It worries you to introduce your child to another doctor. But you’re uneasy: Your pediatrician always seems rushed, or doesn’t follow through, or feels differently about important issues like nursing than you do.
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Don’t feel guilty: You’re right to want a pediatrician you’re comfortable with, says Atlanta pediatrician Dr. Jennifer Shu, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics and co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn. “Many newborns will see a pediatrician about 10 times in the first year of life. So, it’s important that parents have a good relationship with her since they will be working together closely to maintain the baby’s health.”
So, what are the signs that your pediatrician is not for you or your baby?
Poor communication skills. “Poor communication comes across in many ways,” says Dr. Ashanti W. Woods, a pediatrician at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. “It could be that the pediatrician doesn’t take time to explain his diagnosis or how something might be treated. He may not explain how to take a medication, how long to take, or what the side effects are.”
If your pediatrician doesn’t seem to listen to your concerns, or she doesn’t have time to answer your questions, it’s time to move on, says Shu.
Lack of empathy. ”If you’re the mother of a two-month old, and you’ve been up all night with a screaming child, you want a doctor who can put himself in your shoes,” says Woods. The baby or child needs some TLC as well, he says: “You want a pediatrician who tries to distract your child so she’s not fearful, who rubs her back, or gives her stickers or puzzles. You should see empathy for your child’s stress.”
Intuitive unease. Even if you can’t pinpoint exactly why you’re unhappy with your pediatrician, if you don’t feel comfortable with the doctor or his practice, find someone else, says Shu.
A philosophical divide. “The pediatrician may not be a good fit if you disagree on several points such as breastfeeding, antibiotics and vaccines,” says Shu.
“If you feel unwilling to follow your pediatrician’s recommendation after reasonable discussion, it’s time to switch,” agrees Dr. Charles I. Shubin, director of pediatrics at Mercy FamilyCare in Baltimore.
Lack of rapport. “You want a doctor who understands the culture of your family, who knows what’s important to you,” says Woods. For instance, many parents are uncomfortable with vaccines, he says: “A good pediatrician should be open to concerns, take time to explain why a vaccine is important, and understand where the parents are coming from.”
Unusual treatment advice. “If the treatment recommendations vary greatly from what your friends and family have experienced or from what you read online that seems to be the current standard of care, he or she may not be right for you,” says Wen.
Availability. “Is your pediatrician available through his office number or by email?” asks Woods. “Can he see your child when she is suddenly sick?” An unwillingness to be flexible about appointments could be a sign of trouble.
Isolation. “You want a pediatrician who will ask another doctor for advice, ” says Woods. “If he doesn’t want to seek help from another pediatrician or specialist, that’s a red flag.”