The more time goes by on this parenting journey of mine, the better I realize how important it is for every nursing mother and baby to have a pediatrician who is not just supportive of breastfeeding, but thoroughly educated about it – and unfortunately, they seem to be rare.
Back in university, I only had one course dedicated to infant nutrition, which emphasized the importance of breastfeeding but didn’t cover many important details such as supply and demand, possibility of poor latch, overactive letdown, distracted nursing, and many other common issues breastfeeding mothers often have to deal with. I know that in medical schools, more often than not even less is learned about this wonderful natural way of feeding babies.
Most pediatricians today tell mothers they should nurse their babies – if everything goes smoothly, if no problems arise, and if the baby is gaining weight strictly according to age-appropriate charts. From stories of fellow mothers, many pediatricians have only a vague concept that breasts make milk, and have all too many misconceptions, such as:
* It’s very common to have inadequate milk supply.
* A mother’s milk supply can dry up for no reason and it’s normal; it isn’t worth the trouble to check why this happens.
* Whatever a mother does or doesn’t do, it doesn’t affect her milk supply and therefore it’s pointless to try and improve it.
* Each baby needs to eat at such-and-such intervals, and weight gain should be such-and-such number each week.
* Weighing a baby before and after a feeding is a good way to assess how much food the baby gets throughout the day, because the amount of milk a baby gets per nursing session is the same every time.
I’m not saying pediatricians have no clue. They certainly have lots of knowledge, and their advice and opinion regarding a child’s health should be taken most seriously. But – and this is a serious but – don’t be overwhelmed by someone’s authority just because he is a doctor. Western medicine often has an impatient, quick-fix attitude, which is good for acute conditions, but many times displays little knowledge and much arrogance towards treatment of anything that has to do with chronic illnesses, allergies, and nutrition.
In certain areas, nurses tend to know more than doctors; or less. I had a nurse tell me that even if breastfeeding is going well, it’s recommended to supplement with formula starting from four months.
Many medical professionals have an attitude that can be described as well-meaning but misguided. Be careful and discerning.