Did you know you can schedule an appointment with a pediatrician before your baby is born? Yup, and it’s usually free. Prenatal visits are a great way for you to interview potential pediatricians and find the doctor’s office that fits your family.
How do you know if the office fits you? There are some questions you can ask during the prenatal visit with your pediatrician. These are the questions I used. My pediatrician loved them and asked where I got them.
Number of providers:
It’s important to know if you will have the same doctor everytime you visit the office. Many locations have more than one doctor on hand meaning your child may not always see the same person.
That doesn’t bother me any. Sara has seen a different provider almost everytime she’s gone to the pediatrician’s.
But it is an issue for some people. Some really enjoy the intimacy of seeing the same person at every doctor’s visit. Knowing your preference can help you choose the office that fits.
Is the office open at times you can take your child to the doctor’s? This is especially important if you work. It’s not always easy to get off work to take your baby in for their appointments. It’s an important consideration for your ease of access.
Outside of Office Hours Care:
I admit I was confused by this one. My first thought was, “If my baby is sick, don’t I take her to the hospital?” Thankfully, my pediatrician explained when I asked.
A pediatrician’s office should have some way for you to contact them outside of normal hours. The contact is not to go in and see someone, but for advice on whether or not the hospital is necessary.
For example, Sara’s office has a nurse hotline after hours. If she gets sick, I can call and ask if we should bring her to the hospital. A good example is a teething fever. When babies teethe, their temperature can increase a little bit. The temperature does not increase to the levels of a real fever.
A nurse can help parents identify in such a case that they don’t need to worry. In other cases, the nurse can inform the parents to go to the hospital.
Consulting with a nurse before going to the hospital can avoid unnecessary alarm and frustration for parents and avoid having non-emergency cases in the ER for hospitals.
These are really important. During a well-baby visit, you take your baby in to get their weight checked. Checking weight is the best way to tell if your baby is eating enough and growing properly.
Many pediatrician offices have free well-baby visits, mine included. If the pediatrician you are looking to bring your baby to doesn’t have free well-baby visits, it’s important to check how much of the cost your insurance will cover. If your baby is struggling with weight, well-baby visits will be a weekly affair to check progress.
It is important to note that well-baby visits have strict guidelines. For example, Sara’s pediatrician’s office has a sign up that says any concerns addressed during the well-baby visit that do not fall under the purview of the visit is cause for the parent’s to be charged a fee by law.
The sign also states that if parents have additional concerns, they may schedule a separate appointment to address them with the doctor.
Well-baby visits are meant to be a check-in for weight and growth. They are preventative in nature and not a time to ask about that rash on your baby’s cheek. You need to schedule a separate appointment for that or at least be aware you will likely be charged.
Be sure to understand your office’s policy on well-baby visits and to what extent your insurance covers them (even better if they’re free).
It’s important to know how to contact your doctor if you have a concern. Do they correspond through email, phone, or a special online service? The doctor’s offices in my area often use an online messaging system that lets patients get in touch with their providers as well as check test results and history of visits.
If you plan to breastfeed, you need to know that your pediatrician supports the decision. In addition, it is necessary to know what weight gain chart they use for breastfed babies.
Babies who are bottle-fed gain more weight than breastfed babies. Using the same chart for both makes breastfed babies appear to be behind in growth and that they’re not eating enough.
If you are breastfeeding, be sure to find out if your pediatrician uses the WHO chart for breastfed babies.
It’s also good to know their overall attitude towards breastfeeding. Sara’s office has a policy that if she is in the middle of feeding, they’ll wait to check her vitals and conduct the appointment. They also let me use the exam room when the appointment is finished to feed her before I go home or go on to my next errand.
They never rush us and are very supportive.
Separate Waiting Areas:
Separate waiting areas provide different locations for kids who are sick to wait for their appointments from kids who are well. If you have a baby with a compromised immune system (like a premi or newborn), you’re not going to want your little one near sick kids.
Sick waiting rooms and well-waiting rooms are a preventive measure against spreading sickness.
Vaccines are a hot topic, and you should make sure your pediatrician agrees with your vaccine choices. If you don’t plan to vaccinate, is your pediatrician okay with that choice? Some don’t like to expose their patients to unvaccinated kids.
If you plan to adjust the schedule for vaccines, is your pediatrician willing to work with you to find the best schedule?
If you don’t know what to think about vaccines, ask. A good pediatrician will be happy to go over them with you. You can get a head start learning about vaccines here.
Finding the right fit
Finding the right pediatrician before Baby comes can ease a lot of headache in the labor and recovery rooms. When I went to the hospital to give birth to Sara, they wanted to know her pediatrician so they could notify them of the birth.
I couldn’t remember the name of the office, and I knew I wouldn’t. I told them the name was written on the birth plan. It was figured out. It was done. I didn’t have to worry about it.
The hospital notified them and it was my chosen pediatrician who authorized Sara’s release from the hospital. Because I had figured it out beforehand, I knew I trusted the doctor checking her over for release.
Are there any questions I missed that you found important to ask about during your prenatal visit with a pediatrician? Or do you have an experience you’d like to share?
Injoy Health Education. 2017. Understanding Birth A Comprehensive Guide. 10th ed. Injoy Productions, Inc.
Mohrbacher, Nancy and Kathleen A. Kendall-Tackett. 2011. Breastfeeding Made Simple: Seven Natural Laws for Nursing Mothers. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.