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Today’s question is about finding a pediatrician for your not-so-terrible twosome. What are the most important factors? What things should you look for? What are red flags to look out for? Everyone is going to prioritize the different criteria in their own way. You may have your own “trump card,” like an office with a separate waiting room for sick visits, or a lactation consultant on-site. Someone else might find those things less important. As with any decision to be made, it’s probably wise to sit down and think very hard about what your top “non-negotiables” are, and what things you’re more willing to compromise.
In my opinion, one of the most important things has to do with the intangible “fit.” While I don’t think any doctor should simply tell you what you want to hear, it’s important to find a doctor who has an approach that meshes with your own. Breastfeeding? Maybe avoid someone who is very pro-formula at the first hint of a problem. A compulsive list-maker? You might not want the more laid-back doctor. Some of these things can be gleaned from a short consult visit, which some offices will do before your baby is born (like an interview). Sometimes, though, you don’t discover a mismatch until the situation arises.
Starting your search, one of the fundamental questions you must ask is whether you are looking for a family practitioner, general internist, or a pediatrician. While you can absolutely have a great family doctor or a terrible pediatrician, the HDYDI moms tend to favor a pediatrician. As twins (and certainly higher-order multiples) are often preemies and may have more health concerns than the average infant, we like that a pediatrician is always in the infant/child mindset. Then, find out how the office visits are structured. Do you see any and all of the doctors in the practice, or do you have one who is “your” doctor? If you’re seeing multiple doctors, how is patient information communicated?
It is also definitely worth considering the balance between the ideal doctor and the practical convenience of his/her office. With two children, especially two newborns who might go in a little more frequently at the beginning (weight checks and the like), think about what the experience of going to the doctor is like. How long is the drive? What’s the parking situation? Is there an elevator? Can your Double Snap N Go fit in and out of the office? While any one of those should not be a deal-breaker if you have found a doctor you love, it’s still worth thinking about. And don’t forget, the friendliness of all of the office staff (receptionists, etc.) has an impact on your experience. If they’re rude to you, think twice.
As for twin-specific requirements, check to make sure that the office will schedule your kids together, or have two back-to-back appointments. Taking them to see the doctor at different times, especially for well-baby visits, is just plain out of the question. Ask how sick-baby visits are handled with two kids. I know I was relieved at how my pediatrician handled a case of pinkeye. My daughter got it, but my son had no symptoms. However, we were leaving town, and we all know how contagious pinkeye can be. My doctor thankfully wrote a prescription for two weeks of antibiotic eye ointment, even though I was only supposed to give it to Rebecca for one week. She knew the likelihood of my son getting it (which he did, eight days later!), and was not going to make me come back in. This isn’t necessarily appropriate with all ailments, but it was nice that she would accommodate me when reasonable (without having to shell out twice the copay for the office visit or the prescription).
Definitely find out how the office handles sick calls and visits, as well as evenings and weekends. Is there a nurse who calls you back when you have a question, or is it your doctor? If you need to go into the office, will you see “your” doctor or whoever is available? You may prefer to always see “your” doctor for the sake of continuity, or you may want the option to see anyone in the practice who has time for your vomiting 5-month-old. How are questions handled after-hours, or will you automatically be sent to the hospital if it’s not 9-5 on the weekdays? Is there a separate waiting space for sick kids? (Nothing is better than taking your preemies for their first well-baby weight check and having a curious 4-year-old coughing on them…)
Whenever possible, try to schedule an interview before your babies are born. Not all practices do this, or you may have to be a little pushy if it’s important to you. I will admit to not doing this, but I got lucky and love my pediatrician, anyways. But if you can get in, even for 10 minutes, make sure you use the time well. Think ahead of time and write down what your most important questions are, so you can be sure they’re answered up front. If you end up with time to chit-chat, great, but you don’t want to leave and realize you don’t know your doctor’s stance on solid foods (or whatever issue is important to you).
And finally, remember that this is your decision, and you have to pick who is right for your family. There are a million big and little things that go into a productive doctor-patient(-parent) relationship, some of which you can anticipate ahead of time, and some of which you can’t. Just because someone is highly recommended or well known does not necessarily mean they will be the one for you. And if you ever feel as though you and your kids are not being treated well in any way, speak up, and don’t be afraid to find another doctor if it comes to that.