Finding a pediatrician to care for your baby after he leaves the NICU can seem like a daunting task. Your baby has been cared for by experts in the field of neonatology. Finding someone who you feel has the same expertise can be difficult.
Pediatricians specialize in caring for children from infancy through adolescence. The most important thing when you choose a pediatrician is finding someone with whom you feel comfortable. You may need to call the practice in the middle of the night with a question so you want to feel confident that the person on the other end of the phone can address your concerns. You may also want to take logistics into account. Babies—preemies and full-term newborns–go to the pediatrician a lot during their first year. Vaccines, weight checks, well-child care, never mind the occasional ear infection, fever, or cold all typically end up in a visit to the doctor. Remember that when choosing a provider. Driving an hour when all is well may not seem like a big deal, but making that drive with a baby crying inconsolably because he doesn’t feel well will be much more stressful. Someone local may also be able to help with things such as preschool recommendations, dentists and other community resources.
If you are trying to find someone, there are a few places to start. First, ask the neonatologist and NICU team for some suggestions. They will be familiar with the pediatricians who practice in or near the hospital and may be able to give you some guidance. Also, if there is a preemie support group, talk to the other parents. Parents usually have definite opinions about pediatricians so they will be honest and give you great information. And of course, make sure you check with your insurance company to make sure they cover the doctor you choose.
Once you narrow down your choices, make sure you visit the offices, talk to the doctors, and learn about how the practice is run. Some things that may be especially important are to understand how after-hours calls are handled and waiting room policies for sick children. Also, if your baby has special health care needs, make sure that the physician understands those needs and that the practice has the expertise to handle them.
You may have chosen a pediatrician before your baby was born and you may feel completely comfortable staying with that doctor. But after the NICU some parents may feel that their needs have changed. If that is the case, it is OK to find someone who you think may fit your new situation better. You will be working with your pediatrician for a long time, so you want to make sure that you feel good about your choice and that you have a good relationship.