How Can I Find the Right Pediatrician for My Child?

4 min read  |  June 02, 2023  | 
Disponible en Español |

First-time and new parents have endless questions about what’s best for their children. Building a relationship with a pediatrician you trust can help guide you through your child’s stages of development. Your pediatrician will provide reliable medical advice, referrals to specialists when needed and reassurance that your child is getting the care they need from birth to young adulthood.

Choosing your pediatrician is more involved than making an appointment with any provider who accepts your family’s health insurance. 

“Think of the qualities you prefer for a trusting relationship,” says Lourdes Quintana Forster, M.D., FAAP, Medical Director of Pediatrics at the University of Miami Health System’s medical campus. 

“This may mean age, gender, experience and background, but also personality and style. Some families prefer warm, cozy doctors while others opt for direct, pragmatic styles,” Dr. Forster says. “Pediatricians often care for families over decades, and it is important to feel you are in a mutually respectful, trusting relationship.”

To help you find the right match for you and your child, Dr. Forster answers questions about picking and sticking with a pediatrician who works well with your family. 

When should I make my first appointment with a pediatrician?

Dr. Forster: Ideally, you should begin the process of choosing your pediatrician by the third trimester or three months before your due date. This will allow you the opportunity to interview and visit several offices and not feel rushed in your decision-making.

What should I look for when choosing my child’s pediatrician?

Dr. Forster: Always ask your family, friends or colleagues for their recommendations. Ask people you trust and who share your perspectives. A good pediatrician can care for any child regardless of their physical, developmental or mental issues. But, some issues are practical: 

  • Do they take your insurance? 
  • Is the office convenient to your home or work?
  • Do they have office hours that work with your schedule, including weekends or nights? 

There may also be specific issues important to your family. Breastfeeding, antibiotic use and sleep training are often areas families will ask about to check if their views align.

I have a child with a physical or developmental condition. How can I find a pediatrician with relevant expertise?

Dr. Forster: If your child has a specific chronic illness or diagnosis, you may want to look for specialists in this area who have further training and accreditation. These can be found using the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP) Find a Pediatrician tool. These providers are most often part of larger health care systems.

Should I consider my family’s race, sexual orientation, ethnicity and cultural practices when choosing our pediatrician?

Dr. Forster: Yes, if this is important to you and/or your parenting partner. More importantly, you should look for an office setting that is accessible to all — a place where you feel that not only the pediatrician but also the staff are courteous, respectful and helpful. If English is not your first language, a provider fluent in your native language may be very helpful for your level of comfort and understanding during doctor visits.

My pediatrician is suggesting medical treatments that are not in line with my views. These topics include vaccinations, ADHD medication, and childhood behavioral issues. Should I find a new doctor?

Dr. Forster: You can find a pediatrician for your family who aligns with your beliefs on parenting, discipline, etc., but the use of vaccines and evidenced-based treatments should be considered separately from your beliefs. The ideal situation is for you and your pediatrician to form a partnership with a common goal: the growth and development of a healthy child. 

As physicians, our recommendations should be evidence-based and supported by AAP-recommended practices. We will always try to work with you in shared decision-making to get to what’s in the best interest of your child.

Should I find a new pediatrician as my child ages and enters new stages of development?

Dr. Forster: Pediatricians care for children from birth through 21 years of life, in most cases. It’s what makes the relationship so great — watching kids grow and develop. If, at any stage or age, you or your child feels like you would prefer another provider, that’s okay too.

Q&A compiled by Dana Kantrowitz, a contributing writer for the UHealth Collective. 

Tags: important decisions for family, Lourdes Forster, pediatric care in Miami, pediatrician offices, search for a pediatrician, start looking for a pediatrician

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