Ask Dr. Ariana: How Do I Choose a Pediatrician?

Your go-to guide for finding the right pediatrician for your family straight from a pediatrician, postpartum coach, and mom!
Dr. Ariana Witkin

As a pregnant pediatrician, I felt a lot of pressure to pick the “right” pediatric provider for my family. After all, I am a newborn pediatrician who specializes in working with families right after their babies are born. When it came to choosing a provider for my own family however, I felt stuck.

Dr Ariana postpartum mom pediatrician, kissing daughter outside
Photo Credit: Anna Petras

My mind spiraled with questions like:

How did I know who would be a good fit?

What if I felt judged for my parenting decisions?

Who would be an amazing provider for my child but also a supportive partner along my parenting journey?

What I’ve learned (several pediatricians later) is that finding the right pediatrician for your family is just as much about finding the person who will support you, as it is about finding a medical expert for your child. So, I’ve gathered some tips to help you find the right pediatrician for your family.

Tips for Choosing a Pediatrician

Tip # 1 Make sure they are board-certified.

First and foremost, you want a pediatrician that is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. This certification is the national standard for practicing pediatricians and identifies providers who have fulfilled the minimum training requirements.

Tip # 2 Ask for referrals from other parents you trust.

In general, their practical experience matters more than where someone went to medical school. To find the right fit, I love asking people for referrals! If you have a friend, cousin, or neighbor who may have a similar parenting style and philosophy as you, ask them who they see for a pediatrician. The best test is that a provider has worked with a family like yours and that the family is pleased with their care.

Tip # 3 Identify what’s best for you and your family.

Every family has its own unique needs. So first, identify what’s important to you and your family. Then do a little research to see which pediatricians match your criteria. You can get many of these questions answered right on a provider’s website or by setting up in-person visits.

Beyond the basics of someone’s training and experience, lie the practical concerns.

Things to consider include: office location, availability of parking, what insurance is accepted by the practice and office hours.

The typical well visit schedule for the first year includes visits at

  •  3-5 days of age
  • 2 weeks
  • 1 month
  • 2 months
  • 4 months
  • 6 months
  • 9 months
  • and 12 months

In other words, there are a lot of visits! You want to choose a practice that is close to your home, easy to get to and has plentiful parking if you’ll be driving (because no one likes lugging around a carseat).

It’s also important to think about what office hours work best for you and your family. Do you need a practice that has evening and weekend appointments? Are daytime appointments best for you?

Don’t forget to make sure the practices you are considering accept your health insurance. That way, you don’t get surprised with a hefty bill after the fact.

Tip #4 Don’t be afraid to ask hard questions.

Being open and honest with potential providers about what is most important to you now will save you endless hours of worrying and stress later. 

Check-in with yourself at each stage. For example, check-in after visiting the pediatrician’s website and after talking with them on the phone or meeting them in person. 

I suggest taking notes at each stage, so you remember how you felt in that moment.

Tip #5 Choose a pediatrician that treats you like a partner.

Last but not least, remember that a good pediatrician knows their role is to be your partner, not your superior. Pediatricians may be experts in medicine and development, but you are the expert in your baby.

Questions to answer from a provider’s website:
  • How many providers are in the practice? Are they certified by the American Board of Pediatrics?
  • Where is the practice located?
  • What insurance plans are accepted?
  • What hours is the practice open? Is a provider available for urgent matters 24/7?
  • Is the practice affiliated with a particular hospital?

Questions to Ask (phone):
  • What providers are accepting new patients? 
  • Do you have same day sick appointments?
  • Do you have separate waiting rooms for well children and sick children? 
  • Am I able to set-up a prenatal visit or meet-and-greet with my potential provider?

Questions to Ask (in-person):

Which questions you ask will depend on what topics are most important to you. 

  • Why did you become a pediatrician?
  • What do you like most about being a pediatrician and this practice?
  • What do you think could work better in this practice?
  • How easy is it to book appointments with you? Will we see you for most visits, or do you have colleagues we will be seeing as well?
  • Do you have the ability to perform diagnostic testing (labwork, imaging, etc.) in your office? If not, where do your patients go if this testing is required?
  • What kind of families do you think are a good fit for your practice?

  • Does your practice have a vaccine policy? If so, what is it?

  • How do you feel about co-sleeping? 
  • What is your philosophy on sleep training?

  • In what scenarios do you recommend formula supplementation for infants?
  • How and when do you recommend introducing solid food?
  • When do you encourage weaning?
  • Do you have lactation support in your office?
  • Do you have any personal experience with breastfeeding?
  • What experience/education do you have specifically related to breastfeeding?
  • What percent of babies in your practice are exclusively breastfed at 3 months?

  • Do you have a specific parenting philosophy that you support the families in your practice to follow?
  • Is there a developmental pediatrician or psychologist in your office? If not, how easy is it for you to refer your families to these resources in the community? 
Remember to check in with yourself at each stage, from website viewings to phone calls and in-person interviews.
Gut-Check Questions
  • How do I feel? (Learning to tune in and listen to your mama intuition will serve you well for years to come!)
  • Did I feel supported? Heard? Rushed?
  • How was information communicated?
  • Was the information helpful?
  • Does this seem like a good fit for my family?
  • How would I feel in this environment if my child was sick?

It’s never too early to start looking for a pediatrician, but the start of the third trimester is a great time to begin your search if you haven’t done so already.

Remember, you’re looking for a partner.

You want someone you’ll feel comfortable asking about everything from a funky-smelling diaper to your postpartum mood. 

Once you’ve identified and feel good about your pediatrician, remember to use them! Pediatricians have on-call services, so you don’t have to sit at home wondering, “Is this normal?” 

If you’re concerned about something related to your child, you’re not overreacting. It is your pediatrician's job (that they are paid for) to answer your questions - even at 2 AM. 

© Ariana Witkin 2021

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