A B00bie Story

Doctors. Harumph

On one hand, they do great things like slide several-celled embryos into my invisible friends.

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?”

“Yes.”

“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.

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13 Comments

Filed under b00b food, Trucker

13 responses to “A B00bie Story

  1. vee

    Hmm – in between telling people a pile of crap rather than admitting they didn’t know, and scaring the crap out of people just to cover their asses, they have a lot to answer for. Even the nice ones. Glad you are able to advocate and inform yourself.

  2. Amen, and amen.

    I love watching those “baby shows” but do spend half my time yelling at the TV, “Of COURSE your milk’s not in yet! Your baby is twelve-freaking-hours old! You’re not SUPPOSED to have milk – and you’re not GOING TO if you keep giving your baby formula!”

    I’ve said many times that the families on that show would be much better served by the producers if they would take the money spent on Pampers Swaddlers (always oh-so-visible in the close-up on the changing table) and that same tummy-time mat that they obviously give to everyone and pay for an hour or two with a lactation consultant instead.

  3. Amen, sister. Perhaps we should start a little letter-writing campaign. However, where would the drama in the reality show be, if the mother has no troubles?

  4. Thanks for such a valuable post. I know not of such things…yet! But I’m sure yours is a post that many women need to read and one that I’ll file away for future reference.

  5. sn

    hmm…i’m not sure that’s all of it. i agree that doctors tend to be conservative and cautious and not interested in lawsuits (and ostensibly, not interested in having bad things happen to their patients). but i also think that doctors have a sense of entitlement to blah blah blah authoritatively even when they don’t know what they’re talking about. regardless, i’m sorry that all of that happened to you and little mr t. our pediatrician was a huge source of support and troubleshooting advice during the initial breastfeeding difficulties and scary weight loss–i wish more pediatricians were as helpful. because you’re totally right–it is hard.

  6. nethermeade

    This story just makes me feel SORRY for your doctor. He’s got to battle past his awful training to get to his better instincts, and that’s tough to do. I think you should send him the part of your post that’s about that discouraging office visit in a nice card so he can read it at his leisure and maybe reflect on it. Cushion the critique with lots of praise for his Cakie care though. You still want to be able to ring him up when the wee tykes’ get to projectile yakkin.

  7. I still really like the guy. Maybe I’ll just mention my qualms to him in person. Real nice-like.

  8. mutti1

    Trucker is a baby rock star, and you’re a mommy rock star. Doctors need to be set straight by overinformed patients. But ideally they will do what you suggest, be well-informed themselves. We love reading your blog. We’ll keep checking in regardless of your groove.

  9. great post… I’ll keep this in mind once the babe comes out and i have to deal with the difficulties associated with breastfeeding for the first time.

  10. This is a comment from Alli–

    I can read your blog from my work computer but I am blocked from commenting on it from here. Since I don’t always have time to go online when I’m home after work, I wanted to email you this before it becomes one more thing I mean to do and then don’t.

    I would like to give a shout out for the doctors who do remember that their patients are people and do go out of their way to help breastfeeding moms. I did not have the experience you did with the pediatrician being unknowledgeable or unsupportive of breastfeeding. Maybe it’s because she has three kids herself. But, everyone I’ve encountered in her office, male and female, has been totally supportive and encouraging of all attempts, while also not being preachy about it. They encourage you to do it and offer help with it, and direct you to outside resources if you want, but they also don’t look down on you when you decide to supplement or if it’s just not your thing and you don’t want to do it all. Even with all that support, I felt like the Breastfeeding Mother’s Companion book was the key. I found it to be accessible and empowering. I still needed the lactation consultant to get to the point where I could feed comfortably (kind of like it’s hard to know if you are doing headstand right no matter how much you read about it), but that book was crucial to my success (in part because it gave me the knowledge to ignore bad advice).

    Although my comment about the village thing was casual, it’s actually something I have come to deeply believe in after having gone through pregnancy and childbirth and postpartum in a place where I have very few family members and very few friends who are able to offer the kind of support that I would have if I lived in a different sort of community. For general support, we rely almost entirely on paid help. Jim and Sarah work so much that I can’t look to them for things like occasional babysitting or help with grocery shopping etc. Ben works almost as much as they do, plus he has a lot of family obligations to attend to. You know all of this already, I’m just writing out for the sake of completeness. As for post-partum support, the lactation consultant we hired also does general baby-care advice, and we ended up paying for an hour of that. We were lucky we found her and lucky we could afford it. If we lived in a community of close family and/or friends, I think we would have gotten a lot of that advice for free, and in a more natural setting.

  11. Yamara

    Hi,
    I just read a few recent entries to your blog on the advice of my partner, Piper. Our baby was born on July 21st and she thought I would appreciate some of your comments on the post-partum recovery process. I certainly do. With all the focus on pregnancy and the birthing process there was a lot I wish I had been prepared for in the aftermath.
    Having recently been a patient myself and being a medical student graduating in less than a year, I have to say it sounds like you have come into contact with the worst of the medical community. My experience with our obstetricians all the way to our daughter’s pediatrician has been nothing but stellar. Our wish was that Piper deliver our daughter and after the OB delivered her head Piper was instructed as to how to take over. Our daughter was born into her arms and then placed onto my chest. I was feeding her only minutes later. I have had so much breast feeding support that I might just scream if another person asks me how my nipples are doing or tries to evaluate my latch. Our medical school and hospital is very pro-natural childbirth and breastfeeding. There is pretty much an assumption that everyone is going to breastfeed unless they say otherwise. I have seen the documentary “The Business of Being Born” and can honestly say that I have never seen anything at our hospital like it. It seems to me to be a propaganda film aimed at making people distrustful of the medical community. When Ricki Lake graduates from medical school I’ll then be more interested in her opinions about medicine. I could make a similar video about the horrors of midwife attended births that could have been prevented by modern medical intervention. Your experiences and those in that video are fortunately not representative of the entire medical community or even the majority. I’ll be a pediatric resident in less than a year and I can’t help but feel defensive when I feel that my profession is being misrepresented. You should continue to advocate for yourself and perhaps interview new doctors until you find one that you feel is the right fit for you and your family. Congratulations on the new addition to your family and I hope your future medical experiences are good ones.
    Yamara

  12. My hope is that there are a lot more hospitals like the one you birthed in and a lot more doctors like the one you are going to become. Thanks for your input.

    PS your baby was born on my birthday! Congratulations. People always tell me I was born under a blessed star. I hope the same for your little one.

  13. Pingback: Slippery Slope « oneofhismoms

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