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Is Your Pediatrician Good Enough?


Marla Minder* was worried about her baby, Sarah: The day-old infant had been born more than a month premature and developed a mild case of jaundice. On top of that, she didn't seem to have much of an appetite and was sleeping almost round the clock. "I called the pediatrician's office every day that first week, because I couldn't tell how much milk she was taking in when I breastfed her," says the mom from Philadelphia. "The nurses who fielded my calls told me that as long as she was wetting her diapers regularly, she was fine."

By her one-week checkup, Sarah had lost a whole pound (more than a 10 percent loss of birth weight is considered cause for concern). "The doctor started yelling at me for not feeding her enough, and I just broke down, crying," says Minder. "He told me it was my fault and made me feel terrible. He didn't even give me a chance to explain that I had called his office, but nobody had taken me seriously. Then as he was leaving the examining room, he asked if at least I'd had the sense to use a car seat to drive the baby over, since he'd seen me carry her into the office in my arms." That was the last straw, says Minder: "I never went to that pediatrician again."

Should she have given him a second chance? No, says Charles Inlander, president of the People's Medical Society, a consumer advocacy group, in Allentown, PA. "A doctor should listen to your concerns, not belittle you or make you feel uncomfortable." Even in a situation such as Minder's  -- not to mention one less drastic  -- it can be tough to know when to drop your doctor. Because looking for another pediatrician or family physician can be such a hassle, many parents stick to the one they have. Also, some parents are afraid of hurting their doctor's feelings. "But you should pay attention to your doubts," says Inlander. "You wouldn't put up with an accountant, no matter how nice, who made mistakes on your tax returns. And the last thing you want to do is shortchange your child."

Here, 10 signs it may be time to part with your pediatrician, or at least think about making a change:

*All parents' and children's names have been changed