This article is based on my professional experience working with new parents in the communities which I lovingly serve (San Antonio, Texas USA and its surrounding rural areas). It's possible that other parts of the US or other countries have different models of healthcare than the relationships represented in this article (pediatricians, midwives, general practice doctors and lactation consultants).
The thoughts shared below are based on my experiences with the referral of mothers and babies to their healthcare professionals when clinical scenarios present to me during lactation consultations. In order to prevent bias toward any genre of providers, no physician, midwife or other lactation consultant was directly involved in the writing or review of this article, nor was I offered any compensation (financial or otherwise) to share these thoughts by any individual, organization or business.
My hope is that the following thoughts are insightful to parents seeking to build life-long relationships with providers who support them and their babies.
Choose a Doctor Who Supports Your Family's Health Goals
One of the most important things that expectant parents can do is choose their baby's doctor well before their sweet baby arrives. Many parents don't realize that they don't have to wait until their insurance company or hospital provides them with a list of pediatricians (a list not usually given to parents until after baby is born). In fact, by doing their homework about doctors prenatally, parents will have time to think about what matters most to them and be able to make an educated choice about the providers who will support them.
Discovering Your Family's Health Values
Your pregnancy (or your baby's gestation, if you are adopting) has given you a few months to think about your growing family's future health. If you haven't already talked to your partner or other support person about health topics that are important to your family, now is the time. Educating yourself about health topics and defining your health values will prove very important to choosing your baby's doctor.
What are health values?
Your health values are those things that are important to you and your family when it comes to health and wellness, and these values are different for every family. For example, when it comes to babies some families will discuss vaccinations, circumcision, the family's diet, a mother's breastfeeding goals, and even their growing child's discipline/behavior. Once you and your partner or support person have talked about what is most important, it will be easier to ask your friends and community for referrals to providers who will support you (much more about about how to do this in just a bit).
Valid points to ponder...
Choose your baby's providers based on their ability to support all of your family's health goals, not just one or two of your health goals.
Now, because this is a breastfeeding website, let's talk about...
Choosing a Doctor Who Supports Your Breastfeeding Goals
Ideally, because breastfeeding is still relatively new to our chapter in humanity and wellness practices, in addition to the health topics discussed above, it is wise that breastfeeding families choose a physician (or midwife for care during baby's first weeks) who has taken the time to update their practice with contemporary and evidence-based breastfeeding management skills. If your doctor or midwife is not also an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (most are not, and that's ok) it is important that he or she have access to or knowledge about resources that offer prompt care from International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs) as a supplement to their medical care and guidance. IBCLCs are breastfeeding experts who help troubleshoot and improve breastfeeding and will provide information about your baby's feeds which is helpful to doctors.
Remember, you doctor or midwife doesn't have to be a breastfeeding expert, but knowing who to refer you to when a breastfeeding expert is needed is an important aspect to consider when choosing a provider for your baby.
Does this advice apply to me since I plan on using a midwife as my newborn's healthcare provider?
Yes! It absolutely applies!
In the same way that parents who deliver with a midwife prepare a Plan B for birth (in case of a hospital transfer) there is wisdom, too, in asking your midwife for referrals in selecting a doctor just in case your baby needs one during the early days. Midwives can be an excellent referral source for families seeking like-minded physicians. In fact, there are two points when families who see midwives will need to have their baby's care transferred to a doctor.
These two points during midwifery care are:
Remember that selecting a doctor for your baby "just in case" won't mean that your baby won't continue seeing your midwife for their healthy and normal newborn care. It simply means is that you will be prepared when your midwife is ready to transfer your baby's healthcare to a doctor.
Some important things to think about:
• Emergency Rooms: Not being registered with a doctor's practice can cause parents to be routed to a hospital emergency room for their baby's routine and non-emergency medical care--although in cases of emergencies babies should always be taken to emergency rooms for evaluation and treatment. Being registered with a doctor (yes, this could involve taking baby in at least once to the doctor's office so that there is an established patient-provider relationship) would allow parents to be able to call their doctor in cases or non-emergencies, instead of being seen at an emergency room for non-emergencies. Most doctors who have not yet seen baby at least once will not offer medical advice over the phone, and will refer families to emergency rooms.
• Other Providers: Other healthcare providers often require families to be on-record with a physician in case clinical situations arise during their care for which a report or a referral is necessary. For example, speech pathologists and lactation consultants are examples of healthcare professionals who work with babies who may require that a baby have a doctor.
Finally, here are some TIPS that can help you pick the right doctor for your baby:
Questions to Ask Your Baby's Doctor
Below are are some questions (mostly about breastfeeding, but can be insightful for all parents) to ask your baby's doctor. Having attended a breastfeeding class during your pregnancy can help your understanding of contemporary breastfeeding practices, something which will be helpful when asking your future pediatrician about their breastfeeding supportiveness.
Remember, the only "right" answers to these questions are the answers that most closely match your family's health values.
Questions about breastfeeding to ask your baby's doctor:
And, here are some additional points to ponder when choosing a provider:
Remember that you will be seeing your baby's doctor during your baby's first days, first months, throughout their first year--and of course, every single time you have a medical question or concern about your baby. Needless to say, your baby's doctor will be a very big part of your baby's life (and of yours) so taking the time to choose them wisely will be one of the most important choices you will make for your baby's future health!
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