Choosing Your Baby’s Doctor

Babies’ healthcare needs are different from those of adults, so it’s important to choose a healthcare professional who can provide specialized care. The medical specialty dealing with babies, children and adolescents is called pediatrics. A pediatrician, an internal medicine-pediatrics physician, or a family medicine physician can be your baby’s primary care provider.

What type of doctor should I choose for my baby?

What is a pediatrician?

A pediatrician is a medical doctor who specializes in the care of babies, children and teens. All physicians complete four years of medical school. Three additional years of training are required to become specialized in the field of pediatrics. Then, pediatricians can become board-certified by passing a comprehensive test given by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Click here for a complete listing of Prisma Health pediatric practices.

What type of care does a pediatrician provide?

Pediatricians care for children from birth to age 18. In addition to providing well-child care and immunizations, they treat basic childhood illnesses and diseases. Pediatricians also help parents with concerns about growth and development, nutrition and discipline.

What is a family medicine physician?

A family medicine physician is a medical doctor who treats people of all ages. Like pediatricians, these  physicians must complete four years of medical school. Three additional years of training are required to become specialized in the field of family medicine. Then, family practitioners can become board-certified by passing an exam given by the American Academy of Family Physicians. Click here for a complete listing of family medicine practices.

What type of care does a family medicine physician provide?

Whereas pediatricians specialize in treating children, family physicians can treat your whole family.

What is an internal medicine-pediatrics doctor?

An internal medicine-pediatrics physician treats adults and children. These doctors complete four years of medical school, then four more years of specialized training: two in internal medicine and two in pediatrics. They can become board-certified both in Internal Medicine and in Pediatrics. Prisma Health opened the Upstate’s first internal medicine-pediatrics practice. Click here to learn more about our internal medicine-pediatrics practices.

What care does an internal medicine-pediatrics doctor provide?

Internal medicine-pediatrics physicians can treat your whole family. They are especially well-suited, but not limited, to treating adults with diseases of childhood (such as autism and genetic disorders) as well as children who have “adult” diseases (such as diabetes and obesity). Internal medicine-pediatrics physicians combine the skills, wisdom and dedication of pediatricians and internists in a single physician.

When should I choose a doctor for my baby?

You should select a doctor for your baby as soon as possible, ideally in the final months of pregnancy.

What steps should I take in making my selection? What questions should I ask?

There are many considerations to keep in mind, including the doctor’s training, the office location, hours and routines. Ask your obstetrician for suggestions and talk with other parents. Many physician practices offer a special time for expectant parents to visit their offices, ask questions, and learn about the physicians and staff. (There may be a charge for this visit; be sure to check beforehand.) Listed below are some important things to consider and questions to ask:

Ask questions about office location

  • Is the office near your home, childcare provider or place of work?
  • How long does it take to get there during rush hour?
  • Is parking convenient?
  • Does the practice have more than one office?
  • Do the physicians stay at the same office all the time?

Ask questions about office operations

  • What are the office hours?
  • Are there evening and/or weekend hours?
  • How do you make an appointment?
  • How long does it take to get a well-child appointment?
  • How long does it take to get an appointment for a sick child?
  • How long do you have to wait in the office before you are seen?
  • Is there a separate waiting area for sick children?
  • Does the office staff seem friendly and interested in children?

Ask questions about physicians

  • Ask about the doctor’s training and experience. Does he or she have a specialty or area of interest?
  • Will your child see the same physician for all visits?
  • What happens if your child gets sick in the night or on weekends? Whom do you call?

Important questions about billing and payments

  • Is the physician listed as a provider with your insurance provider?
  • Is the physician affiliated with a children’s hospital (the best place for treating sick children)? Is treatment at the hospital with which he or she is affiliated covered by your insurance plan?

As you talk with the doctor and the office staff, you will be able to tell if you are comfortable with their personalities, manners and philosophy of caring for children. You also can speak with other parents about their experiences and ask for their opinions and recommendations.

Children’s Hospital leads the region in comprehensive pediatric care with multiple pediatric subspecialists, specially trained staff, a 24-hour Children’s Emergency Center, the Bryan Neonatal ICU, Child Life Services and other services tailored to the special needs of children. Learn more about Children’s Hospital.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also provides a referral service for help finding a qualified pediatrician or pediatric subspecialist.

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Listen in as Stephen Lookadoo Jr., MD shares how you can select the right pediatrician for you and your family.