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breaking up with your pediatrician

Breaking Up With Your Pediatrician

By Amalah

Dear Amy, my best source of non-judgy parenting advice,

I think it’s time to find a new pediatrician for my son, but need an objective ear to tell me I’m not over-reacting (or, if I am), and some advice as to how to avoid jumping from this doctor to another that will be just as bad (if not worse!).

Today was his 9-month checkup.  At this, and other appointments, my questions are answered not based on recent medical research, what the Academy of Pediatrics recommends, or early childhood developmental theory.  Instead, I get advice based on what her daughter did.

For instance, today I asked her, “From a developmental standpoint, is there a better age to start him in daycare; should we wait until he’s 2, or is 1 OK, or some other guidepost we should use besides age?”  Her response was, “Well, just make sure you don’t start him in winter, because he’ll get sick all the time.  We had to put our daughter in daycare for the socialization and I wish we hadn’t because she was just always sick.”  Like, thanks, not my question, and when I pressed further, all I got was,”well, he’ll cry the first few weeks, so just be prepared for that.”  I am prepared for that and, again, not answering my question.

(Incidentally, IS there a better age, developmentally, to start away-from-mama daycare?  I work from home, and am lucky enough that my employer is cool with it as long as I want to do it, but is there even an ideal age or developmental stage for that big of a transition?  Again, am I making a mountain out of a molehill here?)

When I asked if there was anything medical that could be causing his still frequent night wakings, she said, “well, when you’re ready, you’ll just let him cry it out.”  I do not think I will ever be “ready,” thanks for the condescension, though.

If I wanted that kind of advice, I would ask the parents at playgroup, for Pete’s sake.

That said, is this grounds for finding a new doctor?  The process seems so very overwhelming, especially because we were so cavalier about picking this current one – we picked the practice that came highly recommended by my OB, and she was the one we thought was nice during rounds at the hospital (or, should I say, my husband thought was nice – I wasn’t allowed in the too-full nursery due to baby lojac logistical problems).  I would love to have a doctor who is on the same page with me.  Short of moving us all to Southern California and begging for a spot in Dr. Sears’ practice, how do I make sure I “mesh” with the new doctor?

Thank you so very, very much,
A bigger wussy baby than my 9-month-old

Advice Smackdown ArchivesOkay, so you know how you mentioned you dislike getting first-person anecdotes instead of professional-type advice? GUESS WHAT YOU’RE GETTING.

We found our original pediatrician through a recommendation from our neighbor — who was not someone I thought I had a lot in common with, parenting-philosophy-wise, though I was pregnant and hadn’t yet had all my parenting philosophies blown all to hell. All of my friends had recommended practices that didn’t accept our insurance and I was feeling fairly desperate because all my pregnancy newsletters had put “find a pediatrician” on the to-do list WEEKS before and our hospital’s information kit specifically said you couldn’t leave the hospital unless your baby had a pediatrician appointment made and OMG OMG OMG PANIC BZZZZTTTT.

But my neighbor recommended her pediatrician and lo and behold, they participated in our insurance. We attended a “new parents night” when prospective patients could come and meet a couple of the doctors and lactation consultant (it’s a biiiiig practice), ask questions and get all sorts of info, from their vaccination recommendations to after-hours questions/emergencies. The session was for expectant parents (ours was attended exclusively by pregnant couples, though our info packet also included lots of advice for adoptive parents, which I thought was nice), and we were sold on the spot.

And we loved the practice. Loved the doctors. Loved the lactation consultants. I found two doctors, in particular, that I liked the “best” and always arranged the well-baby visits and yearly physicals with, though we usually saw whoever was available for same-day stuff like ear infections. There was exactly one doctor who kind of bugged me at first (bedside-manner-wise, mostly), but still, just about every experience with the practice was overwhelming positive. I left every visit with my questions answered and my confidence level boosted. They always remembered little details about us that surprised me. They had a great website where I could get forms and information and even email with the nurses. We just clicked.

And then they got into a dispute with our insurance company. They gave up on resolving it and announced that they’d no longer be participating. Ezra was not even three months old and I seriously think I cried at our final appointment.

I asked my friends for recommendations — I started with the friends whom I thought I had the most in common with, parenting-wise, foolishly assuming I’d have that much of a choice. Turns out our insurance was thoroughly and completely HATED by every reputable pediatrician in our area, and I had very few options. Ezra still needed monthly check-ups and there wasn’t much time to make a decision. Just when it looked like I was going to have to close my eyes and point at a random name in our (slim) provider directory, I became friendly with a new preschool mother who loved loved loved her pediatrician and OH THANK GOD THEY TAKE OUR INSURANCE SOLD!

