Thursday, April 23, 2009

Dr knows breast

Have you ever been given unwanted advice, and tried to smile and politely ask to pass the bean dip? Unwanted advice can be as annoying as an obnoxious bloke playing Come On Ilene continually on the duke box while you're out on what was supposed to be a romantic date (do rah do rah yeah). So this advice comes at you, unrequested, just when you were moseying along quite fine by yourself...I hope at the very least that the advice is good.

Photo by Alaa Hamed @

We should expect that the medical profession is all about encouraging breastfeeding....right? Especially considering all the health benefits associated with breastfeeding. It's natural to assume then that Drs, nurses, lactation consultants, pediatricians etc. should be all up to date with the latest and greatest breastfeeding information and advice....right?

Unfortunately, I have spoken with many women who feel they are not receiving good advice or encouragement from such professionals. I'm not trying to start a Dr bashing session here, as there are many wonderful health professionals who do an excellent work of promoting breastfeeding. Unfortunately, there is also a lot of bad advice going around. The worst thing is, we often find those in the medical profession to be intimidating and it can be difficult to overcome breastfeeding problems when we are faced with bad advice from those who should know better.

I think we need to address this issue; more breastfeeding education for Drs would be a fantastic start. To try to stop women hearing things like this:

Sarah: "With my first daughter; I had/have flat nipples and the "lactation nurse" took one look and informed me that I would never be able to nurse. I so wanted to go find that woman later, when I was tandem nursing."

Jane was asked how many ounces of breastmilk her baby was drinking at each feeding. She told the nurse that it was the oddest thing, but her breasts didn't come with ounce markings

Taylor: "When I first tried to breastfeed my son in the hospital, I was told by a nurse that I was too young to be able to produce milk, and that there was no point in trying. When I insisted on trying anyway, she rolled her eyes, stood there for a minute, and when I got him latched on (with my mom's help), she sighed, said, "Looks close enough" and walked out of the room."

Mary: "When Timmy was about 4 months old, I got a nasty case of mastitis, and called my doctor to get a prescription and the nurse who talked to me on the phone told me to make absolutely certain I DIDN'T nurse on that side at all until I'd seen the doctor and been on a prescription. I nursed anyway and told the doctor she needed to correct whoever was on the phone."

Barbara took her sick daughter in to see the Dr. The doctor sternly told her she had to stop nursing immediately, that it was the breastmilk which was causing her daughter's illness.
Turns out, her baby actually had a blocked intestine caused by the rotivirus vaccine which was later taken off the market.
She didn't stop nursing, they somehow figured it out, and her daughter is now perfectly fine.

Photo by Carin Araujo @

Julie's lactation consultant volunteered some advice: "Don't ever let your 10-month-old fall asleep at the breast. I let my first child do that, but I was wiser by the time I had my second."
Julie replies, "this is my fourth child, and I know what works for my family. I'm here for a prescription, not parenting advice"

A new mom was told to try to estimate how much breastmilk her newborn baby was taking at each feed, and to make sure it was close to 3 oz.

Gladys: "The psychiatrist I saw there told me I was a "horrible, selfish mother" for taking anti-depressants while breastfeeding. She told me to immediately wean, or she would call DFACS and have them take my baby away. There was no benefit to breastfeeding over bottlefeeding, and I could hold her the same way and have the same bond."

Well, there's exactly what a new mother with postpartum depression needs to hear!

Hazel's pediatrician told her that he "required" all of the children he saw to be weaned by 12 months because they shouldn't be allowed to ever ask to nurse. He also told her that the nutrients in breastmilk couldn't compare to baby cereal once babies hit 4 months, and that Hazel's son would fail to thrive if she didn't give it to him.

Francis: "I was told to pump and dump when I had surgery at 2 days postpartum.
Just how do you dump a *drop* of colostrum??"

Karen's pediatrician said that if she couldn't pump 32 oz in one day, she wasn't producing enough breastmilk. She told him, "I thought pumping was not a good indicator of breastmilk production." He said, "That's the only way to tell if a baby is getting enough."

I told my midwife what he said, and she said, "What? 32 oz? Does he think you are a cow?"

Gwen's doctor told her that she needed to wean her baby, because her monthly cycles hadn't returned.

Katherine: "One of my nurses in the hospital where I birthed, when I asked for breastfeeding help, told me I couldn't nurse until my milk "came in." She didn't seem to understand that colostrum was all he needed. I just told her I'd figure it out myself. Thank goodness I'd done a lot of reading..."

Wendy: "When my son was 9 months I went into the ER with a severe bladder infection and the Doctor there gave me a prescription. When I asked if it was a kind safe for breast feeding he said rudely "No, you've already breast fed for 9 months, that's enough. There are no benefits to breastfeeding after 9 months."

After getting over the shock of his rudeness (and a good cry) I asked him to find me a prescription that was safe."

Diane was told that she must be mistaken, she couldn't be breastfeeding her son because he was adopted...there was just no way. She replied, "Hmmm...that's funny. I have been for 2 years and he is thriving."

When Bridget's second daughter was just born, the doctor suggested that she might not have milk yet and that she might need to give formula. (Has he never heard of a thing called colostrum?)

Lynn's Dr told her that all infants need to be weaned at 4 months.

Debbie: "When I got pregnant with Milly, Anna was just barely a year old and still nursing about 5 times a day and a few times overnight. The PA at the OB's office informed me that I HAD to have Anna weaned within a week, or Milly would not get the nutrition she needed in my womb."

