Finding the right pediatrician for your child can be a challenging task. Not only do you want to find someone who is top-notch medically, but ideally you’ll find someone who is knowledgeable - or at least supportive - of your parenting and lifestyle choices.

Here are tips for finding a pediatrician that’s a good fit for your family:

  1. Talk to people. Certainly, you’ll be asking friends and family who they go to, but don’t be afraid to ask neighbors, parents at the park, your OBGYN, nurse-midwife, or anyone you don’t feel too uncomfortable asking. You never know who might have the perfect recommendation for you.

  2. Call your health insurance provider and request a list of pediatricians in your area that are covered by your plan. You can also find names using the American Academy of Pediatrics Pediatrician Referral Service.
  3. Google the pediatricians on your list. From the comfort of your home, you can learn a lot about some physicians and their practices by looking at their websites — many pediatricians have them now, but not all. You might also find details about special certifications or medical specialties (especially important if you know your child will have a specific medical condition) or even online reviews from other parents. 
  4. Call the pediatrician’s office. Once you have selected several pediatricians to consider, call their offices to arrange an in-person interview. (If you are treated as though this part of the process is some kind of a nuisance, that might be an immediate indicator that this isn’t the doctor for you.) Prior to the meeting, the office staff should be able to answer some of the following basic questions:
    1. Is the pediatrician accepting new patients with your insurance plan?
    2. How does the office handle billing and insurance claims? Is payment due at the time of the visit?
    3. What is the best time to call with routine questions? Does the pediatrician actively use email to communicate with patients?
    4. How does the doctor handle after-hours needs? Does the pediatrician meet you at the office or is there a convenient urgent care option for evenings and weekends?
    5. Which hospital is the doctor affiliated with?
    6. Is the pediatrician part of a group practice? If so, ask about the other doctors. If not, who covers for her when she’s not available?
    7. How long does a typical check-up last? Ideally, you’d want them to say at least 20 minutes.
  5. Arrive early for the interview to assess the office setting. You can learn a lot about a practice simply by the environment of the clinic. Give yourself an extra 10 or 15 minutes prior to the interview to get a feel for staff rapport and other patients. Are there any babies in the waiting room who are wearing cloth or hybrid diapers? (This is a good sign that other parents with environmental concerns have chosen this doctor.) What kinds of cleaners are used? (A strong scent of bleach or ammonia is the tip-off that green cleansers are not yet in use.) What other types of products do you notice in the waiting room and public restroom?
  6. Ask meaningful questions. Respect the pediatrician’s time, by keeping your interview short. Prioritize your questions in advance just in case you don’t have time to get through all of them. Here are some questions to consider - tailor them to your parenting and lifestyle beliefs:
    1. What is your health care style? Do you see yourself as the primary authority for deciding what actions to take regarding your patients or do you consider parents as your partners in health care?
    2. What is your child care philosophy? How do you feel about breastfeeding, first foods (hopefully not rice cereal), circumcision, alternative medicine, vaccinations, sleep and discipline issues?
    3. Do you have children? Some parents prefer to have a pediatrician who is also a parent and can honestly empathize with the unique challenges and emotions involved.
    4. How do you recommend treating ear infections? If they say that all ear infections should be treated with antibiotics, they may be behind the times. The Academy of Pediatrics now teaches that, in many situations, ear infections will heal better on their own, without antibiotics (but pain relief should be given for the ear pain).
    5. How do you recommend treating eczema in babies? If their first response is to use steroids or prescription drugs, they may not yet be thinking green. Often, a better first approach is to reduce exposure to eczema triggers or to gently moisturize the skin. Green-oriented physicians are more likely to treat the cause rather than just the symptoms and will opt for the gentlest treatment possible.
    6. What kind of baby shampoo do you recommend? If they mention a conventional brand, they may not yet be thinking about sustainable and non-toxic products. 
  7. Trust your instincts. If something feels off, maybe your search isn’t over. Maybe things start off fine but after a few visits, you aren’t sure if you’ve made the right choice. Either way, you should feel free to explore other options at any point in your child’s life. The relationship you and your child have with your primary care provider is extremely important (a fact that’s often only recognized when a serious medical situation arises). If something unfortunate does come to pass, the last thing you’ll need weighing on you is tension between you and your child’s doctor. Do the legwork in advance and trust your gut. A parent’s instinct is usually spot-on!