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Is your pediatrician right for you?

Choosing a pediatrician is a lot like voting for the president – the campaign promises are nice, but it’s what they do when they’re actually in office that counts. By now, you’ve had some time to figure out if your pediatrician is going to live up to his or her bright, shining promise from the campaign trail, or if the reality of seeing him or her trying to soothe your screaming infant through another round of shots has made you wonder if maybe he or she isn’t meant for the Oval Office after all.

If you’re having doubts about Baby’s pediatrician, remember, politicians have term limits for a reason, and just because doctors don’t have to run for reelection doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have the chance to decide whether they get a second term with your family. On the other hand, dealing with the logistics of Baby’s medical care in the future will go more smoothly if you can minimize the number of times you switch doctors, so if there’s a problem with your pediatrician that you think could possibly be solved by talking it through with him or her, it’s often useful to try. When you’re weighing whether your pediatrician is right for you, here are a few questions to keep in mind:

Does Baby like him or her?

If your little one actually likes his or her pediatrician, your chances of having smooth doctors’ visits as she gets older goes way up. Keep in mind that Baby is getting a lot of shots her first year, so she might not be too happy about any doctor’s visits, and if Baby seems pretty neutral about her doctor, that’s not necessarily a bad sign – she could easily come to like him or her better as she gets older. But if, on the other hand, Baby actively likes your current pediatrician, that should definitely be a check-mark in the ‘pros’ column.

Do you feel listened to?

Having a new baby can be stressful, and it’s important that you feel respected and listened by your pediatrician, since it’s important that you feel comfortable asking any questions or voicing any concerns you might have. If you feel like your pediatrician is in a rush, or you don’t feel listened to, this can be a problem.

Does he or she do well in an emergency?

It’s easy for a doctor to seem reassuring and in control during a routine checkup, but the real test happens when Baby has her first real illness. Doctors aren’t awake and at the office 24/7, but yours should have some sort of plan for handling problems in a pinch. You can ask questions about what happens if you need help at the last minute if Baby gets sick, but there’s no way to really know what a doctor or practice’s response to a sudden sickness will be until it’s put to the test.

Does he or she respect your parenting style?

Parenting is one of those jobs where there are a million possible ways to do it right, but some people get overly attached to their own style or preferences. Doctors are people too, and if your pediatrician disagrees strongly with something about your parenting style, it may affect your relationship with your pediatrician, and your perception of Baby‘s care.

Do you and Baby feel comfortable in the waiting room?

A large part of waiting room comfort just comes from not having to sit there for too long, so the average wait at your pediatrician’s office – now that you’ve been going there a while – is definitely something to take into account. Every office has busy days where the wait is longer, but a habitually long wait could be a problem. Beyond that though, is the waiting room clean? Are the toys or magazines clean and organized? Do you feel like Baby is going to catch something new and horrible every time she waits there for a routine checkup? These are all things to consider.

If you end up deciding your current pediatrician isn’t a particularly good fit, switching to a new one is as easy as finding the new one, going through your usual steps with a new doctor, like making sure they accept your insurance, and then calling the original office to ask for Baby’s records to be sent over to the new one. The inauguration ceremony is optional.

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