Choosing a Doctor for Your Baby

First, on this website, I write "doctor" when I could be writing "health care provider." Why? Because "doctor" is easier to type over and over.

Second, does it have to be a pediatrician? No. There are wonderful family practice doctors and nurse practitioners who do a fine job with healthy babies.

Pediatrician

However, I admit that as a pediatrician, I am biased. After medical school, pediatricians spend three years studying the health, illnesses, diseases, disorders, growth, and development of babies and children. Pediatricians spend months learning specifically about babies and the health problems that may develop in babies. If a doctor has "FAAP" after her name, that means she has met the requirements to be a "Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics".

After medical school, a family practice doctor spends four months studying the health and diseases of children. Children are not just little adults. The illnesses and diseases of babies and children are not diagnosed or treated the same as in adults.

If your baby is healthy and normal, and if your family practice doctor or nurse practitioner likes taking care of new babies, then choose her. If your baby has medical problems from birth, his health problems really should be managed by a pediatrician.

I think the most important quality in a doctor is to know her limits. A good doctor should be able to say "I don't know, but I will look it up and get back to you," or, "I don't know, I will need to refer you to someone who can answer that." I sincerely respect a doctor who is able to say, "I don't feel comfortable being the doctor of a child under 6 months old."

Ask friends and family who their children's doctor is, and if they would recommend her to you. If you have just moved into town, and don't know anybody, ask people who have children at your church, the library, the supermarket, or the swimming pool.

› When should my baby see the doctor?

Finally, you spend a lot of time at the doctor's with a new baby, so pick a doctor whose office is reasonably close to your home.

› Pediatricians Who are Members of the American Academy of Pediatrics
  (links to an external webpage)

Thanks to Janelle Aby MD, Stanford School Of Medicine, Newborn Nursery, and Lucille Packard Children's Hospital for the use of occasional photographs.