Calling all moms-to-be! One of the most important decisions you can make leading up to your baby’s debut is selecting a pediatrician that is a good fit for your family. Read on for tips from Dr. Jessica Long  on what to look and questions to ask when interviewing potential pediatricians.

Finding out you’re pregnant is such an exciting time!   After the initial thrill and announcing the news to friends and families, you suddenly realize there is so much you need to accomplish before this little one makes his or her debut. If you’re like me, you suddenly have a to-do list a mile long that includes practical things like buying a car seat as well as slightly neurotic endeavors like deep cleaning the floor boards of the entire house (it’s called “nesting” for a reason). One thing you definitely want to cover before your due date is choosing a pediatrician.

As both a mom and a pediatrician, I naturally have some insight into what you should look for in choosing a practice and a doctor for your baby. This is someone you will be spending a lot of time with, especially in the first year of your baby’s life, and who will get to know you and your family for decades to come. She will support you through challenging times and illnesses as well as celebrate your child’s growth and milestones. She will provide sound medical and practical advice when the internet tells you to panic, or to cure your baby’s runny nose by burning toadstools under her crib, or to put your sniffly infant on a three-week juice cleanse. The relationship between a pediatrician and her families is filled with trust, respect and caring – how do you pick someone who can provide this for you?

First off, ask around. Friends, family, and coworkers can be a great place to start before you do your own research. Make sure the physician is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, which is in charge of training and board-certifying pediatricians across the country. You likely want a practice that is relatively close – like I said, you’ll be spending plenty of time with your pediatrician. Next, schedule a meet and greet to check out the practice and get to know the physicians there.

When you visit the office, make sure there are separate waiting areas for well children and sick children (an additional space designated for infants only is even better!). Especially for your baby’s routine first-year visits, it’s a big comfort to know that there’s an extra layer of protection between you and the teenager who got mono at soccer camp.

Besides just seeing if you “vibe” with the physician you meet, there are some important questions you’ll want to get the answers to as well. Be sure to ask what happens if your child gets sick or hurt outside of normal office hours and you need to ask a question. Is there a physician you can reach by phone or a nurse triage line? What are weekend and holiday hours? How easy is it to talk directly to your pediatrician? As a mom I can promise you your child will become ill at the least convenient time (vomiting as you get on an airplane, ear infection on Christmas morning) but knowing what aid your pediatrician can offer during those moments can be a big relief. Be sure to ask how quickly you can be scheduled for a sick visit and what wait times typically are once you’ve checked in. You already likely know what a pain it can be to wait to see a doctor – now imagine doing that with a sick child.

You probably have already thought about things such as breastfeeding and immunizations, and you want to make sure you have a supportive physician. Is lactation support available? Does she advocate for the immunization schedule recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control? You don’t want any unvaccinated children in the waiting room who could expose your little one to an illness he is too young to be vaccinated against.

While you are pregnant it may seem silly to think ahead to “big kid” needs but now is the time to ask. What is the turn around time for school and camp forms and is there an additional charge? What happens if your child has to be admitted to a hospital or see a specialist – what role will your pediatrician play in those situations? How long can your child continue to see the pediatrician before graduating to an adult physician?

Perhaps most importantly, is this a physician you feel you can talk to and trust? You will, after all, be calling him in the middle of the night the first time your baby has a fever or seeking his guidance when your little one goes through a frustrating sleep strike. As a pediatrician, I greatly value the relationship I get to make with my patients and their families (it’s the best part of my job) and want to make sure they feel the same way. Doing your research before your due date allows you to find the right fit for you.

Choosing a pediatrician is ultimately a personal decision. It doesn’t matter if you have the world’s most brilliant doctor on speed dial if you don’t feel comfortable asking for and following her advice. But I hope it comes as no surprise that I think Spring Valley Pediatrics does all the big and little things right.

Whether you are newly pregnant, new to the area, or just looking for a change, we love meeting new families at Spring Valley. We are open 365 days a year so if your little one wakes up with a fever on a weekend morning or Thanksgiving Day, he can be seen. We try to be incredibly accessible to our families, offering a call in time each weekday morning where you can talk to your physician directly. After hours one of our physicians is on call 24/7 and happy to answer your urgent questions. We find that our patients and families are most comfortable when they can see the same pediatrician for all visits and strive to ensure you always see your doctor for well and sick visits. If you want to learn more and check out our office and physicians, call our office for a complimentary new patient consultation at 202-966-5000. We look forward to meeting you and your family!