Pediatrician or Family Medicine Provider: Choosing Your New Baby’s Caregiver
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Published on January 12, 2021

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Pediatrician or Family Medicine Provider: Choosing Your New Baby’s Caregiver

Expecting moms and dads want the best health care for their baby.

Some may look to a pediatrician. Other parents already may have a family medicine provider.

Other parents might not know which way to go.

Physicians who work in both family medicine and pediatrics offer this guidance to any mom or dad who is considering pregnancy. When you make the decision, don’t worry. You are in good hands, no matter your choice.

Pediatric Providers are Specialists

Pediatricians are primary care providers for patients who are children, from newborns to those who are teenagers. It’s their sole focus, and providers in this area receive specialized training. They see healthy kids – and help moms and dads as the kids develop – and they see patients who have medically complicated conditions, too.

“Pediatric providers have more in-depth knowledge on many conditions or illnesses that children face. When I see parents who may have a baby due who has some condition or risk, I recommend pediatricians,” said Avera Medical Group family medicine/OB physician Kim Hanssen, DO. “Our provider team is so integrated – we are one unified group – and parents should know that. There’s no right or wrong answer. It’s up to the parents.”

Children born premature, who have special needs or birth defects may have their needs best met with a pediatrician. It’s important to remember that providers are “team players” who will work with their colleagues. In the end, the priority is simple: every child gets the best possible care, every time.

Family Medicine Providers Know Families

Family medicine providers – as their name implies – provide care for whole families. In some smaller communities, family medicine providers are the closest and most local option, while seeing a pediatrician would involve a drive.

“I love our family medicine providers and collaborate with them frequently,” said Kara Bruning, MD, Avera Medical Group pediatrician. “When families are growing, it’s important they consider information on both pediatrics and family medicine, especially in locations where that choice is available.”

Some parents want to meet providers before deciding. If they do, they can ask questions and evaluate the ease of interaction.

Common questions parents may have include:

  • When should I bring my baby in for regular checkups?
  • What immunizations are scheduled – how does that work?
  • What are we overlooking as first-time parents that we should think about now?

“You want to be able to talk with your provider and ask any questions. It’s a learning process,” Bruning said. “Comfort level with your provider should be the focus – and we want mom and dad to be informed and relaxed when it comes to talking to us.”

Your Baby’s Doctors Will Always Work Together

Part of the decision parents make is based on the many appointments newborns receive. Establishing a family relationship – regardless if it’s your first, second or third child – is important between mom, dad and provider.

The obstetrics provider guides parents through the pregnancy. When the family medicine and pediatric provider join in care – remember that they’re all are part of a team. They depend on one another.

Specialists will take part in care when a more complex medical situation arises. Pediatricians will refer your child who might need cardiology, neurology or other more-focused care.

“We work with specialists and subspecialists as patients need them,” Bruning said. “During that first year, there are a number of follow-up visits with the baby’s doctor.”

Some parents enjoy the convenience that comes with a provider who already knows the whole family. Others may want a pediatrician for their baby.

Making the Decision – Or a Change

As children age, they may see a pediatrician at first, and then a family medicine provider. Or they might start with the family provider and switch to a pediatrician.

“You can make the switch with a simple phone call – no one will say ‘You need to see me!’ or anything of that nature,” Hanssen said. “It’s what’s best for you and your family. Sometimes if your child has high anxiety about visiting a doctor, it’s worth thinking about if a pediatrician might help them.”

Most parents agree that developing a relationship with their child’s provider is important. Reading reviews or talking to friends and loved ones are tried-and-true ways to make the decision.

“The patient is at the center of our decision-making – that is true for all Avera providers,” Bruning said. “What is most important is that mom and dad realize this is true, and that we’ll ensure our approaches focus on that fact.”

You can discuss the choice with your obstetrics provider as well, or read more about all Avera providers who care for children.

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