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  • Chicago Birthworks Collective

Building a Better Pediatrician Relationship

Set you and your baby up for a successful relationship with your pediatrician

Whether you are thinking ahead or getting ready for your newborn’s first doctor’s appointment, it is never too early to start thinking about your relationship with your child’s pediatrician. After all, you are letting all guards down and trusting your child’s health with someone else. According to National Geographic, 55 percent of Black Americans said they distrust the American healthcare system, and additional studies have found that Black people in the U.S. are often undertreated for pain. The challenges of being heard—and listened to—by physicians are real.

It is so important to do your own research, self-advocate, and always prioritize your wellbeing and that of your family when it comes to medical care. From finding a physician you feel comfortable with to knowing what questions to ask to building a trusting relationship with your child’s pediatrician, there are plenty of factors to consider along the way. Here are a few recommendations to get you started.

How to Choose the Right Pediatrician for Your Child

Whether with online or physical pamphlets from your local doctor’s office, start with research. Ask your friends, family, or a local online community for pediatrician recommendations. While having that word-of-mouth referral from someone you trust is a great first step, be sure to check their online ratings and reviews, if they’re board-certified, and how long they’ve been practicing.

You’ll also want to make sure that you're staying in-network for your or your baby’s insurance. Most providers offer a list of pediatricians that fall within your plan. Consider this an additional resource to vet when narrowing down your list of options.

Remember, your pediatrician should be someone who will advocate for your child. You want to make sure that the doctor you choose is someone you trust, and most importantly, understand where you are coming from as a parent. There’s no denying that implicit race bias exists in the U.S. healthcare system, and preparation and research are key to advocating for your family’s needs. When you meet with a new pediatrician for the first time, take note of how well they listen to your concerns and whether they respond with evidence-based next steps. Finally, don’t be afraid to find a new pediatrician if the relationship doesn’t feel right. This is something Mama Toni has been doing since her very first children were born!

Come to the First Appointment Prepared

Post research, take some time to think about what specific conversations with your pediatrician will look like when you’re in the office. If you have a list of questions that you have been eager to have answered, write them down. This will help prevent forgetting any important topics or concerns in the moment. Here are some suggestions:

What should I ask at my baby's first doctor appointment?

● Is my baby’s growth on track?

● Is my baby gaining enough weight?

● What kind of wet diapers should I be looking for?

● What is normal for sleep at their age?

● When should I introduce new people?

If possible, try to familiarize yourself with some basic medical terminology before the visit. This can especially be helpful for first-time mothers and will help prevent any confusion during the actual appointment. When it comes to your rights as a mother and a Black woman, the U.S. Department of Labor has a great resource on the Protections for Newborns, Adopted Children, and New Parents that you can use to familiarize yourself.

Advocate for Your Family

Once you have done your research and have chosen a doctor that you feel will be a good fit for you and your child, do not let your walls down yet. Continue to seek additional information from reputable sources (like the Black Mamas Matter Alliance and Every Mother Counts) and never be afraid to ask too many questions or get a second—or third—opinion.

If you don’t understand something your doctor is explaining, you have every right to ask questions until you get the clarification you need. This is your child, and you deserve to have all the information before making any decisions. Communicate with your doctor and let them know what information you need or if you have concerns about any prescriptions or procedures they recommend.

At the end of the day, it can be hard to find the perfect pediatrician for your child. It can get even more difficult to navigate a healthcare system that at times feels that it is built to prioritize white Americans. Making sure you are well-informed from the start and advocating for you and your child should always remain your top priority.

If you would like to access more content, education, and join an engaged community of Black families, check out our Virtual Birth Village membership. We cannot wait to see you there!

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