How to choose a doctor for your baby

A guide to getting started, what to look for and which questions to ask

As an expecting mom, you have a long list of to-dos – including finding a doctor to care for your new baby. The doctor you choose will be a major figure in your baby’s life – and yours – for years to come. So trust and compatibility are essential.

Pediatrician Lisa Cinar, MD, of the Fairview Clinic in Princeton has some advice on how and when to find the right doctor for your baby. 

When to start

There’s no right or wrong time to start looking for a doctor; some future parents choose their baby’s doctor before they’re even pregnant!

But for normal, healthy pregnancies, my advice is to start asking around for doctor recommendations in your second trimester, begin meeting with doctors in your third trimester, and make your final decision at least one or two months before your due date.

If you know that your baby is going to have special needs or may be at risk for premature birth, I recommend moving that timeline up and having a doctor picked out early in your third trimester.

First steps in your research

In my opinion the best place to start the search for your baby’s doctor is by asking other parents in your social circle – friends, family, coworkers, and others you trust. They’ll be able to share firsthand experience with their baby’s doctor and give you an honest account of a doctor’s strengths and style. 

Once you’ve gotten a list of names, do some research on your own. Go to your insurance plan's website or call to find out whether those doctors are in network. Then look online to get the basic details about the clinic where each doctor practices.
  • How far is it from your house?
  • Do they have walk-in appointments or same-day availability?
  • Do they have a pharmacy? 
  • What's the parking like?
Even if these details aren’t the determining factor in your choice, it’s good to know what each clinic offers from a convenience perspective.

In case of emergency

Next, call each clinic to find out what would happen if your baby needed emergency or specialist care.
  • What is the clinic's on-call system and when can you use it?
  • How many providers do they have on staff in case your baby’s regular doctor is unavailable?
  • Do they have urgent care?
  • Are there any virtual care options?
  • What specialists do they work with or refer to?
  • What hospital would they admit your baby to? 
Unfortunately, kids don’t get sick only during business hours, so you need to make sure there will be options for you no matter the day or time.

Do you mesh?

Once you’ve narrowed your list down to your top candidates, call the clinics again to schedule an introductory appointment with each doctor. Take note during the call of how easy or difficult it is to schedule an appointment, whether the staff were friendly and helpful, and how far out the doctor is booked.

During the visit, the doctor will ask you about your personal health, how the pregnancy has been going, and family health history. They'll also ask about your plan for after the baby comes: who will be at home, how much time you’ll be taking off, if you’ll be using day care, what your feeding plan is, etc.

You should come prepared with questions as well.
  • Is the doctor comfortable with and supportive of your feeding plan? Can they offer you a breastfeeding coach? 
  • Do you have compatible beliefs about things like vaccinations and circumcision? 
  • What is the doctor's parenting philosophy and does that fit with your ideas about how to raise your child? 
  • If you know your child will have special needs, does the doctor feel comfortable caring for a child with that condition? Do they have any special expertise or experience in that area?
Pay attention not just to what the doctor says, but how they say it. Are they using language you can understand and actually answering your questions? Did they make time for you, or rush you out of the room? Are they friendly, personable, and compassionate?

Listen to your head … and your heart

While convenience should certainly be considered, there’s no substitute for trust. Do your research, weigh the options, and go into your decision with eyes wide open. But also listen to your gut. After all, those parental instincts are already kicking in.

Make an introductory appointment with one of our family doctors or pediatricians today. 

Related Articles