Milky Minutes – Doctors and Breastfeeding

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My doctor said it is just fine that…(fill in the blank)…is happening.

I hear it all the time. I bite my tongue. I try not to look shocked or appalled. I take a deep breath and quickly figure out in my head how to tactfully say, “your doctor doesn’t know what he or she is talking about.”

Doctors usually know very little about breastfeeding. Fortunately, there are a few who have made it a point to educate themselves about it. However, the sad reality is that the vast majority don’t know much at all. And it’s really not their fault.

How do I know this? I’ve asked them. I get fourth-year medical students regularly in our office at work who are taking a breastfeeding elective. I ask them how much time is spent on breastfeeding during med school. The answer? They get a one and a half hour lecture, which many of them don’t attend. 

You must be thinking that, surely, there is more intensive amount of time spent on it in their residency. Nope. I asked the director of the pediatric residency program of a large university program a few years ago and he looked at me, obviously confused. I was trying to offer my input, and it was clear that he just didn’t know why they would want to spend time on that.  A few years ago my hospital was organizing a breastfeeding workshop for professionals. I asked one of our docs if he or any of his staff was going to attend either the three-day program or the one-day program we were offering. He looked at me, apparently shocked, and asked, “what could there possibly be about breastfeeding that would take three days to learn?”

Therein lies the problem. 

What really makes that appalling is that I work at a hospital that has a 98% breastfeeding initiation rate. 

I firmly believe that if more time was spent on breastfeeding education, in medical school, or during pediatric residency, the message would be sent that this is important, and there is a lot to know about it.

If a lactation consultant has a difference of opinion with your doctor, about something that is related to breastfeeding, you might want to listen and see what she has to say, and not just go with what your doctor said. 

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