Abby: "The Lactation Consultant at the hospital had me in tears because she said that if my 37 week twins (who didn't stay awake for anything very long) didn't nurse for more than 10 min, then I couldn't "count" that as a nursing session"

Lucy was directly asked if her daughter was drinking cows milk at her 15mo check-up . She said no, but that she still nursed a lot. The Dr replied, "Well, you should consider weaning her soon. You know there's no real benefit at this age - it's mostly just water by now."
(Strange how this incredible milk, packed with nutrients, magically turns into very white looking water when your baby turns 15 months.)

A woman brought her baby with digestive issues to the Dr. The doc didn't look into the mother's diet, just labeled the baby as "allergic to breast milk" and recommended she switch to formula.

Natalie: "I don't know what class the Postpartum nurses around here took, but they all think you should apply grape jelly to the nipple, to entice the baby to nurse."

Jill: "The dumbest 'professional" advice I got was to make sure I waited long enough between feeding to "refill".. What's sad I believed it"


DJ said...

You want unsolicited advice, you should meet my mother-in-law *sigh* - but seriously, reading this kind of thing makes me so mad! Here in Scotland my experience has been that the generation previous to mine were all indoctrinated with the idea that bottle is best. Combined with the natural British prudity about showing your breasts in public, and the majority of midwives I've come across have been extremely quick - even relieved in some cases - to shunt new mothers onto formula. Help and advice to establish breast-feeding is minimal, you're kind of on your own unless you specifically ask for help. The only thing that stopped me formula-feeding was stubborness and tenacity. That's it. There is institutionalised resistance to breast-feeding and some kind of widely-held misconception that only middle-class hippy earth mothers do it. Which in turn prevents a lot of young mums, first-time mums and working class mums from even giving a try - Bonkers! Anyway... I think any kind of change can only be a positive thing in these times.

Herb of Grace said...

Yeah, boy. The worst one that I HATE to hear is "the doctor told me I just must not be meant to breastfeed." What the bleep-bleep does THAT mean?? This was said to my s-i-l when she went to the ER with excruciating pain from a severe yeast/thrush infect when her son was three months old. Made me stark raving mad. She'd been b/f like a champ for three months and now all of a sudden she's "just not meant to b/f"??

Momma Miller said...

Ohhh, just lovely. One thing that I was told was to stop breastfeeding as soon as I got pregnant again. Because I had experienced one previous miscarriage (while breastfeeding), my OB said that breastfeeding might have caused it. But isn't it true that any number of things could have caused it. I mean, I'd be cutting all sorts of things out of my life if I used that same mindset. My daughter was 16 months at the time and I followed his advice, but I'm a little sad about it today. :(

~Shaye (Momma Miller)

Michelle M. said...

Wow. I can't believe that. It is horrible that "educated" professionals are giving this advice. When my son wasn't gaining enough after being in the NICU, the pediatrician tried to forced to use formula. I refused. So I nursed the baby and then pumped afterwards to get whatever may have been left and fed that to him in a bottle. And it worked! He gaining within a few days. Mommies know best :)

I've really enjoyed perusing through your blog :)

Beginning Again said...

I just found your blog through "My Charming Kids"
I am so glad I found it! I am a HUGE breastfeeding advocate and hear negative comments all the time. My baby is about to turn 6mos and I still havent started food because she is 17.5lbs and doing well without it...ppl keep telling me she needs food to give her nutrition...are they crazy!? ;)
Anyways! I will defin be back to your blog! I love everything you stand for that I have seen so far!

Anonymous said...

I agree that the folks you cited got really bad advice, and that many are uninformed about breastfeeding.

I had the opposite experience, though. After multiple visits to the lactation consultant and the whole nurse, supplement, pump, repeat regiment, I was completely exhausted, out of milk, and totally guilt-ridden. Even the FORMULA companies seemed to be saying to me, "if you were a REAL mom, you'd be breastfeeding. Shoot, even adoptive moms can do it!" The implication was that I was just not trying hard enough.

I don't say this to in any way disregard those of you who have breastfed for months or years, even against all odds. Breastfeeding IS best. Just a friendly reminder to also be gentle with those for whom, for whatever reason, breastfeeding does not work out.

The Stain Family said...

That is a riot. It's hard to believe those things really came out of professionals mouths. I guess bottles need be doused in jelly too?? hahahaha That one is just too much.

MoodyMama (a.k.a. Heidi) said...

Oh for the LOVE! I thought I'd heard it all...or at least close! When my daughter was hospitalized at 8 weeks for GI issues and they wanted her NPO for a possible biopsy the next day they said I could give her sugar water instead of comfort nursing! Hmmm, sugar...comfort...sugar...comfort. Needless to say we waited until the doc left the room!
Let's keep getting the word out there to those professionals! The shock on my pediatricians face when my 18 month old started pulling at my shirt and I said that yes, she "still" nurses was priceless!

Mel Fraase said...

Wow. Truly I'm in shock. AND so very thankful that I work in a hospital with two very well versed IBCLC nurses that would probably drop dead if they'd heard this stuff. I have (and still am) breastfed four children and I'm so glad I didn't listen to some of the ridiculous advice!! Thanks for this post!

JD said...

I've heard many crazy things too over the course of my breastfeeding days. I nursed my daughter until she was 4, in addition to nursing both boys to past their first year. My own mother told me once I shouldn't breastfeed the baby in a restaurant, what would people think, after all? Perhaps, she suggested, I should nurse the baby in the bathroom.

What would people think about a baby being nourished in a restaurant? Well, what would they think if we suddenly started eating in bathrooms? Pull up a table in stall five, please! Pass the napkins, please... oh, no, not that kind of napkin...

Kinsleys4 said...

In contrast to the unwanted or bad advice, we actually ended up with a pediatrician with an on-call lactation nurse. I've given her a call a bunch of times. The lactation nurses in the hospital were like, "Wow, I wish all pediatricians had that!"