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Supporting Moms in Their Quest to Breastfeed

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

A recent article in Archives of Pediatrics reviewed pediatrician’s attitudes, knowledge and practices surrounding breastfeeding. They looked at surveys pediatricians completed in 1995 and 2004 and compared the results. It was interesting that in spite of increased knowledge and even personal experience with breastfeeding, pediatrician’s attitudes toward breastfeeding have deteriorated between 1995 and 2004.

But, concurrent with the drop in pediatrician’s attitudes, breastfeeding rates in the U.S. have actually been on the rise. This may be due to other factors such as hospital policy and support for nursing mothers. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life, and recommends continuing breastfeeding along with solid foods, until one year of age.

The take home message for me is that we pediatricians need to continue to support new mothers in their quest to successfully breastfeed. For some mothers (I was not one of these) breastfeeding just happens, and is easily established, but for others it is “on the job training” and requires a village to get the your-baby to the breast. My friends who already had babies laughed at me when I “wondered if my milk was in?” as this is not something you learn in medical school or residency. They were all correct; you will know when it does! But practice, practice, practice will usually get even the most stubborn your-baby to the breast and for most mothers breast feeding gets going and all is well.

That being said, there are mothers who do not feel comfortable breastfeeding, or have inadequate milk supply and the your-baby is not gaining weight, or have post partum complications that impede breast feeding. In my opinion, it is my job as their pediatrician, to support new parents (and I guess in this case, specifically the mother) in her decision to breastfeed or not.

The most important factor for any newborn is maternal-infant bonding. That bonding comes with a sense of maternal well-being, and a mother should NOT be “guilted” into breastfeeding if she chooses otherwise. Parenting is a long haul, and this issue is just the first of many that does not have a 100% right answer. One size does not fit all.

That’s your daily dose, we’ll chat again tomorrow.

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