results were not able to be read according to the staff performing the test. Here is where I lose my mind a little bit.
Y'all my son was profoundly deaf at 13 months old. It is most probable that he was profoundly deaf at 9 months of age AND SHE MISSED IT. And the only thing she had to offer was that 1. He was slow, and 2. A hearing screen with unreadable results, to be repeated again in 2 weeks if I still had concerns. Thanks to a friend asking the right questions on just the right day, we found our way to a family of specialists that now includes a Pediatrician who we adore, who thoughtfully cares for my son and listens to his mother. My hope for you is that you can avoid seeing your own Dr. B and instead start a relationship with a Physician who cares for your children and meets your expectations.
So, what kind of Pediatrician are you looking for? Here are some things to look for, and things to consider when choosing a Physician for your future babies.
How do you feel about seeing a group of Physicians, instead of just one? Just like with an OB group, you may see who is available when you need to be seen quickly. There are practices with a single doctor!
Where do you want your Pediatrician to stand on circumcision? If you plan on keeping your son intact then you will want to make sure his doctor is comfortable with issues specific to that, and vice versa.
Is the location convenient? Is there a ramp into the office? I'm not kidding here, people. Are you ok with trekking up to the 7th floor of a building? What if the elevators are out, or running slow, or if there is a Pandemic that limits proximity to others? How is the parking situation? Drive by during the day sometime to see if you might find yourself habitually late due to limited parking spaces. If physically making it inside the building seems stressful, then keep looking. Some Physicians make house calls, too!
Who else is on staff? Does your top choice have a Lactation Consultant in the building? Do they work with a Dietitian? Look at their website for referrals to specialists and see who they recommend.
When you visit the office look around for formula samples and prescription drug ads. How do you feel about that?
Do they answer the phone? Return calls? Request that you access a patient portal that you don't have access to? Imagine how much more frustrating these things are when you are sleep deprived or have a crying baby.
Do they accept your insurance? Will they see your infant if you are uninsured? Require payment of services up front? Have payment plans? A sliding scale for services?
What languages are offered by the staff? Do they have interpreters available if needed? Though families might speak conversational English, when accepting medical information another language might allow for better understanding. Or if grandparents or another caregiver take the baby to appointments, it will be important to have things available in more than one language and/or in writing.
When you meet the doctor, do you like this person? Do you like the staff that guided you until the Physician came in- the Nurse, MA, the receptionist? You will see these people at every visit!
Is the Physician supportive of breastfeeding? If so, they might offer that they breastfed their own 1-7 children, or their partner breastfed or pumped and they understand the struggles that can come along with that. Maybe it's not their area of interest but they can recommend you to an IBCLC. Do you feel supported in the type of feeding that you want for your baby, whether that is some formula and some pumped milk, or exclusive chestfeeding? Get it out in the open now!
Those are just a few things I want you to consider, in hopes that they might save your sanity in those early days. This is certainly not a typical list of considerations, but take it from this seasoned, and running late mom, you will feel a little more secure for investigating!
A friend's referral is ideal, but in our case it just wasn't a good fit. Please ask me for referrals, as I know some fantastic Pediatricians!
Stay in good cheer friends!