Here's what some pediatricians and parents suggest you look for when on the doctor hunt:
Ask fellow parents for suggestions. "It's not foolproof," said John Moses, a practicing pediatrician and associate professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center, but good reputations follow good doctors.
Ask your obstetrician and the delivery nurses at the hospital for their advice. They work with pediatricians every day.
Consider the size of the practice. Some parents prefer smaller practices so they get to know every doctor well. Others like bigger practices because somebody can always see their child.
Consider how close the doctor's office is to your home. It's no fun driving 30 minutes with a child who has a fever or is throwing up. But some docs are worth it.
Try to meet the doctors first; many practices will let you. It's ideal if both parents attend. You'll know if you click. Questions to ask at the visit: What are the night and weekend hours? Who answers phone questions during the day? Is the physician accessible to answer questions? What types of services are available at the office (for example, laboratory, and lactation)? Does your doctor share your approach to parenting? A big point of contention these days is a child's vaccination schedule. Some doctors refuse to space out vaccines, so be sure to ask upfront if that's important to you. Does the pediatrician really seem to listen to your concerns? No doctor should ever make you feel stupid for asking questions, no matter how basic. During a visit, do you feel hurried? Sometimes, the doctors are seriously jammed, but you should be able to get in the important questions.
Don't be afraid to switch doctors. Yes, it can be a hassle transferring records, but seeing a doctor you don't like is worse.
Sources: Rhonda Patt, pediatrician with Charlotte Pediatric Clinic; John Moses, pediatrician and associate professor of pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center; Sheila Kilbane, pediatrician at Touchstone Health Associates in Cornelius; Christina Flannelly, pediatrician with North Raleigh Pediatrics; Charlotte Observer staff writer Karen Garloch; parents of MomsCharlotte.com and TriangleMom2Mom.com