I am happy repost this article by Betsy Shaw, which appeared on the Baby Center blog on January 7th, 2013

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.

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.
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 post-partum 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.

I would love to hear some comments from you.

Did your doctors take your breastfeeding concerns seriously?

Do you feel you were taken seriously by your lactation consultant?

You can scroll down to read some of the responses.

  1. Jennifer H. says:
    January 7, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I thought I had it all figured out before I left the hospital. But soon started having trouble afterwards. I saw a lactation consultant ( LC ) but couldn’t keep up the regimen of feed then pump after plus eat oatmeal and take supplements everyday. I did it for two days before I gave up and focused on making sure my son was eating. I was sad, but knew I had done my best. If there was something else I could have done I would have. The only problem I had doctor-wise or hospital wise was I don’t feel they made it clear enough that a problem might develop with breastfeeding for me. I apparently lost a lot of blood during my c-section, and supposedly I was told this, but I don’t remember. I was told this information later by my mother-in-law ( who’s a nurse) and who was with me and my husband that night. The LC said that could have contributed to why my milk flow was low and never ramped up. I hope I’ll be able to try again when I have #2 someday.

  2. HappyHippie says:
    January 7, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    My problems were taken very seriously by the nurses at the hospital and by the lactation professionals who came to my hospital room and followed up after I went home. Luckily, these wonderful women were able to help me work through the issues I was having, but they had a list of lactation-specialized doctors who they were going to refer me to the next day if things still weren’t working. I was very fortunate to have very good insurance and live in a large city with several medical universities. Most women just don’t have that kind of access!

  3. Brooke says:
    January 7, 2013 at 5:23 pm

    I owe my breastfeeding success to my son’s pediatricians office. They encouraged me to stick with it even when my son’s jaundice was going downhill fast and my milk felt like it was never going to come in. There was a lactation consultant on staff and a glider and bobby pillow in every exam room. There are so many pediatricians visits in the first few weeks and every visit I was encouraged to breastfeed and given time to voice my concerns and my problems. It was a great environment. My OB and PCP were supportive, but not at all interested in listening to my concerns.

  4. Michelina says:
    January 7, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Well, unlike erectile dysfunction, there is a pretty simple remedy for feeding a baby – formula. That being said, I ended up exclusively pumping for 6+ months because I could not get my baby to latch even with support from doctors, nurses and lactation consultants. Breast milk is best but thank God for formula, it is not poison, it grows fat, happy, healthy babies too and women should not feel ashamed to use it :)

    • January 8, 2013 at 5:13 am

      You make a good point. Imagine if there were some product offered to men to use in place of their own “equipment.” A supplemental sex enhancer, just as good as the real thing….

  5. JW says:
    January 7, 2013 at 6:28 pm

    My primary care doc patted me on the head and told me “we aren’t all cut out to work on the dairy farm” when I voiced my nursing concerns at my daughters 5 day appt. He also dismissed my concerns over my daughter looking jaundiced.

    Needless to say we called another clinic as we walked out the door! The current clinic and pediatrician we have are wonderful and always supported us through breast feeding, teething, vaccines and everything in between. We love them!

    Thank goodness for our current pediatrician and the lactation consultants! They are a big part of why I kept at the breast feeding despite difficulties! Support system is a huge success factor and I wish more docs were better educated on the topic.

  6. Mel says:
    January 7, 2013 at 7:36 pm

    My OB asked how breastfeeding was going and I told her it was not going well. She smiled and said that it is usually difficult for the first little while. She is an awesome doctor and I’m sure she thought that the lactation consultants at the hospital had been to my room but they never came although I asked for them SEVERAL times. I was told by my very pro breastfeeding pediatrician to see a LC but was not told where to go or any additional information. However they have formula samples and advertisements everywhere you turn. Luckily I found help on my own and went on to breastfeed my daughter for 2 years. Now I have been breastfeeding my infant son exclusively for 4 1/2 months and will hopefully continue for at least a couple years. So, they can say that there is another option, formula, but they at least owe us the decency to get as much help as we need/want before handing us those samples. It’s totally backwards. Make it easy to get formula and difficult to get breastfeeding support.

