How to choose a pediatrician for your baby

Build a relationship that works for your family. Keep reading to learn the top things to consider when choosing a pediatrician.

How to choose a pediatrician: A guide for new parents 

Meet us at a Newbie Night!

We welcome new parents, newcomers to the Louisville area and any family who needs a new pediatrician. Visit the practice, ask questions and meet the pediatrician and staff.

Choosing a pediatrician for your first child, or because you’ve moved or are looking to switch for any reason, brings up a lot of questions. Here are some tips for how to choose a pediatrician — so you can build a relationship that works for your family.

What is a pediatrician and what do they do?

Pediatricians see children of all ages, from newborns to young adults. They are an advocate for your child’s health and also act as a supportive resource for parents.

Pediatricians are uniquely trained to support your child’s overall health, including their physical, mental, emotional and social well-being. They also track a child’s growth and developmental benchmarks, along with guiding and supporting parents throughout each stage of a child’s development.

Building a relationship with a pediatrician is crucial for parents. In a child’s first year, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents take their baby in for at least seven well-child visits. Parents also could spend more time in a pediatrician’s office during that first year should a child develop fever, ear infections or any number of unexpected issues. 

Additionally, pediatricians screen children for a variety of conditions and make sure that children are growing and developing as they should. Establishing a lasting relationship with a provider you can trust with your child’s health can help you as a parent — having that person you can turn to with questions and your concerns for your child.

When should you choose a pediatrician?

Consider starting your pediatrician search early during pregnancy. Starting your search early can give you enough time to do research, talk to family and friends for recommendations, and talk to different pediatricians. Babies can come early — and once you’re admitted to the hospital to deliver your child, you’ll be asked the name of your pediatrician. Choosing a pediatrician early allows you to worry less about “getting everything done” in the last trimester before baby arrives.

When families move to a new city or part of town, finding a new pediatrician can help them settle into a new area. Establishing a medical home with a pediatrician for your child in your new location can help you make sure your child’s health care continues uninterrupted.

AAP suggests parents consider a prenatal visit with a pediatrician. While these visits are not 100% necessary or possible for all busy families, a visit can give you a chance to meet a pediatrician before your child arrives to ask questions and see if you’re comfortable with the provider and their philosophy of care. Many practices offer open houses for potential parents to tour an office and meet with staff and providers. Many of the Norton Children’s Medical Group pediatrician offices offer monthly “Newbie Nights” for families to tour and meet providers.

Factors to consider when choosing a pediatrician

There’s a lot to consider when choosing a pediatrician — they’re the provider for your child first, but also will help support you as your child grows. When choosing a new pediatrician, you will want to consider:

Location and accessibility of the office:
Is the practice in a convenient location for you? Is it near your home or office, school, day care? What pediatrician office location would work best for you?

Health insurance:
You’ll want to consult your health plan’s website to make sure that the pediatrician is in your health plan’s network. Additionally, websites may not be up to date, so you may want to call your health plan to confirm the provider is in your plan’s network.

Availability of same-day visits, after-hours care and virtual visits:
For many working parents, having extended hours, including evening or weekend options, is important to prevent missing school for kids or having to leave work early for parents. Additionally, can you get same-day appointments for unexpected illnesses? Does the practice have an online portal for you to ask questions and make appointments? Is telehealth available? All of these can affect how easily and quickly you can communicate with a provider.

Doctor’s qualifications and experience:
A pediatrician is a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathic medicine — but there are many providers who take care of children, including pediatric nurse practitioners. Whatever your preference, you can verify that provider is board certified (they have a degree from a qualified school and passed training and exams needed to practice medicine).

Communication and rapport with the doctor:
Having trust in your child’s health care provider is an important factor in ensuring your child stays healthy. Being honest about what will help you feel comfortable and build a relationship with a provider is important. You’ll need to build a good rapport with a pediatrician, because they may be caring for your child for well over a decade. You want to be able to feel comfortable with them and feel like you can ask them anything.

You’ll want to consider whether you think the provider’s personality and care delivery style meet your needs as a parent. Do you want a provider who is more matter-of-fact or someone who is warm and chatty? Do you prefer an authoritative or more collaborative approach?

Group practice versus solo practice:
Larger practices with multiple providers may make it easier to get an appointment, while smaller practices could help you build a relationship with a single provider.

Types of care available:
If you know your child has or will need any kind of specialty care, you may want to consider a pediatrician who works for or has a relationship with a pediatric health system. This may help parents easily coordinate care among various doctors and clinics — should your child need their care.

Norton Children’s Medical Group offers pediatric primary care at more than 25 locations throughout Louisville and surrounding communities, including Southern Indiana.

Many of our offices offer convenient weekday, evening and Saturday morning office hours, as well as same-day appointments for unexpected visits. Norton Children’s Medical Group uses Norton MyChart, an online portal which allows parents to communicate with their child’s pediatrician as well as have access to all of their child’s test results, appointments and prescriptions in one place. Additionally, video visits (telehealth) may be available at select offices.

Questions to ask during your Newbie Night tour

Norton Children’s Medical Group offers Newbie Night tours at our office locations. This is your chance to check out the practice and meet the pediatrician and staff. You can tour the facility and they will answer any questions you may have.

Here is a list of questions to ask or consider during your Newbie Night tour that may help you choose a pediatrician:

  • Is the office location convenient?
  • For new parents, does this doctor perform a first checkup in the hospital?
  • Do they accept your insurance?
  • Do you get along with the doctor?
  • How does the practice operate?
  • Are same-day visits available?
  • Is there after-hours care?
  • Are virtual visits available?
  • If it’s a group practice, will your child see different doctors?
  • Is there a separate waiting area for sick children?
  • Is the waiting area kid-friendly?
  • How can you reach your doctor/practice in emergencies?
  • What is an initial consultation like?
  • Is the doctor a good fit for you and your child?
  • Does the office treat or specialize in any specific health concerns and conditions?
  • What is the doctor’s communication style and approach to care?
  • What is the doctor’s availability and scheduling like?

Making a decision and evaluating your choice

After you meet a pediatrician or visit a practice, weigh the pros and cons of each potential pediatrician. What did you like about them? Are you pleased with how the appointment went? How easy was it to be seen? Does your insurance accept them as being an in-network provider?

Trust your instincts. You want to feel comfortable with your choice. Ideally, this office will be your family’s medical home for years to come, until your child becomes an adult. This pediatrician not only will serve your child’s health care needs, they also will act as a trusted resource for you during your parenting journey. 

Set up an initial appointment and evaluate the experience. How did it go? What went well? Were you comfortable, and do you feel like your questions were answered?