On the other hand, they work within a really bizarre system that doesn’t seem to have much understanding of human needs, it is so skewed toward avoiding litigation, it forgets about the fact that the potential litigants are humans. Humans trying to do things, like, oh, I don’t know, breastfeed.
I admit to having watched way too many episodes of “A Baby Story.” It became a favorite past time at the end of my pregnancy, to watch an episode, then make fun of the doctor’s not-seeming-entirely-necessary reason for giving his patient a c-section. Calling him or her (usually him) a jerk and an idiot. Then getting really pissed off on behalf of the mother. (Again, there are lots of necessary c-sections for which I am grateful that there are doctors who can perform them safely. I’m wondering if that sentence is grammatically correct, but I’m too tired to detangle it. Sorry.) After several episodes of “A C-Section Story,” comes one or two episodes of “Bringing Home Formula.” I mean, “Bringing Home Baby.” Yeah, you guessed it. This one gets me mad about what the doctors, nurses and families tell women about formula and breastfeeding.
Everything. EVERYTHING a new mom or mom-to-be reads states firmly that the healthiest thing to feed your baby is breast milk. Even ads taken out by the formula companies. The doctors say it. The women want to do it. They know it is expected of them. They want to do what is best for their babies. But guess what? It is hard. I don’t even understand how the human race is still around, frankly. If this is how we have nourished our young since the dawn of time? It sure does not come naturally to me. And I had a mom who breastfed both of her kids. And I have a huge circle of friends who breastfed their first child, including my honey. I mentioned my wonder at the existence of the human race to my friend Alli, who comments here from time to time. She said, “Oh, it’s that village thing.”
So, here you have a mom all ready to breastfeed. All of the theories have been thrown at her. Now comes the reality. There is no support. The doctors and/or nurses and/or family members and/or old lady next door tell the new mom that there is something wrong with her supply. She should supplement with formula. She HAS to. Or if it hurts too much, she can give the baby a bottle or two. Doctors are not required to learn anything about breastfeeding. So he or she may know a lot about it, or nothing at all. Soon there actually is something wrong with her supply because she supplemented. Soon she’s just feeding the baby formula. If she wanted to breastfeed, she feels like a failure.
Let me just stop here to say that I respect every parent’s choice on how to feed their babies. If you choose formula, go for it. If you used both formula and breast milk and it worked out fine for you, that’s great. I’m glad you got some extra sleep in the bargain! If you can’t breastfeed, or chose to do so for only a short while, or you adopted your kids and didn’t want to induce lactation, that’s cool. I’m not here to judge parents for their choices. I will, however, judge medical professional who advise their patients to do something, then don’t or can’t support them in their directive.
This brings me to my pediatrician. I normally adore the guy. He’s sweet. He looks like a man, a boy and a geek all wrapped up into a neat package in a cartoon necktie. The first time he held Cakie at a few days old, I knew I trusted him. I was excited to take Trucker there to show him off. Instead, I ended up kind of pissed off. Well, not kind of. Really pissed off. See, Trucker lost so weight. When he was born, he weighed a whopping 9 lbs, 3 oz. In the doctor’s office, he weighed 8 lbs, 8 oz. The doctor was too concerned with this fact. He wanted Trucker to come in for a weight check the following week. Luckily, I know my baby stuff.
“Isn’t a baby supposed to lose wieght after coming home?”
“And what is the normal range of weight a baby can lose?”
“Ten percent of his body weight.” The doctor looked sheepish. That’s because, I’ll spare you the math, he did not lose anything outside of the normal range! It was normal weight loss. And he was acting alarmed. I said, “You know, he has the right amount of bowel movements and my breasts feel lighter after each feed.” (Not that he asked me those important questions.) He said something along the lines of, he knows Trucker probably lost more weight than he’s used to seeing because he is a bigger baby and it is better to be safe than sorry. Harumph. This is the thing… he was saying this to over-informed me. But imagine any mother, four days after giving birth, breastfeeding for the first time. Baby seems happy and full. All of the signs that breastfeeding are going well are evident. Then she comes in to the doctor and he acts like there is a problem, when the baby is within the norm. It hurt my feelings, but I could see how it would make a less-informed person really start to doubt herself.
I need to add a few more details. There was one sign that I had not perfected my latch. My nipp1es were a little worse for the wear. Ok, they looked like they’d been to a fight club meeting. So when I whipped one out to feed the baby in the doctor’s office, I’m sure somewhere in his subconscious, he thought “Woah! There’s no way enough milk is coming out of those!” I’m sure that was the real source of his alarm. That said, they did hurt and I did make my way to the lactation consultant’s office shortly thereafter, if only to triple ensure that Trucker would meet, no, EXCEED his weight expectations come time for the weight check. Which he did. Because he’s a baby rock star. He needed to gain 5 oz, and he gained 6.5. And my wounds have healed, as well.
So, doctors… just remember who you are talking to and what they might be going through when you put up a red flag. I know that you get sued a lot and it is your job to ensure that your patient be as healthy as possible. But if your patient’s brand-new mom seems to be having trouble breastfeeding, how about having the phone number for La Leche League available? Or a lactation consultant? Or a nursing mother’s group? You know? Someone who actually knows the ins and outs of breastfeeding? Go to a breastfeeding convention yourself, perhaps? All we need to do is gather up that village thing and get some actual useful information to make this baby-nourishing thing happen the right way.
It has taken me four days to get this post up, guys. I’ll get my groove back someday. For now, no rush. I’ve got some baby nourishing to do.