Each time I think that I might be exaggerating the fact that many doctors might be hindering a woman working at breastfeeding, someone tells me an anecdote that reminds me that many indeed are. It reminds me that those of us who successfully nurse our kids through thick and thin are not being overzealous when we feel that we need to share our knowledge with other mothers.
After the birth of my first child, I was so bursting with the desire to connect with other moms that had worked through and made it to nurse a child for a year, or at all, I probably seemed a little over the top. Fortunately, I found La Leche League and went to the groups and met other moms and got the support I craved. Now I’m a La Leche League leader, which gives me the avenue to help other mothers that want the help. It’s nice when someone who needs support calls you to get that support, and you aren’t just talking about nursing at each and every play date like a mom with a one-track mind.
I know some think that an LLL Leader, or any breastfeeding advocate, is at best unnecessary and at worst, trying to make mothers feel guilty when breastfeeding doesn’t work out. Of course, both of those extremes are far from the truth. Women run LLL groups to provide a place for mothers that seek information and support to get it, and we, at our best, remain unbiased and kind to a woman’s decision. We affirm a woman’s choice to do as she pleases; our goal is simply to make sure she had the most information possible before she makes her decision.
The conversation provoking this post was one from a mom pregnant with her second child. She told me that her first child’s pediatrician told her that she must wean when she contracted thrush, a common breastfeeding issue. He told her there was no medication compatible with breastfeeding. This is far, far from the truth as I can think of three remedies off the top of my head that moms use every day. She told me her tricked her.
I responded, as I should as an LLL Leader, in an unbiased way. I told her that unfortunately many doctors are not trained in breastfeeding and simply have a lack of knowledge. Then she revealed to me why she felt “tricked”. She went to the next appointment and told him she was unhappy with his advice and she had wanted to continue nursing, and had found after her milk dried up (and she got mastitis from the abrupt weaning) that she could not get him back to the breast. Her goal was to nurse for one year, and she got a mere month or so.
She undoubtedly felt betrayed and unsupported by the person she was paying money to trust with the health of her baby.
He told her “I just generally don’t like breastfeeding, so I always just advise woman against it.”
Yes, that is the moment that validates all the advocacy and informational events I will ever do. We are here to help women like this, essentially victims of a bad, bad doctor. A doctor whose personal biases caused a woman recovering from childbirth an infection and lost her baby 10 or 11 more months of antibodies and a unique way to bond with its mother.
Breastfeeding can be a touchy subject because anything that makes someone not fulfill a goal, especially when it comes to mothering, can make someone feel angry or guilty. Even if the information is shared in an unbiased way. Anger comes from guilt, and guilt is a terrible emotion when it comes to doing the best for a child. A woman that makes an informed decision, and stops breastfeeding but feels confident about her decision, won’t have that anger and guilt towards breastfeeding advocates.
Luckily, in this case, the mother’s anger and upset is pointed towards the appropriate place—towards a doctor who gives bad advice on purpose. How many kid and moms has he hurt, I wonder. This is why LLL Leaders do what we do. It’s why we run groups, and give out flyers to pregnant moms we meet, and run informational fairs.