  7. Jimena says:
    January 7, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    My ob did not touch on the subject and the nurses although they tried to help ended up giving my daughter formula after she hasn’t nursed in her first 24 hrs. It was really upsetting bc they gave her too much and she threw it up and ended being taken away from me for even longer!!! Luckily the lc at the hospital were great and brought me a pump while we tried to figure out the bf. they even called me a few weeks after I left the hospital to see how things were going. With their help by my daughter’s second month we were exclusively bf. but that was all my determination and the lc’s … The doctors (ped or ob) were not involved or showed any support

  8. smith207 says:
    January 7, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    I remember being in the hospital the day after my son was born and the lactation consultant and the pediatrician arguing about whether or not my son needed a bottle of formula. While me the clueless new mom cried with no idea who was giving me the correct advice.

    Then I promptly switched pediatricians- I literally starting calling doctors listed on my insurance plan while I was in the hospital recovering with my 1-day old son.

    My new ped is a small practice of 5 female doctors and 2 nurses who are all certified lactation consultants. When my son was 2 weeks old I finally got the breasfeeding support I should have had from the beginning.

    The good news is some doctors make it a priority, but in my experience most do not and you have to seek those folks out.

  9. amy says:
    January 7, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Not all lactation consultants are the same. We had very supportive pediatricians, but the lactation consultant with my first child was obnoxious: very lecturing and actually quite harsh with me, telling me, “you know, you have to feed the baby, don’t you?” I hated that belligerent whale. My milk wasn’t coming in, she was getting a latch, but I still wasn’t making enough milk, so they brought in a special pump, and eventually we started suplementing with formula because of the weightloss. When I saw the outpatient LC, she was so much nicer and never once treated my like an idiot who simply couldn’t follow instructions. As it turns out, she examined me, asked me if there’d been any breast changes over the course of the pregnancy (no) and said that I simply didn’t have enough mammary tissue to produce adequate milk. I still pumped and produced a total of 8 oz/daily (20 minutes of pumping 8 times/day, both sides) to give to my babies for a few months before drying up. I mean, you can keep up the regimen, get the latch, take the supplements, pump all you want, but if your body still won’t make enough, what can you do? You can’t keep making the baby latch when there’s nothing in there and they get tired and frustrated from trying so hard, in the hopes that their latching and starving will magically cause your mammary glands to produce. At some point, the weightloss experienced by the newborn is dangerous and you have to ask yourself if making the baby go hungry like that is really good for their brain and development in the hopes that magical breast milk, that is so much better, will more than make up for the harm that was done when they were going hungry. I think the peer pressure of the bf community puts women in the position of shame about getting the help they need because they fear being ostracised for their inability to “perform”. It’s disgusting and harmful to treat anyone that way.

    Doctors and the breastfeeding community need to acknowledge that some women just don’t have adequate equipment, instead of blaming them, and also stop saying stuff like, “I guess your baby will be all right even though you have to use formula”. As if the next 17 years of parenting are just awash if you don’t start off with breast milk. That is so ridiculous. I know someone who said that they were so upset about a bottle switch happened at daycare because, “it was the only time he’d ever had formula”. Really?! You know what I’d be upset about in a bottle switch? Hepatitis C or whatever contagion was incubating in another kid’s bottle. Formula itself isn’t inherently dangerous, but I swear, some people get so obsessed with themselves they lose all common sense and perspective. Breast milk is not a cure-all elixir. Breastfeeding alone isn’t going to make up for that level of stupid.

  10. Sarah Martin says:
    January 7, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    My first son would not latch again after his circumcision. I tried for a while to breastfeed (when we got home) but finally gave up and formula fed. The pump I had was cheap and awful so formula was my only recourse. When I got pregnant with my second son I was determined to breastfeed. We did not circumcise this time and I stuck to it even though it was difficult. He is a slow nurser and takes his good old time. I bought a better pump (even though I hate pumping…hurts) and tried to bottle feed milk thinking that might be faster but he drinks a bottle very slowly too. So I gave up the pump and went back to just the breast. He is almost 10 months old now and I’m still nursing. I never thought I’d make it this far. A friend who nursed 3 of her kids really helped me by answering my gazillion questions. If I hadn’t had that support and her wise counsel I wouldn’t have made it. I would have given up. But aside from the first week which was hard it has been pretty smooth sailing ever since. Although my baby still takes his good old time when nursing.

