Physicians can be wonderful in terms of identifying and preventing health issues in you and your baby. A supportive, knowledgeable physician can be a huge asset in your parenting journey and I always stress the importance of finding someone you trust. But in some health related issues, primary care providers should only be the first contact. Their role is to regulate and coordinate care to specialists when needed. In the case of a breastfeeding issue, the majority of mothers should be referred to a breastfeeding specialist.
Over and over in my interactions with mothers, I hear about physicians and other health care providers who are not referring to breastfeeding specialists and are giving harmful advice about breastfeeding. Yes, there are some physicians who go the extra mile and have the knowledge to help mothers breastfeed, but it is not common.
Asking a primary care provider about a breastfeeding issue is like asking about a dental problem. Primary care providers know about the body and the mouth and may have some personal experience with your particular dental issue. They may have even read a few articles about dental decay and pain. But chances are, your primary care provider has little formal education or evidenced base information regarding your dental issue and how to best manage it.
Some physicians have children whom they have breastfed. They may also have worked with many breastfeeding mothers, but it is rare for a physician to have more than a ½ day training in breastfeeding related issues. Medical schools are just beginning to adopt breastfeeding curricula and some exciting changes are occurring such as a new breastfeeding curriculum for future pediatricians put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But still, many physicians today learn the benefits of breastfeeding, and little about identifying and solving breastfeeding related issues. Source. Source.
IBCLCs are health care providers that specialize in breastfeeding. We spend several hours with each mother/baby dyad and are trained to take a complete physical and medical history and identify any areas that affect breastfeeding. We have thousands of hours of experience and hundreds of hours of specialized breastfeeding education. IBCLCs have been shown again and again to improve breastfeeding rates and help families reach their breastfeeding goals. Source. The Surgeon General’s Call to Action encourages health care providers to ensure access to IBCLCs.
As an IBCLC, I send reports to physicians for each of my clients. Communication with your physician is key in meeting health care goals. If you find yourself questioning your physician’s advice, ask questions, do your own research, be confident and trust your intuition. I encourage all mothers to discuss their experience and the information they are finding with their physician. La Leche League International has some excellent advice for working with your child’s physician.
Do you trust your physician’s breastfeeding advice? Have you asked about his or her breastfeeding education? How has your health care provider hindered or helped your breastfeeding relationship?