One problem: I could not stand that doctor. I mean, she was a fine doctor.  It was a fine, well-run practice. She just…rubbed me the wrong way, at every visit. Instead of a list of age-appropriate milestone questions, she always ran through the same list of questions about Things I Might Be Doing Wrong. Do my kids wear sunscreen? Do I check them for ticks? Do we own a car seat? Do we have guns in our home? (Seriously. Guns. EVERY VISIT, she asked me about guns. I’m sitting there breastfeeding my cloth-diapered baby in a sling telling her NO, WE DO NOT OWN A GUN for the fourth or fifth time, wondering why they hell she can’t just file her patients as GUN/NO GUN or something and be done with it.) I found her to be pushy and alarmist and our visits felt more like trials. She didn’t listen to me. I mentioned that Ezra was experimenting with water in a sippy cup and she immediately assumed I was giving him whole bottles of water every day and FUH-REAKED out at me and told me he’d have a seizure if I kept it up and then promptly changed the subject (PROBABLY BACK TO GUNS) before I could explain. I found myself turning to the Internet more and more for my developmental questions.

The final straw was when she enthusiastically recommended a feeding program to help Noah get over his texture issues, a program that she supposedly referred patients to “all the time.” But when I called said program, I found out it was only for critically ill kids, like kids coming off of stomach tubes who were learning to eat for the very first time. Um. Thanks for that great advice, doc.

So when Jason’s company sent around the new insurance network options, the very first thing we did was see if our old pediatrician participated in any of them. They did — with the very most expensive option. It did not matter. We picked that one and I hightailed it back with my kids’ vaccination records in tow as fast as I could. And I am once again so very, very happy.

Wow, that story went on and on, didn’t it? And my entire point is that if you don’t feel comfortable with your pediatrician, for any reason at all, SWITCH. It’s a really important relationship. It matters. If you feel like your questions aren’t being taken seriously or your choices condescended to, SWITCH. I actually don’t believe the “experts” have a perfect recommended age for a child to begin daycare — it’s not something people always have the luxury of controlling that much — so I guess maybe your doctor was just deflecting instead of just saying, “No, there is no ideal age, there are pros and cons at every stage, illness being a con and socialization being a big pro.” The cry-it-out thing — well, you’re never going to find anyone (doctor or otherwise) who agrees with you on everything, but I don’t think it’s too much to ask your doctor to be aware that CIO is not an acceptable option for a lot of parents and have a few more suggestions.

But really, those specifics hardly matter. You’re not happy. Move on. Are there other doctors in the practice you could see, just to possibly save yourself from the paperwork nightmare? If you like other things about the practice (front-desk staff, location, ease of getting appointments), it might be really worth it to try out the other docs and see what their bedside manners are like. It sounds like your doctor takes a “I’m your PAL!” approach, but you’d be happier with someone who exudes a more “confident professional” vibe.

If same practice/different doctor is not an option, start asking around. Start, like I did, with friends you already gel with about stuff like shots, CIO, etc. Ask what they like about their pede and what they don’t like (too traditional, too AP, a flaky front desk?). Then call the office and find out if they have any ways for prospective patients to learn about the practice, be it a website or a chance to interview the doctor/s in person. (I didn’t do this. That was probably pretty dumb.) You might fall in love on the spot; you might not and repeat the process a couple times. I feel like it’s very gut-feeling sort of thing, no matter what those “How To Choose A Pediatrician” online checklists might suggest.

Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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Cobblestone
Guest
Cobblestone

My ob/gyn recommended a ped … who was a jerk and looked at us like we were radical lunatics for not automatically wanting to circumcis(z?)e our son. He should have left room on his crazy face scale because then we asked about his parameters for antibiotics and he had no extra crazy face left over. ARGH. Then we picked our current ped and once considered switching, but ultimately it just seemed to be a really bad / busy day for him. If it was just one visit I might consider if it was a perfect storm of bad days, otherwise,… Read more »

Amy
Guest
Amy

To expand your options you could also look for a family physician who could treat the entire family (well-baby checks and well-woman visits from the same doctor/practice, etc.).

eva
Guest

We do not have a pediatrician, just use a GP for Megan and I. And we hardly ever see her! No monthly check-ups…I honestly think that for generally healthy kids, that sounds like a huge cash grab. We live in Canada where health care is socialized and there is no insurance hassle, and docs are paid by the rates set out by each Province’s fee guidelies, so I know…TOTALLY DIFFERENT. Anyway, our daughter has always been healthy, and we’ve hardly ever seen the doc – just a one year and a two year check up, and a few appointments for… Read more »