  11. Jen says:
    January 7, 2013 at 9:14 pm

    My milk did not come in until day 11. Thank goodness for the nurse whom suggested that I take domperidone amongst doing other things to help supply. My LO is nearly 3 months and we are ebfing and she has nearly doubled her birth weight. I cried for the first 11 days, mourning the possibility that I could not nourish my baby. I am very happy with where we are at now.

  12. Gramma Kim says:
    January 7, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    I was fortunate at a time when breastfeeding was just coming back into popularity to share my maternity room with an old-fashioned country mom who had just given birth to her 7th child. At that time it was old-fashioned to breastfeed, but the La Leche League was becoming active, and could be somewhat militant. There were no certified lactation counsellors, just volunteers from LLL. I had the contact info for LLL but after talking with volunteers a few times I shied away from them. They were too political. I just wanted to feed my baby. I didn’t have any problems, though, thanks to the country mom giving me solid advice in the hospital. It was especially difficult dealing with the pain of chapping, but on her advice and example, I kept my baby nursing almost constantly for the first 48 hours, except when baby slept. That mom was right — it “toughened” the skin and there was no pain on the third day. But my baby had a good latch, and my milk came in full. Another thing that helped was that my mom breastfed all her kids, so I saw it while growing up — she was considered very old-fashioned by all the other moms of the time, but her mom, too, had breastfed during the time that women were just beginning to prefer formula, and Grandma was suspicious of bottle feeding. I had moved far from home before I had kids, but Mom was there for a couple weeks after my baby was born, and gave practical help. Looking back on it, that’s probably how women dealt with and truly supported nursing from ancient times. After all, if there weren’t solutions to breastfeeding problems the human race couldn’t have survived.

  13. Kate says:
    January 8, 2013 at 12:28 am

    I really wanted to breastfeed. Really, really. Badly. Milk came in on time, and had more than enough, but babe wasn’t interested. He would cry unconsolably every time I tried to latch him.

    Three lacation consultants, a dozen nursing sisters, countless physios, and three doctors a month later, he still didn’t want to latch. Expressed for a month, but after cracked nipples, zero sleep, and two bouts of mastitus in both breasts, I threw in the towel. People talk about sleep deprivation, but they don’t talk about the double sleep deprivation of the ‘expressers’ (wake to feed, rock and settle (an hour), and then start pumping and cleaning and sterilising (another hour), and then start again an hour later). All the experts said I shouldn’t use a bottle, so was tube feeding him which takes forever. I think I held that stupid pump more than I did my baby in those first few weeks.

    The response of all the specialists? ‘Try harder’, ‘try again’, ‘keep trying’, ‘you are doing everything right, couldn’t say why’, ‘just relax’, ‘shift your weight 10% to the left, and move him an inch to the right’, ‘come on mommy’, ‘it’s part of his personality and you will have to deal with it at sometime’ (sorry, but are you expecting me to reason with or discipline a one week old??)

    It was only when I took him to a osteopath for colic that she told me that it was very likely that he had some sort of pinched nerve in his neck which was very likely referring to his jaw, and it was probably quite sore for him to suck (bottles are much easier). It was the first time that someone had given me a medical reason as opposed to a ‘not trying hard enough reason’.

    I felt so bad forgiving up breastfeeding, and all the specialists were dissapointed too. But you know, yes, breast is best, but a Mom who is sane, rested, feeling good about herself and what she is doing for her baby is FAR more important.

  14. marketa says:
    January 8, 2013 at 3:25 am

    After three months of hell, a new nurse who was covering my ‘breastfeeding specialist’ class one week, spotted that my baby was 75 % tounge tie!!! Since her treatment everything settled and I could carry on. But I saw a couple of doctors, health visitors and I upset me to think that nobody bother to check this earlier.

  15. Maria says:
    January 8, 2013 at 3:42 am

    I really wish this article had been written 6 months ago. I put myself through hell trying to make breastfeeding work. I never had good milk production – I also had a c-section and lost a lot of blood, almost requiring a transfusion. I had no idea that could affect my milk! I fed as often as my daughter wanted to eat, pumped, tried supplements, even made the ‘lactation cookies’ that my doctor gave me a recipe for. Nothing. Someone suggested acupunture, but I drew the line there. Then felt like a terrible mom for not trying EVERYTHING. I came close to quitting many times, but would chicken out, thinking that maybe the next day would be better. At 10 wks my daughter was given the dreaded ‘failure to thrive’ and that was when I finally gave in to formula. Now I have a beautiful, HAPPY, thriving 6 month old little girl. Thank you so very much for writing this and thank you to the commenters for sharing your stories. I can’t tell you how much better you made me feel!!



