If you’re a first-time mom, here’s where it starts getting really real: It’s time to choose your baby’s pediatrician.
Sure, there are milestones like feeling your baby move for the first time or seeing that adorable face on ultrasound, but choosing the doctor who will be with you and your family throughout your baby’s childhood—a task most pregnant women undertake in the last trimester—can feel like one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make.
No pressure, right?
That’s exactly right, said Dr. Tara Pedigo, a pediatrician at Augusta University Health’s new Grovetown practice site. “It shouldn’t be stressful. Make sure you choose a physician who’s board-certified, but really whoever you end up choosing is the person who gels with you,” she said. “The goal for both you and your pediatrician is for everybody to be comfortable.”
Two Must-Ask questions
Just like in real estate, location could make a big difference to you. Taking your child to a pediatrician’s office within a 10- to 15-minute drive of your neighborhood—or less—might be really important. So decide how far you’re willing to drive, then see which pediatricians are within your preferred area.
The other question is whether or not the office takes your insurance, which can be another limiting factor.
Here comes the fun part
Especially if you’re a first-time mom, you may have no idea who you want as your child’s pediatrician. “The best advice I give moms-to-be is to make a list of all the things people tell you,” said Pedigo. “So if you have 10 different friends who give you 10 different pediatricians, make a list.”
While word of mouth is typically how most of us find a pediatrician, what if you’re new to the area or you’re the first mom in your friend group? You can turn to your OB/GYN for recommendations, said Pedigo. Daycare staff and teachers—if you’ve already made those connections—can also be a good resource. Or, you can do internet searches, but Pedigo has a word of caution: “When people post, they either love you or hate you. So if you’re looking at different practices, take the extremes with a grain of salt and try to get a feel for the middle of the road.”
Not all pediatricians’ offices offer visits for moms-to-be, but Pedigo says it’s likely most—if not all—would be open to the idea. So just call and ask. While you’re there, take time to meet the office staff, observe how they interact with families, check how kid-friendly the office is, and most importantly, whether your personality clicks with the pediatrician.
“There are different kind of pediatricians for different people,” said Pedigo. “Some parents have a ton of questions, others want to be in and out in 15 minutes. So see if you’re a good match personality-wise.”
While there, you can also ask:
- How soon can I typically get an appointment? (Bonus points if you “secret shop” this question by calling and asking for an appointment to check for yourself!)
- Who takes after-hours phone calls?
- Do they offer any type of drop-in clinics or do they do work-ins for sick children?
- Will I always be seen by my pediatrician, or will I be sometimes be seen by a nurse practitioner or other pediatrician on staff? If so, will I be notified of this change ahead of time?
- Do we have the same approach on vaccines, breastfeeding/formula feeding, antibiotics, conservative medicine, etc.?
As you talk, try to get a sense of how open the pediatrician is to questions or if his or her style is more authoritative. Then, decide if that style meshes with your own.
What if this doctor isn’t the right fit?
Say you’re meeting with THE pediatrician that several of your friends rave about and who gets five-star reviews online. If you don’t like his or her style, then that “perfect” pediatrician isn’t right for your family. “Tell yourself it’s OK to shop around—you don’t have to stick with the first person you decide on in the beginning,” said Pedigo.
However, some red flags that perhaps this doctor isn’t right for you may include someone who is dismissive or doesn’t listen to your concerns. For Pedigo, a major one is if the doctor seems worried or upset if you want a second opinion. In her practice, she regularly asks one of her partners if there’s a concern and she wants a second opinion, or she may even look up the latest research or information online.
“But at the same time, some parents want their pediatrician to be omniscient, and may be upset or don’t want to feel their physician has to ask someone else,” said Pedigo. “Again, it comes down to fit. It really is about comfort and the relationship and the ability for you both to communicate effectively in a short amount of time so that everyone walks away feeling like their needs were taken care of.”
Ready to establish care? Send a request or call 706-721-4896 to make an appointment with Dr. Pedigo.
The Children’s Hospital of Georgia has the largest team of general pediatricians, adolescent medicine physicians and pediatric specialists in the Augusta area. For more information, visit our website at augustahealth.org/kids or call 706-721-KIDS (5437).