You've ordered the furniture, taken the birthing classes, and neatly folded the clothes from the baby shower. You're ready for your first child. But there's one more important task to complete before the big day: finding the right pediatrician — the person who will be there when you're worried about that high fever late one night or when you need advice about breastfeeding, bed-wetting, or thumb-sucking.

Here are six steps to finding the doctor who is right for you and your baby.

1. Search for pediatricians — online and offline.

How to begin? Start with suggestions from friends and family. Ask your obstetrician. Search for doctors on doctor review websites. Look to see if a doctor is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.

Do a Google search to see what kind of presence the candidates have online. Take advantage of online rating services or your insurance website. Read the reviews carefully. Make sure to do independent research on a doctor that someone else recommends to you and be sure to think about what you value in a primary care doctor for yourself and apply that when you consider what doctor you want for your child.

2. Make a short list of pediatricians you're considering.

Take your time. After you have done a considerable amount of research about potential pediatricians in your area, compile a list of three or four doctors to interview. Make sure they are currently taking new patients and accept your insurance plan.

3. Prepare to interview potential doctors.

Who’s your first interview? Yourself. Are you concerned about your skills and looking for a pediatrician who will be very involved in your family? Do you have strong feelings about breastfeeding or vaccinations? Are you formulating a parenting style and need a doctor to help? Are you looking for a doctor who practices standard medicine or are you looking for someone who thinks outside the box? You’re looking for a doctor with a similar outlook that you have. Uncover clues to the doctor’s thinking by asking about his or her opinions on antibiotics and other prescription medicines, about adjusting your child's vaccination schedule, and about their preferred treatment of ear infections, for instance.

4. Create a meet and greet sheet for a doctor's office visit.

Prepare for your office visits. Your list will vary according to your needs, but some basic questions include:

  • Will my child see the same doctor every visit?
  • How are acute illnesses handled? Can my child get an appointment on short notice?
  • If my child has to go to the hospital, where do you have privileges?
  • Will there always be a doctor from the practice on call?
  • What are your feelings on prescribing antibiotics? When do you do so?
  • Where did you go to medical school and do your residency?
  • Do you have a subspecialty or area of interest?

Make sure you take notes on the doctors' answers so you can refer to them when you make your decision. 

5. Choose a doctor for your baby.

When you go to the doctor's office, sit in the waiting room and observe. How does the staff interact with patients? Get as many questions answered by the office staff so you can save the important and personal questions for the doctor. When you meet with a doctor, look for red flags like vague answers or dismissals of your concerns.

Don’t let the hard, cold facts be the only consideration in your decision. Trust your gut. Within a few minutes, you should get a feeling about whether this doctor is right for your family. After all, in a way, he or she will be a part of your family for years to come. That's the bottom line.

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