Breastfeeding Help from your Physician? Maybe Not.

photoBreastfeeding is something that every mother and every baby has a right to do. More importantly, it is widely accepted as the preferred way to feed a baby. We can all rattle off numerous health risks to mom and baby that can result from artificial feeding. It follows, then, that our health care providers—especially those who are charged with the task (and privilege!) of supporting new mothers and vulnerable infants—would be well versed in how to support the breastfeeding dyad. Tragically, this is sometimes not the case.

In my community I know many MD’s, ND’s, midwifes and nurses who are knowledgeable breastfeeding supporters. They also know when to refer to IBCLC’s. I applaud all of the health care professionals out there who give the moms and babies the support they need and deserve. Unfortunately they are not the norm.

When you talk to your physician about breastfeeding, keep in mind that she may have almost no education in breastfeeding management. It’s just not part of her training. (Unless she sought it out on her own.) Of course, if you have any doubts about your Dr.’s lactation expertise, you don’t need to discuss breastfeeding at all. Consult your Dr. about medical issues and general child developmental milestones. After all that is where her training lies!  If you have breastfeeding concerns, ask for a referral to an experienced IBCLC in the community. I think you will understand why after you read the quotes below.

All of these quotes are from nurses, midwives or physicians practicing in various parts of the United States and Europe.  When the exact discipline is known, I have included it.

Mom Issues

Pediatrician to a new mom with very sore nipples. “Your pain is likely caused by your nerve endings.” (Huh?)

Nurse in the hospital: “Feel for the gummi bears in your breasts and massage them/rub them out.”  Yep, you read it here. The gummi bears.

Formula Use

“Mix formula with breast milk instead of water.” (This is downright dangerous.)

Weight Issues

“Your baby isn’t gaining weight because your breast milk is out of good fats.”

Nurse in pediatric office to a mom whose baby was slow to gain. She told the mother to bring in a sample of her milk for them to “look at.” When she did, they said that the fat content “looked low.” their advice? “Drink Ovaltine and eat snickers over the weekend and then bring us a frozen sample on Monday to look at and see if its fattier.”

Pediatrician to mom who was worried because 4 mo old baby wasn’t pooping “Give baby a suppository.” The mom called me to get another opinion and she came to my drop in group for a weight check. Guess what. Baby hadn’t gained any weight in a month! When baby started eating more, she naturally, started pooping regularly.

Family Physician to mom of rapidly gaining exclusively breastfed 5 month old who nursed every 4 hours. “Nurse less and offer water instead.”

Feeding Management

Pediatrician: (To mom who’s 4-day old baby wasn’t able to breastfeed.) “Don’t give the baby any more bottles. When he’s hungry enough, he’ll figure out how to breastfeed.”

“Don’t breastfeed lying down or the milk will go in baby’s ears.

“Don’t breastfeed lying down because milk will go into the baby’s lungs.”

From postpartum nurse to a 40 -year-old mama: “You are old and Asian, so your milk probably won’t come in for at least 5 days.”

“If you breastfeed for 15 min. your breast will be completely empty.”

“Don’t give baby the breast every time she wants it or you’ll become her pacifier.”

To a mom of a 4 day old with elevated bilirubin: “Stop breastfeeding for 24-48 hours to clear the protein in your milk that is causing your baby’s jaundice.” Clear the protein?

From a public health nurse: “The first 20 minutes is just sugar water. You have to nurse 20 minutes of sugar water, then 20 min more on a breast to get the good milk.”

“Pump a bottle for your husband to give the baby every night after baby turns 2 weeks so they can bond.”

“Give formula twice a day until your milk comes in.”

Milk Supply

A mom writes, “I was told to pump every hour around the clock for 2 weeks to try to boost my supply. Not surprisingly, the exhaustion and frustration had the opposite effect.”

Nurse in pediatric office to a mom whose baby with reflux isn’t gaining well. “We have some formula that is pretty much spit up proof.”

Milk composition

Pediatrician to a tandem nursing mama who’d just given birth: “You can’t nurse your newborn because you’re making toddler milk. You will have to feed formula, instead, until you wean your toddler.”

Pediatrician: “There’s no reason to breastfeed past 6 months because milk turns to water at that time.”

Allergies

Midwife: “If you eat dairy products you will cause a dairy allergy in your baby.” (This was on a written list of recommendations that she gave all mothers in her practice.)

“Your baby is allergic to your breast milk so use soy formula”

“I have never heard about prolactin or thyroid levels changing because of breastfeeding.”

“If you don’t start solids exactly at six months, you will miss the window and your baby will never eat solids.”

Sleep

“Never nurse your baby to sleep, Once he is done nursing wake them and always put them down awake or he will never be able to go to sleep on his own.” (By the way, this mom called me because her baby took a long time to settle for naps.)

“If baby isn’t sleeping through the night at 6 months you must do “cry it out” or she will never self soothe.”

So weird it doesn’t have a category

“If you drink carbonated beverages, your milk will be bubbly.” From an OB.

“You should consider pumping long term because babies mouths are dirty.”

Have you heard anything strange or unsupportive from your health care provider? Feel free to leave a comment or send me an email!  And, if you need breastfeeding help, please call an experienced IBCLC for help!

See also, “Breastfeeding Hurts and Other Painful Myths.”

9 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Help from your Physician? Maybe Not.

  1. Love all these. Renee. My favorite? From a cardiologist why was going to be implanting a pacemaker in a nursing mom…”Wean because your milk will short out the pacemaker!”

    Where was he during anatomy and physiology???

    Kathy

  2. I got this one yesterday. The parents had taken the baby in to urgent care as she had not been eating well and had pink in her diapers, and had very little urine. They sent her to her pediatrician. The pediatrician (very reputable practice) said “Baby looks great. Babies are supposed to be born like grapes, shrink like raisins, then plump up again like grapes. Give her some pedialyte or formula.”
    Headdesk.

  3. I’m a Lactation Educator(CLE)(will be certified in a few weeks)I was told by a male OBGYN that I can’t be a CLE because I have never breastfeed a baby… Has he given birth? LOL

  4. I asked a lactation consultant for help because my nipples were sore and i wanted to make sure baby was latching right. My son was 6 weeks old. When we got there she said “I don’t know if i can help you since he’s not a newborn” what! Turns out I had thrush which my OB later gave me an rx for. I was shocked and frustrated at the lactation consultants answer.

  5. Wow. These were very interesting to read. The scariest part is that they didn’t come from someone’s well-meaning relative, they came from healthcare professionals whose instructions are believed and trusted by those they care for. I had an experience recently where I was having a breast issue and didn’t know what the source was, so I consulted my GP. She checked me and said I had just had a cracked nipple that was now healing and some lanolin should do the trick. I was uneasy with this dismissal and I’m so glad I trusted my instincts and kept looking for answers. Renee, an IBCLC, didn’t just look at me, she checked my nursing baby, too, and realized he was tongue-tied! My GP simply didn’t have the skills or training to do a thorough examination and understand what was/could be going on. It is essential to consult with a good IBCLC when there are questions regarding any aspect of breastfeeding.

  6. Excellent article! I tell this to moms all of the time! Especially when I hear “But my doctor said..” Just stop right there. Did you ask your doctor how much training s/he has had in human lactation?
    When I went to school for nursing, I literally had one class period worth of lecture on infant feeding, (in nutrition) which consisted of a 5-10 minute PowerPoint on breast feeding & the rest of the class period was spent on artificial feeding.

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