Should Breastfeeding Be Supported More by Pediatricians?

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Breastfeeding supporters have been hard at work to generate more support for breastfeeding mothers. Although great strides have been made, mothers continue to need more support from medical professionals.

I had my first child over seven years ago. I had a strong desire to breastfeed my children for the health, financial and bonding benefits. As most babies do, my daughter lost weight in the days after birth. Her pediatrician was not concerned as we would have a weight check within four days of discharge from the hospital. There was also hope that my milk would begin to produce to allow her to gain weight.

At home, we had many signs that things were going well. Our daughter would get sleepy after nursing, and I would get thirsty and hungry. She did not cry as if she was hungry. Four days after her discharge from the hospital, we began her first pediatrician visit with a weight check. As soon as her doctor saw her weight, our popular pediatrician ran from the room and grabbed a bottle. He exclaimed that our daughter was starving and we had to feed her two bottles before leaving.

I was a wreck. As a first-time mom, I was petrified that I was not adequately providing for my child. We were given a lot of instructions about supplementing my daughter until my milk came in. Remembering the hospital lactation nurses offered outpatient services, I asked the pediatrician if I should make an appointment. He brushed it off and told me I would be fine. Instead, he recommended I drink Guinness beer twice a day to promote milk production as it was full of beneficial yeast. He felt lactation nurses were overbearing, but he did not assess my daughter’s ability to latch or the amount of milk she would intake with a feeding.

A couple of weeks later, our daughter continued to struggle to gain weight. I again asked about seeing a lactation nurse, and my pediatrician finally encouraged it. As a new mom, I felt I needed permission and the advice of a professional on how to handle feeding my child. After multiple visits to a lactation nurse, it was discovered that our daughter had an extremely weak suck making her struggle to eat even from a bottle. 

Since that experience, I had two more children and I was able to successfully breastfeed both for over a year with no weight gain issues and no need to supplement. Looking back, I realize how wrong it was for my pediatrician to advise me not to seek the help I desperately needed based on his personal opinion of lactation nurses. I have heard other similar stories, and have read that most pediatricians are not certified or educated in lactation.  

I was encouraged to read that the American Academy of Pediatricians is working on a curriculum to educate pediatricians in the needs of lactating mothers. It is difficult for pediatricians to advise a newborn’s feeding needs if they do not understand what may or may not be happening with a mother’s milk. If pediatricians truly want to support breastfeeding mothers, they will consider embracing the new curriculum or figure out how to factor lactation consultants into their practice. Considering lactating mothers are instrumental in a child’s health, it is essential for pediatricians to be more involved and informed about lactation.

Writer Bio: Summer Bolte

I spend most of my time and days with my three kids, husband and dog. My kids frequently play near me as I garden, cook, DIY and volunteer. My most unusual paying job has to be feeding fruit flies in a research lab, and my most fullfilling job was being an oncology nurse for seven years.  

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