SaltwaterMom
Guest

This question couldn’t come at a better time! In Canada, we typically see pediatricians only when recommended by our family doctors, These docs look after all the monthly check ups, ear infections, etc… Family doctors are notoriously hard to come by outside of big cities (and I live in Rural McRuralville), so I was DELIGHTED when I made it to the top of a waiting list about two weeks before I got pregnant last summer. And then I met the doctor. Who was… nice, but so SO less efficient and professional than the veteran physician I had left behind when… Read more »

Ashley
Guest
Ashley

Our first ped was AMAZING. I chose her on recommendation from several coworkers who were just in love with her. I did not love the consistent 2 hour wait every time we had scheduled well child visits, but that was just because she actually LISTENED to every patient, and did not set a time limit on visits. Every question I asked was answered thoroughly. Every battle between our insurance company and the hospital where our preemie son had to have surgeries, our ped was the one FIGHTING the insurance companies. She was GREAT. And then my son started displaying some… Read more »

Ms. K
Guest
Ms. K

Yeah. Doctor relationships are really…personal. We broke up with our pediatrician for reasons that I won’t go into, but involve money and billing/insurance fraud and just general badness. Nothing to do with the doctor per se, but her office…ugh. (Weirdly enough, my coworker takes her DD there and LOVES them and thinks they are the bees knees. So you just never know.)

Anyway – we like our new doctor. Who we found by calling around and meeting lots of different doctors. It’s like buying a car, or finding a husband. Like Smokey Robinson said…you gotta shop around.

Philip @ RAOP
Guest

I will second Amy. We use our family doctor for all the kids, and adults. It is nice to have us all see the same doctor. He may not be “up-to-speed” on all the latest child development research, but then again it changes every few months anyway. As mentioned we do a lot of research on the internet. We do enjoy discussing topics with the doctor as well. He has raised 6 kids and we have found his experiences to be helpful. Still, if you aren’t happy find someone else. There are usually plenty to choose from and from my… Read more »

Tasterspoon
Guest
Tasterspoon

I’d also appreciate any pointers on how to have that delicate “I’m breaking up with you, can I have my letters back” conversation. I’ve had serious misgivings for a while about my OB (whom I got through a co-worker’s rec who had found her on Yelp) – I belatedly learned when we switched to my husband’s insurance that she got her M.D. in the Caribbean (she is not herself from the Caribbean) which concerns me a little; she is quick to prescribe medication that I have my doubts about; she tries to be all girlfriendy but then gets extremely defensive… Read more »

Amy
Guest

We have a family doctor, a choice which I LOVE LOVE LOVE. He treats all four of us (mom, dad, kids) and has since before the oldest kid was conceived. He has a very longitudinal view of us and our family, he LISTENS to me, it’s awesome. Bonus – he has young kids too, so he gets the whole parenting small kids thing. It’s especially convenient when all four of us are sick. However, I don’t always follow his advice when it comes to parenting. There’s a difference between PARENTING advice and MEDICAL advice, and while I think there’s a… Read more »

JCF
Guest
JCF

It sounds like time to move on! After leaving a pediatrician whom we loved (because we moved out of state), I asked other parents if they liked their pediatrician, but more specifically WHAT they liked about him/her. For example, someone I asked said “Oh, we love that he just tells us exactly what he thinks and he doesn’t put up with people who are wishy washy about vaccinations/circumcision/controversial topics/etc.” That was a huge red flag for me NOT to go with that pediatrician. What I liked about our previous doctor was that he always presented several options or perspectives and… Read more »

Karen
Guest
Karen

Just a couple of thoughts. I sometimes need to remind myself of what a pediatrician’s expertise is and what it isn’t. Drs Sears and Weisbluth (Healthy Sleep Habits…) are not typical pediatricians. It sounds like your Dr is not giving you answers in the context that you want, so that may be a reason to find a Dr who will. But like PP’s have said, Doctors, especially generalists like a family practice pediatrician are trained to diagnose and treat issues that affect biological development, anything related to behavior is out of their scope unless they have additional training. However consider… Read more »

