How to choose the right doctor for your baby

Find a baby doctor before the stork arrives

You’ve planned almost everything about your pregnancy – a surprise baby announcement, a jungle-themed nursery, and even what you and baby will wear home from the hospital. But there’s at least one big thing left on your to-do list: choosing a doctor for your baby.

From well-child visits to immunizations to treating icky ear infections, you’ll be seeing a lot of your child’s doctor over the coming years. But what type of baby doctor should you choose – a pediatrician or someone else? What credentials and experiences should they have? How can you tell if they’ll be a personality fit? When should you pick a baby doctor by? What else should you think about?

The best doctor for your baby is the one that fits your family, lifestyle and care preferences. Take the following steps to find a doctor who can check all the boxes.

Many parents think choosing a pediatrician for their newborn is the only option, but that’s not true. There’s a range of different primary care doctors and clinicians who work with babies. All are highly trained and experienced in pediatric care.

Pediatricians are doctors who work with babies, toddlers and big kids exclusively, making them experts in developmental milestones, as well as treating a range of conditions in kids. If you want a physician who’s focused on kids’ health, choosing a pediatrician for your baby can be a great decision.

Family medicine doctors can care for your whole family, from babies to grandparents. Since they treat a wide range of patients, they have a wide range of experience. For families looking for centralized and personalized care, family medicine doctors can be a great choice.
Internal medicine-pediatric doctors – or med-peds – are specially trained in both internal medicine and pediatrics. This means they can care for both children and adults. If you’re looking for a doctor who can treat your entire family, and dual specialty certification is important to you, a med-peds doctor may be right up your alley. Physician assistants and nurse practitioners are trained and licensed to provide medical care for babies, big kids and adults. They can work alongside physicians or independently. If you’re looking for more scheduling flexibility or a different style of care, physician assistants and nurse practitioners can be a great option.

You’re looking for more than just a doctor. You’re looking for a partner, too.

But to find that perfect match, take time to think about the qualities that are most important to you. What are some things to consider?

  • Board certification – Board certification means that a doctor has gone above and beyond the minimum standard of education in their field. All practicing doctors have completed the required training and education, and are licensed to practice by the state. But some doctors pursue board certification through either the American Board of Pediatrics or the American Board of Family Medicine. So, ask yourself: is board certification important to me?
  • Experience – Are you looking for a doctor who’s been practicing for several years or someone who’s early in their career? Would you prefer a pediatrician who only specializes in children’s health or a doctor who can care for your whole family?
  • Personality and interests – Are you looking for someone with similar hobbies or interests like travel, hiking, cooking or sports?
  • Clinic location and hours – After baby is born, their first baby wellness checkup will be within the first few days after birth. Then they’ll have regularly scheduled well-baby checkups throughout their first year and beyond. Clinic location and hours are an important consideration.
  • A commitment to children’s health – Finding a care team and practice that is dedicated to advancing kids’ health can help you feel confident in the care you’re receiving, and give you – and your community – access to the latest tools and resources to help your child grow happy and healthy. For example, our Little Moments Count initiative is aimed at educating the community on the importance of positive interactions in early childhood in promoting health and well-being later in life.
  • Care options – Are you looking for a doctor with in-person and video visit appointment options? Do you want your doctor to be part of a health system that provides multiple care options like urgent care, a 24/7 nurse line, or online treatment options like Virtuwell when sickies strike in the middle of the night?
  • Online access to medical records – Is it important for you to have easy online access to your child’s medical records?
  • Insurance coverage – Is your insurance coverage a big factor in choosing a doctor for your baby? Or are you willing to pay more out of pocket if necessary?

You know your doctor options and you’ve made your list of must-haves. Now the search begins. But where do you start?

The good news is there are a lot of helpful resources out there to help you find a pediatrician, family doctor, med-ped or clinician before baby is born. Here are a few suggestions to get you going:

  • Talk with your family, friends and fellow parents to see if there are doctors that they’d recommend. Those closest to you are always a reliable source of information – and they want to help.
  • Ask your OB-GYN or certified-nurse midwife if they have any baby doctor recommendations. Chances are they work closely with several pediatricians or other practitioners who work with children – and they might be able to give you the inside scoop on personality fit.
  • Look at your health plan’s website for doctors who are in-network. If finding a doctor who’s covered by your insurance plan is a big factor for you, this can be a good place to start.
  • Research doctors online and read their bios. This can help you find reviews and learn more about their educational background, work experience, interests outside of work and more.

Baby is going to come when they’re good and ready. So, you don’t need to worry about making their first baby wellness checkup until just after they’re born. But what you can do now is make a list of questions to ask your newborn’s pediatrician or clinician during your first couple visits so you can get to know them better.

  • What do you love about your job? Ask your baby’s doctor why they got into pediatrics, and what’s keeping them there. If the doctor expresses a genuine passion for child medicine, you’ve made the right choice.
  • What do you like to do outside of work? If personality fit and working with a doctor who has similar interests are important to you, this question may come out naturally. But even if you prioritized other qualities in a doctor, you’ll be seeing them a lot over the coming years. So, it can be helpful to get to know them a bit.
  • What are your views on ‘x’? From breastfeeding to the importance of childhood immunizations, your doctor will likely have a specific medical opinion on a range of hot topics – and these opinions are likely to influence your child’s care. So, bring up topics that are important to you so you can hear their point of view and reasoning behind it. This can paint a great picture of how your baby’s doctor thinks.
  • How long have you been working here? This is an opportunity for the doctor to describe the organization they work with. You'll get a feel for how much experience they have, and what kind of support system they are working within.
  • Do you have any subspecialties or areas of interest? This question can help you learn more about your doctor’s post-med school education and training, or how they stay in the know about new research or developments in medicine.
  • How can I reach you if my child gets sick after hours? Think ahead to when you'll need this doctor most. That might be in the middle of the night with a fussy, feverish kid on your hip. Ask what your options are for getting in touch with your child’s doctor in moments like those.
  • How do you handle emergencies? Ask how they handle emergencies and questions. Is the clinic affiliated with a hospital? Do they accommodate walk-in visits? Do they have a nurse line you can call?

But what if the baby doctor you choose isn’t a good fit?

Despite all the careful doctor research, sometimes it’s just not a good fit. And that’s okay.

You need to trust your baby’s doctor to give you expert medical advice and guide you through the process of raising a healthy child. So, if it’s not working for you, don’t hesitate to find another provider. Every doctor wants your child to get high-quality care, and for that to happen, you and your child need to be happy.

Across our HealthPartners clinics, we have nearly 600 doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners who care for babies, toddlers and big kids. So, if you don’t find the perfect fit on the first try, you have many other passionate and experienced doctors to choose from.