How Doctors Treat Breastfeeding Issues

Are Doctors Doing Enough to Help With Breastfeeding Problems?

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"We just give women a pat on the head and tell them their kids will be fine," if they don't breastfeed, says Dr. Alison Stuebe, an OB who treats breast-feeding problems in North Carolina. "Can you imagine if we did that to men with erectile dysfunction?"

This question is one of many valid questions posed in this Time article, which takes a close look at how doctors treat, and fail to treat, women with breastfeeding problems.

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Why is it that we're so willing to see problems such as erectile dysfunction as medically based and medically treatable, but, when it comes to breastfeeding, the failure of a woman to adequately feed her baby is rarely seen as a valid medical issue?

If a man can't get an erection, doctors don't tell him he's not trying hard enough. They give him a physical and often a prescription. Yet, too often, when a woman can't breastfeed, her problems are viewed as a problem that can be solved by moral support, technique coaching or a human milk substitute in powder form.

The reason for this, Dr. Stuebe surmises, lies in the fact that relatively few doctors are trained in human lactation. Stuebe attributes this to culture. Today's medical school teachers, the so-called experts, were trained in a time when breastfeeding was not popular.

And where physicians fall short, lactation consultants try to pick up the slack. But lactation consultants often do so from the perspective that any woman with the right intentions can breastfeed. Possible medical reasons behind breastfeeding problems are rarely considered.

Keep reading to see what doctors are doing.

This belief, that all women are capable of breastfeeding, can put undue pressure on women to breastfeed without offering some of them any real solutions.

"Because the complexities of lactation failure are so little studied and so often misunderstood, women can often feel that they are at fault, rather feeling like they are suffering from a medical issue for which they need and deserve professional help."

Thankfully, according to the article, things might be changing.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine (ABM) has been lobbying to get breastfeeding "issues" included on obstetric and gynecology, and pediatrics exams. It's also mentioned in the article that the Affordable Healthcare Act "advises" health insurance to provide "comprehensive lactation support and counseling, by a trained provider" to pregnant and or postpartum women, as well as covering the costs of renting any breastfeeding accessories.

I'm pretty stunned to learn that so few doctors are properly trained in human lactation. I know so many women who have suffered, some who continue to suffer, with an inability to breastfeed their babies and the universal sense of failure that goes along with that inability.

That something so integral to the human experience, much like sex and reproduction, is given so little medical consideration is truly a crime.

I'm glad people like Dr. Stuebe and the ABM are paying attention.

Did your doctors take your breastfeeding concerns seriously?

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