What If Breastfeeding Problems Were Treated By Doctors Like Erectile Dysfunction?
I know from experience that when breastfeeding is difficult, the main response from doctors and lactation consultants is to tell the mother to try harder.
When my first son had a tongue tie, the doctor refused to cut it. When my son refused to latch because there wasn't enough milk, everyone shrugged their shoulders.
For the next baby, I went to a doctor who specializes in breastfeeding and a lactation consultant who understood the issues that I was facing. With their medical knowledge, I was able to breastfeed and supplement simultaneously which was a success for me.
But few women are in downtown Toronto with access to such knowledge. And few doctors have the knowledge to help. An article: "Is the Medical Community Failing Breastfeeding Women?" in Time, explores whether or not the medical community needs to look at breastfeeding in a more medicalized way. Maybe, treat it like erectile dysfunction, for instance.
At this point doctors treat breastfeeding as some kind of voodoo that is best discussed in a red tent. But it is part of the human body, and science could be used to help. For instance, if a woman doesn't have enough milk, they can test her hormone and thyroid levels. If she says her mother also had milk issues, a doctor can look at a genetic component. But it rarely happens.
In comparison, if men can't get it up, their hormone levels are tested immediately. Of course, there is also a profit-driven pharma industry that can help out if need be. Other than the formula manufacturers, who has a vested interest in breastfeeding on a societal level?
Unfortunately, doctors receive minimal training in medical school (and beyond) about breastfeeding. Nurses in the hospital are often filled with contradictory advice and lactation consultants are well-meaning but sometimes their vigilance comes off as blame.
All of this adds up to women being made to feel like it is their fault if breastfeeding doesn't work.
Breastfeeding lies outside of an obstetrician area (literally) and while pediatricians want breastfeeding to work, they aren't going to lay their hands all over the mother. So who's job is it to help understand why breastfeeding doesn't work?
The U.S. is slowly adding breastfeeding curricula to doctors' education thanks to pressure from some specialists. Dr. Amy Evans, a pediatrician and one of the few members of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, said: “We’re in the early phases of what I’m hoping in the next five to 10 years will be more appreciated and more considered a real subspecialty,” says Evans. “It’s a whole new area of medicine.”
(It's interesting that she said it is a whole new area of medicine, when breastfeeding has been around a lot longer than erectile dysfunction was ever diagnosed.)
I love this idea of a fourth trimester. This would make all post-partum issues, including breastfeeding, pain, bleeding and depression fit under the auspices of a doctor. Midwives are setting the example here, and are definitely better at treating post-partum as a regular part of pregnancy; it seems that many OBs just wash their hands of you once you have popped out the baby.
Hopefully that is changing. Men got their little blue pill, we women are just looking for a little support and respect.
Did you have problems breastfeeding? Do you think doctors could do a better job of understanding breastfeeding (and supporting women)?
Want more chaos? Last year, I considered the option of blackmailing my kids with their school photos.