Call me a bad parent, but I didn't choose a pediatrician before my first daughter was born. I just signed up with the doc who happened to waltz into my hospital room shortly after I gave birth. Coincidentally, he turned out to be a terrific choice -- he's made the local magazine's "best doctor" list for several years and has a jovial, relaxed manner that makes appointments sort of fun. I wouldn't necessarily recommend my dumb-luck method of choosing a pediatrician, but knowing which considerations matter -- and which don't -- will help you find your Dr. Right.
A good pediatrician will help keep your child healthy from birth through adolescence, pacifiers to pimples. "You're going to have to deal with this person in periods of high stress -- like when your child is burning with fever at 2 a.m. -- so you want a doctor who's competent, whom you have faith in, and whom you can relate to," says Charles Shubin, MD, director of the Children's Health Center at Mercy FamilyCare in Baltimore.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends launching your search about two months before your due date. Start by getting referrals from friends and family, or ask your ob-gyn or the staff at the local children's hospital or elementary school about doctors in your area. Keep in mind, however, that the doctors other people recommend may not be the best -- or the best ones for you.
Kathie Papera of Manhattan Beach, California, mother of 2-year-old Ella, was referred to two very well-regarded practices but opted not to use them. "When we called to try to set up a meeting, the doctors made us feel like we were bothering them with our questions and told us to go to one of their monthly orientations. We'd have to pay if we wanted a one-on-one," Papera says.