Five Questions to Help You Find a Green Pediatrician

    Not long after you bring your baby home, one of your earliest journeys into the outside world will be for your newborn's very first doctor visit. Of course, you'll want to find a pediatrician you can trust. How much better if he or she is also "green" – in other words, aware of how the environment affects health, and how patient care affects the environment. Green doctors also work holistically – they aim to heal the whole child, rather than just treating the immediate symptoms.

    Whether you already have a pediatrician or family doctor or have to find one, you can politely ask these five questions to help you figure out how green this doctor is.

    1. What 's your advice about introducing solid foods?
    If the doctor tells parents to start with processed white rice-flour cereal or processed conventional jarred foods, she may still be in a 20th-century medical mind-set. But give her a chance! Ask her advice about introducing whole grains, fresh tastes, or organic foods. Green pediatricians are often better informed than other doctors about the nutritional value of less processed foods, and they care about putting their young patients on the road to good eating habits.

    2. How do you treat ear infections?
    If the doctor tells you that all ear infections should be treated with antibiotics, he may be behind the times. The Academy of Pediatrics now says that ear infections will often heal better without antibiotics (but pain relief should be given for the ear pain). One of the first steps that pediatricians tend to make in the "green" direction is to reduce the use of antibiotics in their practice. Resistance to antibiotics through overuse is becoming a global problem. 

    3. How do you recommend treating eczema in babies?
    If the doctor recommends using steroids or prescription drugs, she may not be thinking green. Often, a better first approach is to reduce the baby's exposure to eczema triggers - whether these are foods or environmental triggers like toxins - or to gently moisturize the baby's skin. Green-oriented physicians are more likely to treat the cause rather than just the symptoms and will try to opt for the gentlest treatment possible.

    4. What kind of baby shampoo do you recommend parents use?
    If the doctor mentions a conventional brand, he may not yet be thinking about sustainable and pure products. If he mentions a greener option, that’s a good sign that he is at least aware of the variety of greener options for common baby products. Of course, greener baby products tend to cost more (although large natural-foods chains are starting to sell their own, less expensive pure products); perhaps the doctor has suggestions for baby-care products you can make at home.

    5. Do you believe it's worth buying organic foods?
    If you can comfortably ask the doctor whether she buys organic for her own family, all the better. Often, physicians will start making moves toward a more green lifestyle in their own lives before they start integrating them into their practices. If they have made even small steps, they may be more supportive of your efforts to raise your baby green.

    Other things to look for
    You can also get some insight into how green a doctor's office is by stopping by simply to observe. Are energy-efficient bulbs used? What kinds of cleaners are used? (A strong scent of bleach or ammonia is a tip-off that green cleansers are not in use.)  At home, you can learn a lot about some physicians and their practices by looking at their Web sites and talking to other parents.