Mouse
Guest

With our first son, I checked out two practices while I was pregnant and ended up choosing the not-as-fancy practice. There was one pediatrician I didn’t like much, but the other three and LC were excellent. We never got around to choosing a specific doctor for him, however. When we moved to our current small town, we decided to give the only children’s clinic a chance. When our older son was diagnosed with Asperger’s and we wanted to have an informational appointment, they directed us to a specific doctor who has some extra knowledge in the area. It has been… Read more »

cindy
Guest
cindy

I wanted to respond about the daycare issue. I, too, had the good fortune to work from home and choose when I started my twin daughters in daycare. Until they were about one, I put in my work time when they were napping. When they turned one, I hired a babysitter from the local university to watch them at our home about 6 hours/week so I could have some more consistent work time (I still worked during naptime as well). When they turned two, I put them in a home daycare environment part-time while I went back to the office.… Read more »

professormama
Guest
professormama

As a former daycare teacher at a fancy pant Reggio Emilia school/daycare, I’ll give you the “expert” opinion of most early childhood ed people: Every child is different. The reality is that for some people daycare full time is not an option or a choice, so you find the best way to make it work. Developmentally, children do best with one on one care until the age of 2, for MOST kids. But, all kids are different, some might be ready for small group care by 18 or 20 months, and by ready I mean no crying at separation, being… Read more »

Jen W
Guest
Jen W

Ah, the guns thing. Our pediatrician has us fill out a form every time, including at our first visit when my twins were SIX DAYS OLD, which is clearly meant for older kids but included such gems as firearms in the home, smoke detectors, car seats pets, etc. but also included the not-very-age-approriate questions: Does your child wear a helmet when riding a bike? Does your child play well with others? What language does your child speak? Does your child sleep at least 8 hours each night? (HA! at 6 days old, right!) I felt like a bad mommy saying… Read more »

Joanne
Guest
Joanne

Civilians, you guys have got it easy. If there’s anything you like about a doctor for heaven’s sake change. Wish we had that option (we are military). My best friend was recently lectured that she was rotting her baby’s teeth because she was continuing to breastfeed past the age of one. Yep. And no option to go to a different doctor. I have to admit, the breast-feeding, sling, cloth diapering guns part made me chuckle. I exclusively breast fed, use cloth diapers and adore baby wearing and yes, we do have guns. We also have gun safes so don’t worry.

Isabel Kallman
Admin

Joanne, the gun/breastfeeding-sling-cloth-diaper story made me furrow my brow and I wondered how long until you would show up. (not you specifically, but YOU who would break the stereotype) I’m glad you did and showed up so politely 😉

Linda
Guest
Linda

Good grief, Joanne, you nailed it. We’re a military family too and yes, by all means if you can switch, switch! We had to fight just to get our son INTO the pediatric clinic—our current base is supposedly so overloaded with patients that they felt it was appropriate and necessary to place a newborn with a GP. I was incredibly lucky and Squirt’s GP had a background in pediatrics, but that does not mean either mama or docter were happy about having to walk across the hall to use all of Pediatrics’ equipment, when their waiting room was empty and… Read more »

Erin
Guest

So I had that same feeling about my OBGYN. I wasn’t sure, fretted about changing doctors but it all seemed too hard and then I just didn’t. My big problem was that she wasn’t attentive enough, which seemed, to me, like a lame, childish problem to have. But in the end my son ended up in the NICU because I wasn’t given the right antibiotics for Strep B because no one read my file and they were too late. I don’t know whose fault it was, or if it could have been avoided, but I really wish I would have… Read more »

LawGirl 1982
Guest
LawGirl 1982

Erin: you have a case of medical malpractice on your hands. The fact that no one “read your file” is a prime example of negligence. Please, inform others not to use this ObGyn and if you would like, I would file a complaint in court against the doc. Her insurance will probably settle and maybe it will scare her enough TO READ HER PATIENT”S FILES!!! Ridiculous.

dmom
Guest
dmom

If you like her in other ways maybe you could just talk to her? Tell your ped that you prefer a more clinical proffesional sort of interaction rather than a buddy to buddy sort of interaction. I’m sure she’d understand, if you can’t do that than definatly search out another. As a daycare provider there isn’t really one age that is better than another for attending daycare/preschool but there is a better way to handle it. First of all be sure you find someone you’re comfortable with, second give a hug/kiss and go away. Kids are better 5 minutes after… Read more »

Sarah
Guest
Sarah

LOL. Another cloth diapering, breast-feeding, sling-wearing gun owner here. (Hubby is a police officer.) Everything’s locked up, of course. But it did make me smile. Not all gun owners (or for that matter, hippie AP parents) are crazy militia people. 🙂 Promise!

