Prowling for a Pediatrician

A good pediatrician is hard to find. Wait–let me to rephrase that: An open-minded, measured, respectful and empowering pediatrician is hard to find.

My son was born in the hospital at which I worked at that time, and I was incredibly fortunate to work in an environment that gave me direct insight into the community-based pediatrics scene. Over time I was able to winnow the catalog of available pediatricians to those I suspected could fill my apparently very tall order, and I was fortunate again when I was able to get into my first-choice pediatrician’s office.  Later I would realize just how lucky I truly was.

She was warm and gentle towards my baby. She was supportive of breastfeeding, and as I struggled discouragingly with a nipple shield, she offered bolstering words. She encouraged babywearing. She spoke to my husband and me in respectful and empathetic tones, always conveying a vibe of appreciation for our concerns.  She was patient with my many questions, provided answers based on recent research, and articulated these answers in a way that didn’t undermine me or my parenting preferences.

We didn’t always agree. When I came to her with a copy of Dr. Sears’ The Vaccine Book in hand and posed questions about vaccines, she didn’t overreact or patronize. She did respectfully articulate her perspective on specific vaccines and her objections to some of Dr. Sears’ assertions. She many not have whole-heartedly agreed with my approach, but she was receptive to exploring my expectations with me. Together we constructed a staggered and delayed immunization schedule.

Within the year my husband’s new employment moved us out of state to a small community, and I had limited leads on pediatrician candidates. My first choice pediatrician in the new town was no longer accepting new patients, and I was instead shuffled into the patient list of one of her partners. I  cannot overstate what a very poor fit this turned out to be.

Our new pediatrician admonished me for night nursing. She explicitly (and erroneously) instructed me to discontinue this practice because it promoted tooth decay. She asked if my son was sleeping through the night in his crib, and when I told her that he had never slept through the night, her eyebrows hiked in an overt expression of surprise. I didn’t bother sharing about our bedsharing experience.

When I tried to discuss my preference to delay the chicken pox vaccine, she immediately launched into a fear-mongering tale about a child who endured a lengthy hospitalization due to chicken pox. There was no discussion, only belittling and bullying. I could have articulated thoughtful, measured intelligent explanations for all of my parenting preferences, but it felt pointless. I left the office in tears.

My husband recently accepted a new position within his company, necessitating another move to a new, bigger, more diverse city. With relief, I am on the prowl for a pediatrician again. I was stoked to find an Attachment Parenting group in my new hometown, and I’ve inquired there about pediatrician suggestions. I am hopeful that we’ll find one who, at the very least, respects the way attached families roll, and at the absolute best, embraces and celebrates it as much as I do.

What has been your pediatrician experience? How did you find your pediatrician? How have you handled disagreement with your pediatrician?

Rhianna lives in St. Louis with her equally adorable husband and 16 month old son. This past holiday she sent their former pediatrician a holiday card and scribbled in a post script that their latest pediatrician seriously sucked in comparison. She nominates Dr. James McKenna to be the new McDreamy.


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9 thoughts on “Prowling for a Pediatrician

  1. The first pediatrician I went to was a Doctor of Osteopathy, so by default I thought she would be a little more open minded than an MD, and I had heard on a few boards that she was open to an alternative vax schedule. Her personality was authoritative and harsh. 1) She told me not to allow my 2 week old to breastfeed on demand, to make her wait at least 2 hours between feedings. 2)When I voiced my concerns about vaccines she cut me off and started telling me pertussis horror stories. I personally have an auto-immune disease and vaccines have triggered flares in me. In fact some would propose that vaccines may have caused the auto-immune condition in the first place, though I will never know. Just by virtue of being my baby, she has a higher chance of getting an autoimune disease, so I’m delaying all vaccines until I’m comfortable that the risks outweigh the benefits. 3)When I told her we’d been co-sleeping – just mom &baby in a king size bed-, she told me that by baby was more likely to die from SIDS. That was enough for us never to return.
    Our new pediatrician is much better, and is very respectful of our wishes. He does still give the vaccine pitch, but understands my concerns. He did suggest night-weaning at her 6 month appointment but he wasn’t pushy about it. As far as MD’s go I think he’s one of the better ones in our area. Bottom line, personality goes a long way.

    1. Ugh, Amy! How angering! Happy to hear that you found a ped who is more appreciative of your parenting and understanding of your concerns. I used to tell my patients that shopping for a pediatrician is a lot like shopping for shoes: you might have to try on a few to find the most comfortable fit. Personality definitely goes a long way, and, for me, respect goes even further.

  2. I wish finding a pediatrician or family practice doc was like looking at online singles ads. Ya know, the kind that lists all their “stats?” Then we wouldn’t be resigned to trolling internet reviews, asking friends of friends, and (fingers crossed) hoping for the best at that first meeting. I have to admit, after a few bad experiences (and a MD that recommended BabyWise for my 2 week old), I’ve just about given up on pediatricians. Good luck with finding one in STL!

  3. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Like, if you had an “expanded search” type feature where you could just toggle all of the characteristics you want in a pediatrician? Is educated about BFing: check; Understands health and bonding benefits of sharing sleep: check; Doesn’t scold you for baby-led weaning: check; and on and on. If only!

    1. I wish there was a service like that. We just moved counties and my daughter had an emergency we found only one pediatrician who was accepting patients close to us that could get her in asap. She is a nightmare. I thought I would love her from our emergency visit but when we had their normal check-up she was dreadful. She looked appalled when she saw my son was intact and when I said leave his foreskin alone she pushed it back and went “whoever told you to leave it alone is horrible! you have to push it back until it looks shiny.” I wanted to punch her because she obviously couldn’t tell how uncomfortable my son was and how pissed I was she touched him like that. She told me that 100’s of kids die each year from chicken pox and wants me to bring her article based proof vaccines don’t work and evidence based articles that show why I refuse to vaccinate my kids anymore (they were vaxd up until July of last year). And she said that breastfeeding my 16month old has no benefits and I just need to stop. I’m hunting a new one down before his next well baby in August.

  4. Oh, Caitie, your story about retraction made me gasp out loud. 😦 She was so, so wrong about that. Our last/second ped also gave me a lengthy lecture on how to care for my son’s intact penis (at 12mo, the first visit we had with her), and I just let out an animated exhale at her hoping she’d take the cue that I’d had enough. I finally said, “Do you have a concern about his penis? Because it does appear that I’m doing an apt job of caring for it now, right?” CAH-RAZY and frustrating.

    Good luck on your pediatrician hunt! Hopefully by this August we will both have new, kind, open-minded and informed baby docs! 🙂

  5. Have you found a good pediatrician? We moved to St. Louis three years ago and have been through 4 pediatricians with no luck. I’d love a recommendation for someone who is open minded and respectful of parental concerns/decisions. Thanks!

    1. We have had some luck, yes. If you feel comfortable sharing your email, I’d be happy to float some names your way.

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