I meet mums all the time that tell me about their breastfeeding story, and why it might have prematurely ended. The majority of the time it is usually down to poor advice and support, doubts about confidence in feeding and other’s opinions which are not validated.
Only today I met a mum who’s baby was incorrectly weighed at birth, so when she had a check up a few days later, it looked on paper like the baby had lost a whole pound of weight since birth. Immediately the paediatrician said, well that’s it you must stop breastfeeding and start using formula.
Without any other checks, such as wet and dirty nappies, checking for jaundice or even baby’s overall wellbeing, formula was suggested. When she saw a lactation consultant in the hospital, she gave a different opinion, and got her to pump for a little bit and saw that she had milk so knew it wasn’t an issue, just keep feeding and the baby will gradually gain weight.
Is the doctor always right?
But once her mother in law and partner heard the paeditician’s advice, doubt crept in over breastfeeding. The all too common answer, “well the doctor must be right”. I am sorry to say this but doctor’s get things wrong all the time, why, well they’re human, busy and sometimes silly errors happen. Also most doctors are not educated in breastfeeding and therefore cannot be depended upon to provide the support needed.
The majority of doctors don’t get any breastfeeding education whilst studying medicine, therefore the onus is on them to have continued professional development in this area. As breastfeeding rates are so low, doctors may seem it is futile in educating themselves further in this area, as it will not be put to any use. That’s the catch-22 we find ourselves in. Without education from medical professionals, breastfeeding education will never be passed onto mothers and wider society.
The majority of doctors don’t get any breastfeeding education whilst studying medicine, therefore the onus is on them to have continued professional development in this area.
So whilst we always say mums need support to breastfeed, until there is proper education about breastfeeding, all the support in the world will be pointless!
Ill advice can be so damaging
The best advice I ever got about breastfeeding is “don’t take advice about breastfeeding from someone who didn’t breastfeed”. It is so solid and so true. How would someone who didn’t feed know anything about it? There is so much science around it. Even lactation consultants have to train for years before they qualify and they must continue their professional development to remain certified.
I know too well from my own breastfeeding experience with my first girl, how ill advice in those first few days can set you down a road of failure when it comes to breastfeeding. The constant how do you know she has enough milk, she won’t sleep whilst breastfeeding etc, can be really damaging to a new mum who is tired and just wants to feed her baby her way.
Where does breastfeeding support and education need to start?
So where does education need to start? Should we be teaching this in schools, are these life lessons that everyone should be aware of, regardless of how they might end up feeding their babies.
At the very least our medical professionals should be able answer questions about breastfeeding or have the ability to refer you to an expert if you need help. So the next time, you see your GP or midwife/nurse and have a question about breastfeeding, don’t be afraid to challenge their advice, especially if they are trying to switch you to formula feeding. I know it is tough to challenge authority, but as mums we need to stand up for ourselves more, feel empowered in our bodies, and tune into our gut instinct when we suspect something doesn’t sound right.
At the very least our medical professionals should be able answer questions about breastfeeding or have the ability to refer you to an expert if you need help.
Each mum should have a choice on how she feeds her babies, and the lack of education shouldn’t be a reason for mums to be pushed out of their choices.