Susan
Guest
Susan

I started to write out our pede experience but it’s a long story – I’ll just say that we started out taking Snackbox to the same family practice that DH and I go to and have great confidence in for ourselves. When my boy was 3 weeks old and developed an issue, I saw one of the doctors besides my GP, who referred us to a specialist – one, it turned out, who does not work on children! DUH. That doctor referred us to the Children’s Hospital specialist, who answered my questions and assuaged my fears, but it took three… Read more »

andrea
Guest
andrea

To answer your original question.. I think after they have teeth. It took me several ear infections to piece it together but when she’s teething she also often gets ear infections.

Amy
Guest
Amy

This is the first Amy again. To fully disclose my bias, I am the wife of a military family physician. Family physician does not equal general practitioner. A family medicine doctor has done 3 years of residency (same as a pediatrician) rotating through peds, OB/Gyn, (Peds) ER, internal medicine, surgery, behavioral health, dermatology, orthopedics, geriatrics, ENT, sports medicine, cardiology, urology, and other specialties. Some family physicians choose to do additional fellowships in OB/Gyn, adolescent medicine, sports medicine, and other specialties. In my experience with family physicians, they are just as knowledgeable as pediatricians. Yes, they are not pediatric specialists, but… Read more »

Lisa M
Guest
Lisa M

Just FYI for the people commentors who need help breaking up with the Ped. You don’t have to, it’s actually the easiest part of the ordeal. Once you’ve found the new doc, at your first visit (or before if you’re organized) give them the previous doctor’s info, and they’ll call the office and get the records transfer. We didn’t fire our ped, but she left the practice so we followed her. I don’t love the practice as much as the old one, and it’s not as convenient, but I still love our pediatrician, so it was worth the switch.

WussyMama
Guest
WussyMama

Hooray! That was my question! Thank you, thank you, thank you, Amy, and all the commenters. I sheepishly count you all among my playgroup moms…I like personal anecdotes from YOU GUYS. 🙂 As a mini-update, we’ve got an appointment to meet up with a pediatrician whose office is actually a lot closer to our house, and hopefully that will go well. And, after reading, and asking teachers and ya’lls’ advice, we’re holding off on daycare until he’s 3ish, with some part-time nanny help so I can get work done. Thank you, again! Sometimes, I just need to hear that I’m… Read more »

Kim
Guest
Kim

Another cloth-diapering, sling-wearing, breastfeeding gun owner. But I’ve never been asked that question! I live in Montana where over 30% of the population has a hunting license, so I guess they just assume the answer is ‘yes’. Anyhow, that made me giggle… 🙂

Kate
Guest

I broke up with my first pediatrician slowly. His office was walking distance from my house in NYC. Half the neighborhood saw him and his partner. Totally convenient. The long breakup began when he started asking hostile questions about why my daughter wasn’t sleeping through the night at 8 months (like HE was the one who had to get up and deal with her gassy, screamy self). Then at 10 months he told me something about breastfeeding that I knew (as a regular attendee at LLL meetings) was a lie. I couldn’t figure out what his damage was, Heather. Final… Read more »

bessie.viola
Guest

By all means, switch. I was uncomfortable with my ped office for over a year when a lightbulb FINALLY went off. After some facebook polling of mom friends on facebook, I found a doctor who is a PERFECT fit for our family. It’s not you, it’s them, and it’s fine to date other people. 🙂

Y
Guest
Y

Hello there, I cannot give you an answer to how to change from you pediatrician, but I hope I could maybe help you with the question you had regarding child daycare for your child. I used to work in a daycare center and I can say from experience: in between 6-9 months, if possible, is usually the best age. Now why is that? Because usually your child won’t be in the period that he or she has the terrifying fear that you will leave and not come back. That period usually comes around10, 11 months or so. Meanwhile, social skills… Read more »

Amanda
Guest
Amanda

I suggest looking and seeing if you can find a pediatrician/dr that you like first. Personally, I’m in a rural area so there isn’t much selection. My dr and I don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things. I know for a fact I’m her only mom who uses cloth diapers and probably one of the very few who follows a different schedule for vaccines and doesn’t plan on solids until 6 months, BUT she is nice and she loves kids and we have a good relationship, she understands that I do my research and she respects that.… Read more »

Tracy
Guest

Breaking up with a doctor is easy. Find a new one, and call the records department of your old doctor’s office and ask that your records be sent to the new doctor. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

Also, I never used a sling and failed at BFing, so should my doctor assume I have guns in the house? Why do slings and BFing mean you don’t have guns? I must have missed something here.