There is a phrase, “The customer is always right.” It’s silly, I know, because we all know that it isn’t true—but it speaks volumes about how you are supposed to treat those who are paying you for services. The one place that doesn’t roll over to this idea is the medical community. It amazes me how many doctors are out there giving terrible, outdated, or flat-out wrong information. I get it: doctors are humans, and humans make mistakes—but shouldn’t there be some ongoing training happening? Are we expecting too much from them? Are they spread too thin? What is the issue?
Those in the infertility community have a mistrust of doctors that seems to start fairly early. You learn to do your own research, question everything, advocate for yourself, and push back when you feel that the advice you’re being given is wrong. My very own OB, whom I adore, sent me off with a pack of Clomid to do an unmonitored cycle—which, as any infertile knows, is not typically recommended for a multitude of reasons, like OHSS.
I was let down again when my son was born. His latch wasn’t just uncomfortable, but toe-curling, blistering painful. He was seen by two pediatricians, two International Board Certified Lactation Consultants (IBCLCs), but I was the one to diagnose his tongue tie by comparing photos in a Facebook group. I was referred to an ENT, who snipped the anterior tie, but completely missed the posterior tongue tie and dismissed my concerns of the lip tie. The pain continued for months. I fought it because I wanted to breastfeed. I supplemented, I pumped, I cried, then finally found someone who could help me. One very short but very expensive procedure saved my nursing relationship with my son. Something that could have been done the day we left the hospital took three months to diagnose, all because the medical professionals I thought I could trust didn’t know what to do and never admitted as much.
I hear horror stories of pediatricians who have little to no knowledge of breastfeeding mechanics, telling mothers their breasts are “too small,” “too big,” or that their babies aren’t “getting enough” because they aren’t within the 90th percentile. (This one infuriates me to no end… that’s NOT HOW PERCENTILES WORK.) Doctors who recommend night weaning because the baby “doesn’t need it anymore,” without taking into consideration that a working mother needs that nighttime stimulation to keep up her supply. Doctors who have outright said there is no benefit to breastfeeding after the first six weeks, even though WHO and AAP recommend a minimum of six months (and then to continue as long as it is mutually desired by the mother–baby dyad).
These same doctors seem to be sticking to their guns about introducing rice cereals to infants well before they are ready for solids. Cereals aren’t bad, but there are some things you should know about them. Starting your child on solids is a big deal, and there is no single “right way” to do it, but please go into it informed about how your decisions can potentially affect your child. The “Open Gut” theory was something that no one had ever mentioned to me before, and certainly not my pediatrician!*
Then there are women who are told they can’t continue to breastfeed or must “pump and dump” after surgeries, even if the medications they have been given are safe for breastfeeding mothers according to the Infant Risk Center or LactMed. Luckily, I see plenty of mothers asking for help and confirmation from support groups—but what about those that are blindly following their doctor’s lead because, after all, they are supposed to be the experts? Why aren’t these doctors collaborating with lactation consultants or pharmacists about the safety of medications? Shouldn’t there be some cross-talk within the medical community? Would it be so difficult to get the information before passing it along to the patient just because “that’s the way it’s always been done?”
And don’t even get me started on bed-sharing. This is drilled into your head as the worst thing you could possibly do by most pediatricians when, in reality, bed-sharing is the norm in about 67% of the cultures around the world. I would bet that around 98% of our readers have brought their baby into their bed at some point, for some length of time. If you’re breastfeeding, bed-sharing is a great way to keep your sanity, get more sleep, and keep up your supply if you are back to work and pumping during the day. Dr. James McKenna is the leading expert on mother–baby sleeping; why aren’t more doctors referring to his 25 years of research in the field before scaring you to death? Why are we so quick to say, “Don’t ever do it!” instead of, “Here’s how to safely bed-share with your baby?” Wouldn’t that be more productive?
I don’t claim to be an expert, but some of the doctors I’ve seen (especially when what you’re asking about is a little outside of their specialty) aren’t either. I love being able to turn to a forum of people who’ve had similar situations or problems and can share their research. That’s what is so great about the Internet. There are million and millions of experiences, studies, reports, and even blogs to help you make the best choices for your family.
I’m not saying your doctor doesn’t always know best. But with so much information available at our fingertips, I’m advocating that we research something instead of always following our doctor’s advice, if for no other reason than to be able to have intelligent conversations with our doctors and make informed choices.
What about you? Has your doctor ever missed something? Were you ever given wrong information? How did you find out?
*Disclaimer: This is not to say that there aren’t situations that warrant the early introduction of solids. When weight gain is a true concern, the benefits of starting solids early can definitely outweigh the risks of starting solids before baby is showing readiness signs. Bottom line: Extreme cases do exist and I am not including them. Please feed your baby—that is the most important thing.