What your doctor doesn’t know about breastfeeding

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“But my doctor said it is okay…” Really? I hear so many people who ask their doctor for permission to give solids to a baby at 3 or 4 months old, or to add rice cereal (CRINGE!) to a bottle and then say “my doctor said it is fine.” Three years ago, I’d comment on a post that said that, but now I read and scroll. A sign of growth perhaps, but really, it is me just shaking my head and knowing the system is broken. The fact is there are many reasons that women choose not to breastfeed, but a mother who wants to breastfeed should have support and correct information from medical professionals. But, when a mom brings her baby to the pediatrician and has concerns, many pediatricians have no idea what it takes to make breastfeeding work, nor do they have accurate information about WHY breast milk is best.  (See more on benefits of breastfeeding).

finding a breastfeeding supportive doctor
Should all obstetritions, pediatric doctors and family doctors have training on lactation and value of breastfeeding?

 

Chances are, your doctor and your child’s doctor doesn’t know much about breastfeeding. Seriously.

According to Huumenick et al (1998), “primary care providers are lacking in the expertise of breastfeeding management, and as a result, provide insufficient breastfeeding information and practical support to early parenting families, contributing to breastfeeding attrition.”

But they’re doctors!

But they’re not G-d (or god, depending on how you want to read it. Your choice). But, the fact is doctors are generally not lactation experts.

The fact is many parents assume all doctors know about breatfeeding and the benefits of breast milk. But they don’t. Two years back Time Magazine published in their “Healthland” article that basically Medical Schools are failing breastfeeding moms. And that means they’re failing babies too.

From the Time Article:

“We learned that it’s what’s best for baby,” said my own pediatrician. “But that’s it.” They’re introduced to evidence that prolonged breast-feeding reduces the possibilities of obesity, SIDS and allergies, but the science of it, what’s happening at the anatomical level? Not so much.”

Getting accurate information on breast feeding

If you want to make breast feeding work, unfortunately in the US (and India it seems) you need to jump through hoops to actually find a breastfeeding supportive doctor who is also knowledgeable on the topic. Considering the importance of infant nutrition and the myriad of benefits to mom and baby in regard to breast feeding, one would think pediatricians would have extensive training on lactation support, the medical benefits of breast milk and more… but they don’t.

So, how do you see a doctor who knows about breastfeeding? Find one who is an IBCLC (search for Lactation Consultant here), or at least has one on staff in their office. The fact is many of us head to the hospital with an idea that we may try to breastfeed, but we don’t have support and think the hospital nurses will help out and make sure it is okay. But, it takes more than that. After all, in the US very few hospitals are baby friendly certified.

Start breastfeeding with support!

How can you find breastfeeding-friendly support and supportive doctors?

  • The first thing you can do is try to birth with midwives or at a baby-friendly certified hospital. Anyone associated with your medical care or the baby’s should understand the basics of breastfeeding. This helps ensure you get off on the right foot.
  • Next, have a lactation consultant, IBCLC, or a properly trained post partum doula who can help you and give you tips once you get back home. Have their phone number on your phone so that if you do need support, you have that already covered.
  • Know your local “warm line” for the La Leche League. In fact, while you’re pregnant visit a La Leche League series to help you get support and put a face (or two or dozen) to the name.
  • Hire a pediatrician who has an IBCLC on staff, and preferably has the certification themselves.
    • Finding an IBCLC or LC doesn’t have to be difficult. There are approximately 14,000 IBCLC in the US. There are even more who undergo less rigorous training by groups such as CAPPA and DONA. Most areas are also serviced by a nearby La Leche League leader who has undergone extensive training and research to support women in their individual breastfeeding journeys.

Breastfeeding is a personal journey. Mothers and their babies deserve correct information from the individuals they trust and receive their medical information from: doctors. When you interview pediatricians ASK if they have an IBCLC on staff. If they don’t, ask if they know of any. If more people ask, perhaps they may consider that training for themselves or a member of their office staff.

Note: This is a blog, not medical advice. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months and continued breastfeeding up to 2 years old. The American Academy of Pedatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for about the first six months of a baby’s life, followed by breastfeeding in combination with the introduction of complementary foods until at least 12 months of age, and continuation of breastfeeding for as long as mutually desired by mother and baby.

See our additional resources for attachment parenting on this blog.

Find a listing of IBCLC doctors here.

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20 comments

  1. I did not rely on my doctors (who worked closely with formula companies) to give me advice on breastfeeding. I always contact other breastfeeding moms who EBF or lactation consultants.

    I know this is a touchy subject, but it always saddens me to see the low numbers of people who breastfeed, or the length of time they breastfeed.

     
  2. My DIL had a hard time breastfeeding and her doctor (and the pediatrician) were unable to help. She finally went to a support group and got the answers, help, and support she needed. She’s still nursing today and she’s 1 1/2 yrs old. :)

     
  3. I’m saddened by this because its true. They push formula, they give you those bags in the hospital as a “gift” but its just a bag of formula. GMO formula at that with cows hopped up on hormones. I wish I knew more with my first two kids because I didn’t breastfeed, no one showed me how, I gave up because it was hard at first. They had very poor health too :(

    My third child, I had a home birth and a midwife who was also a lactician. That made a huge difference. It was still hard, but I had support and people expressing to me how this WAS THE BEST thing for my baby. Formula is not even close to breastmilk, not even close. I see the differences first hand because I did formula feed the first two.

     
  4. It is certainly something to think about, and it is important to know that every doctor doesn’t know EVERYTHING. Specialists are helpful and everyone should research.

     
  5. I will have to agree with a previous commenter that said this is a touchy subject. It is a good post and I’m sure there are plenty of women who will be educated on the good stuff like breastfeeding because of you. Bravo.

     
  6. The doctors do not always give the right information or even try to b bothered with women breastfeeding,they mostly are happy for you to just start on formula.I really believe there needs to be more informed drs and help for women to make sure that all babies are breastfed unless of course there is a certain reason that this can not happen.This is a great post thank you for sharing.

     
  7. I don’t nurse. It wasn’t for me. My first child the hospital totally supported my choice. The last baby my experience is what I call Assault by baby. I firmly told the doctors and nurses I formula feed, it works for me. A nurse literally tried to shove the baby onto me and we had a show down until they brought me formula. ( Howard County Hospital part of John Hopkins. )

    however doctors should at least provide resources to get everything people need for what is best.

     
  8. Ugh! This drives me crazy! So glad you are bringing so awareness and accurate guidance to this issue! It’s so difficult to find a doctor that knows anything about breastfeeding or even just supports it!

     
  9. I made sure that I armed myself with lots of information, asked other moms, and also had a lactation consultant. It took me till baby number 3 to get breatfeeding right, but I am so glad that I kept at it.

     
  10. One of my favorite things about my new doctor is that he refers out if he sees something that isn’t his area of expertise. I wish more doctors would do this regarding breastfeeding.

     
  11. I think it’s important for mothers to be presented with accurate information so they can make educated decisions on what they think is best for themselves and their baby. However, I don’t think a mother should ever been judged, shamed or made to feel guilty for her decision to breastfeed or forego breastfeeding.

     
    1. I agree… it is a decision that can be difficult. I do think we are misled to believe that MDs learn about breastfeeding and nutrition, when they aren’t. Maybe because we think they should learn it…

       
  12. A lactation specialist was so helpful to me. If you want to breastfeed and have issues a support team is crucial.

     

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