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Tips for partnering with your child's pediatrician
By Jennifer Trachtenberg, M.D.

As a mother and practicing pediatrician, I know the value of establishing and maintaining a good relationship with your child's pediatrician. This physician relationship is unique. It is the first one your child will have and it will span many years. The pediatrician will see your child through many social, emotional and physical developments as he or she grows into young adulthood. Thus, the relationship you have with your child's pediatrician should be one of respect and most importantly, trust. Ensure that your doctor is up-to-date on the latest medical advances and supports your health choices, such as protecting your child against serious childhood diseases through immunization.

Here are my tips for a successful relationship with your pediatrician. After all, some moms say that they talk to their pediatricians as frequently as their husbands in the first years of their child's life!

Don't wait: start looking early. It is wise to begin looking for a pediatrician during the second trimester of your pregnancy. More and more moms today go through a rigorous selection process and interview several pediatricians before choosing one.

Get recommendations. The best way to find a pediatrician is to ask your friends, relatives and neighbors. If you are new to your neighborhood, it is a good idea to ask the local hospital, your obstetrician/gynecologist or your insurance company. And don't settle! In many ways, your pediatrician will become one of your most important healthcare advocates, and the relationship should feel like a partnership. Choose one that best matches your childcare philosophies, complements your personality style and offers practical advice.

Before beginning the interview process, determine what your preferences are for your child's pediatrician. Would you prefer:
" A solo or group practice?
" A new practice or established practice?
" A particular gender?
" What is the physician's hospital affiliation?
" Is the pediatrician a member of your insurance plan?
" How far is the office from your house and/or office?

Did you know? As children get older, they generally prefer a physician of the same sex.

Now that you've narrowed down your choices based on the criteria above, you're ready to meet your child's future doctor. Here are some questions to help you guide the interview:

1. What is your philosophy on child rearing?
2. What are your views on breastfeeding?
3. How do you feel about circumcision?
4. What recommendations do you have for forming good sleep habits in an infant?
5. What literature/classes do you recommend?
6. What is your philosophy on prescribing antibiotics or other medications?
7. What is your view on infant immunizations and combination vaccines?
8. What types of vaccines do you use in your practice?

Did you know? There are now combination vaccines available that combine protection against several serious childhood diseases in fewer shots.

You should also learn more about the pediatrician's office practices and staff:
" Does the office have early morning, evening or weekend hours?
" Is the office staff willing to accommodate your schedule in making appointments?
" Who returns phone calls about medical issues: the pediatrician, a nurse, a physician's assistant or the office administrative staff?
" Who will you speak with during an off-hours emergency?
" In a group practice, how often will you see a different physician?
" In a solo practice, who will you see if the pediatrician is not in the office?
" Are the office staff and nurses friendly, courteous and helpful?
" How long do you have to wait for appointments or callbacks?

Congratulations! You are now ready to select the most important doctor your baby will have. Be sure to make the most of the time you spend in the doctor's office during your child's checkups.

Come Prepared
" Write down your concerns and bring that list with you to the visit. Remember, you should never feel embarrassed to ask a question or state your concerns. You can never ask too many questions when it comes to your baby's well being. Be an active partner with your child's doctor.

" Arrive early to complete paperwork and be prepared for possible waits. To make the time go quicker for the baby, bring activities, and remember to bring snacks and extra diapers!

" During the first couple of years, your infant will receive immunizations during most well visits. Immunizations are one of the best things you can do for your child, as they help prevent potentially fatal diseases and protect your little one from needless suffering. So, set a good example for your child - try to stay calm. Hold and talk to your child during the immunization. You can also make funny faces or use a favorite toy to distract your child. And ask your doctor about vaccine options that are available, including combination vaccines that can reduce the number of shots. Remember, you have a choice.

During a typical well visit, your child's pediatrician should review the following topics with you:

Immunization information
- Diseases immunizations prevent
- Your child's status on the immunization schedule
- Potential side effects
- Options available to reduce the number of shots
Developmental updates
- Growth (e.g., your child's height and weight)
- Motor skills (e.g., sitting, walking)
- Language/communication skills (e.g., talking)
- Cognitive skills (e.g., understanding, following directions, counting)
- Social skills (e.g., interaction, reaction to strangers, smiling)
General parenting advice
- Approaches to dietary guidelines
- Proper sleeping habits
- Any other concerns that you might have

You should feel that your child's pediatrician takes the time to listen to you, does not rush you through appointments, acknowledges your concerns, and offers valuable advice.

You may not share the same parenting philosophies for every issue, but as long as the pediatrician is willing to advise you and respect your decisions, then you are bound to have a successful partnership.

A nationally renowned and board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Jennifer Trachtenberg has been practicing pediatric and adolescent medicine in New York City for more than 10 years. Currently, she is a clinical instructor in pediatrics for Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and a fellow member of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Trachtenberg is active in her role as a pediatrician outside of the office, providing information to the public on topics such as child development, cold and flu, food allergies and childhood obesity. She has appeared on numerous television programs such as NBC's Today in New York, NY1's News Report and Living it up with Ali & Jack. Dr. Trachtenberg has been contributing to the parenting portal of iVillage.com and Parentsoup.com, discussing children's health topics ranging from fighting a fever, to bed-wetting and thumb sucking in parent friendly, easy to read articles.


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