First, Check Them Out on Paper
One mom's pick is sometimes another's pan, which is why you should gather three to six names from friends and coworkers. (Or try the American Academy of Pediatrics' listings at HealthyChildren.org.) Call your insurance company about any doctor you're interested in but don't see on the provider list, because lists change frequently.
Some parents prefer to make use of a family practice instead of a pediatric group so that everybody in the household can go to the same office, notes Jennifer Shu, M.D., a pediatrician in Atlanta. "Just make sure the family practice actually sees a lot of kids and babies and not mainly teenagers," Dr. Shu says. "Things change so much in pediatrics, and you'll want a doctor who's up-to-date on child care."
Other parents are increasingly drawn to nontraditional providers, including doctors of osteopathy (D.O.'s) and nurse practitioners (N.P.'s). D.O.'s may have completed a residency program at a medical school, and they practice an alternative, "whole-person" approach to medicine. Nurse practitioners have gone through nursing school and gained board certification in a specialty. (They're also known as advanced-practice nurses, or A.P.N.'s.) In 23 states, N.P.'s can even act as primary-care providers. "N.P.'s work under the guidance of a physician," Dr. Alessandrini says. You might have easier access to N.P.'s than to a pediatrician. (If you are considering a D.O. or N.P., make sure they did their residency or got board certified in pediatrics.)
It's also important to factor in the location of the doctor's office. Given how often you'll be schlepping there, you'll want an easy trip. And look into which hospitals your candidates are affiliated with; again, it's best to go with an institution that's both convenient and reputable.