  1. Maggie says:
    January 8, 2013 at 4:09 am

    Some women just don’t produce enough milk and no amount of pumping, supplements or oatmeal will correct that. That has been the case with my first, and now I’m discovering the same issue with my second child. My pediatrician and LC both agree that it’s most important for the baby to get the nutrition that he needs, and if I don’t have enough milk, then formula is REQUIRED. I wish people would stop making moms feel bad for having difficulty breastfeeding or choosing not to. What’s most important is a healthy baby, it’s almost as if they’ve forgotten about that. You know, before formula they used wet nurses.

  2. Meg says:
    January 8, 2013 at 5:07 am

    When my son was born, I saw a lactation consultant at the hospital for a whole five minutes, and the nurses gave me conflicting advice (and in some cases, not good advice). My OB-GYN wasn’t very helpful either. I just got told that the pain I was having was from a poor latch, but I could tell that wasn’t it. I finally figured it out from articles on LLL’s website, and after that, just looked there for answers instead of asking anyone. It was all very frustrating. My son is nearly 2 and still nurses at bedtime, and I attribute this to my own stubbornness.

  3. Lia says:
    January 8, 2013 at 5:33 am

    I think that it is way better to receive a friendly pat and a formula prescription than to have a fanatic breastfeeding pediatrician who refuses to advise you on formula when you breasfeed for 20 days for hours on a row and the baby still cries all day and does not take adequate weight. Which is currently my sister’s case and I feel miserable for her (and she is miserable too of course). It is her third child and she never managed to breastfeed previously, even though she did try -and she still tries with her third. My own baby was crying for 3 weeks and we thought he was collicky, when I got lucky to find a really good pediatrician who explained he was hungry. I was starving my son for one month, despites the breastfeeding marathones. We started supplementing with formula and never looked back.
    I just cannot understand this “shut up and breastfeed your baby” mentality. It only results with a mother in agony and a starved baby. Where I live, formula used to be considered just fine and there was no “universal guilt” as you put it, until recently . Now we have this trend to humiliate mothers because they cannot breastfeed succesfully.
    My point is, if you don’t know why I cannot breastfeed, and if you cannot actually help me do it right for my baby, please give me the pat on the back any day.

    • January 8, 2013 at 6:08 am

      Thanks for offering us another side of the coin.

  4. Beth says:
    January 8, 2013 at 5:57 am

    It would be nice it Drs were a little more knowledgeable. Like breast feeding, they know little to nothing about female sexual dysfunction! I know that my trouble came from returning to work at 7 weeks. I powered through until DS weaned at 14 months., Ladies, do the best you can, but don’t feel ashamed if you need to use other means to feed your child. That is much more important than getting boobie medals!

  5. Ann H says:
    January 8, 2013 at 6:06 am

    I worked for months, MONTHS, with my lactation consultant the first time around. Our first doctor brushed off weight gain issues and really wouldn’t work with me on it, until we spend a very difficult afternoon at a Children’s hospital.

    We tried everything to increase my supply. We did home remedies, over the counter supplements, and two prescription drugs. One was approved by the FDA, but had horrible side effects. It worked, but at the cost of extreme exhaustion and some depression. The second drug was not FDA approved, I had to get from a special pharmacy and was not covered by insurance. At $100 per prescription, although it worked, we switched to formula since the cost was about the same.

    That is part of the problem – there ARE prescription drugs out there that will help, ones with few side effects and are safe for mom and baby. But the FDA hasn’t gotten around to approving them yet.

    It was a frustrating experience for me, one that left me upset and guilt ridden for a long time. Now I am due any day with #2 and hoping for the best, but know that if I have to supplement or fully formula feed, so be it.

    I wish there was more support – and I had great experience with my lactation consultant. I just hope that others also have good resources.

  6. Julius says:
    January 8, 2013 at 6:32 am

    Just a follow-up to comment #18- my mom’s late friend was the grandmother to a child that starved to death because breastfeeding wasn’t working and the parents and I suppose doctors didn’t know better. These were not neglectful people. It was a different age where they didn’t monitor baby’s growth as much.

    Maybe doctor’s offering formula are just being cautious. Their biggest concern was baby getting fed.