Your relationship with your paediatrician will last until your child becomes a teenager. That’s why it’s critical to find a doctor you trust. While you could just go with the hospital-assigned paediatrician who attends your baby after birth, a little bit of research could help you turn up someone who is a better fit for your family.
Spread the word
Start the hunt during the latter part of your pregnancy. One of the best research tools is simply asking around. Find out who your friends use or put a post out on one of the many parenting groups on social media. Chances are a couple of names will turn up repeatedly. These are the people who have earned a name in the community, so it’s a good sign that they’re reliable, accessible and sound diagnosticians.
See for yourself
There are sure to be one or two GPs who left you with some doubts.That’s because relationships all come down to chemistry – which is why a prenatal meet and greet is a good idea. From your shortlist, select the doctors whose reputation most appeals to you (and who are closest to your house – don’t underestimate the importance of short travel time), and set up an appointment for an interview. While you’re there, check out the waiting room – do all the toys look clean and well maintained? Do they have facilities for feeding and changing your baby? How long is the wait? Chat to some of the other moms – are they generally happy with the doctor’s manner and treatment?
You probably have some strong opinions about issues like antibiotics, circumcision and breastfeeding. Now’s the time to find out if the paediatrician shares the same views – if not, you may well bang heads later on. Don’t waste time asking about the doctor’s qualifications. It’s pretty much a given that their degrees are in order, but you can always do a background check if you’re concerned. Make sure they’re registered with the Health Professions Council of South Africa, and ask around on mommy forums to find out what kind of experiences other parents have had. Concentrate more on the feeling you get from the paediatrician. Is she patient patient? Is she willing to answer questions and address your concerns?
You may change your mind about your paediatrician once you see her in action with your child: maybe your baby doesn’t respond well to her, or maybe she isn’t as gentle and patient as you’d like. That’s fine – you can’t be expected to visit a doctor unless you are completely comfortable with her. However, remember that there is real value in building a long-term relationship with a practitioner. This gives her time to develop an understanding of your child’s medical history and specific health issues; plus, you won’t waste time running through your family’s medical history or vaccines at every visit.
In her 16 years as journalist, Lisa Witepski’s work has appeared in most of South Africa’s leading publications, including the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, Entrepreneur and Financial Mail. She has written for a number of women’s magazines, including Living & Loving, Essentials and many others, across topics from lifestyle to travel, wellness, business and finance. She is a former acting Johannesburg Bureau Chief for Cosmopolitan, and former Features Editor at Travel News Weekly, but, above all, a besotted mom to Leya and Jessica. Lisa blogs at whydoialwayscravecake.blogspot.com and lisa.witepski.blogspot.com, and tweets at @LisaWitepski.