Saturday, December 6, 2008

Pediatricians less likely to promote breastfeeding

the doctor is inOk, I'm sad now.

I saw a link to the new survey of pediatricians on their breastfeeding attitudes in 2004 as compared with a 1995 study, as reported in Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine.

The results show that doctors are now less likely "to believe that the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the difficulties or inconvenience," fewer had confidence that almost all women would be able to breastfeed, and they found more reasons to recommend against the practice.

In good news, the 2004 pediatricians were more likely "to recommend exclusive breastfeeding ... and follow supportive hospital policies."

One factor that helped with breastfeeding promotion was personal experience of breastfeeding on the part of the pediatrician. Apparently it's not enough just to be taught in medical school that breastfeeding's good for babies and mamas -- you have to see it in action to believe it.

Well, fine. But how are our future physicians going to see it in action if our current ones discourage mothers from doing it?

File this under grrr... I thought things were supposed to be getting better.

Photo courtesy of Sanja Gjenero on stock.xchng


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately I already knew this without reading the survey. In fact, it has gotten worse in the past 4 years. I have seen minimal progress over the past 20+ years in spite of the increasing numbers of lactation consultants.

Doctors do not learn very much about breastfeeding in medical school. Much of what they know is as you pointed out based on anecdotal experience. For many female pediatricians their breastfeeding experience is shortened by needing to return to work soon. Their idea of breastfeeding, if they choose to breastfeed, often centers around pumping.

Pediatricians are heavily marketed to by the drug company/formula reps. Many lactation consultants emphasize weights and pumping to convince the doctors that there is a science of lactation.

It is no wonder that breastfeeding is losing favor because the mothers are caught in the middle and often do not measure up to expectations based on formula or pumping rather than direct breastfeeding of their babies.

It is frustrating, but not the end of the story. Not all mothers will abandon breastfeeding based upon the support or lack there of from the Pediatrician. They can change practices or find support elsewhere.

There are flaws in how we teach and support breastfeeding. We need to take a look at why formula sells and change our marketing strategies for breastfeeding so that it makes sense in our modern life.

I'm doing my part on

Lauren Wayne said...

I hear ya. I'm glad to see you're lactation consulting -- mothers need support, and too often there aren't other professionals or family/friends around to give it.

We personally have been fortunate to have a breastfeeding-friendly pediatrician (naturopath), but my experience in a purportedly bf-friendly hospital at the birth made me aware of how much staff can undermine success, particularly at the early stages, by introducing doubt, giving conflicting information, and suggesting formula as the answer to any perceived problem.

And I'm one of the women you mentioned as "find[ing] support elsewhere." I was determined to breastfeed, so I didn't let that early discouraging experience stop me. But it's painful to know that many mothers will, and it can so easily be prevented if physicians would believe the evidence about breastfeeding.

I still can't fathom that so many hospitals see nothing unethical or unhealthful in taking and passing along handouts from formula companies to every mother. I can understand formula being something to offer like a prescription to babies/mamas who truly need it. But for every doctor, every mother, to dispense/receive it -- it's like the hospital handing out cigarettes in the cancer ward because, hey, they were free, and they come with this nifty lighter!

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