Learn the Basics

The Doctor’s Always Right? How to Make the Best Medical Decisions for Yourself and Your Baby

Ah, yes, those people I call my colleagues who are supposed to know it all.  Those healthcare providers who interact with you at your most vulnerable, hormonal, emotional, and fragile stage: new motherhood.

Here is my PSA to any healthcare worker who interacts with a new mother from giving birth to six weeks postpartum:


Unfortunately, I can’t send out this PSA. And most healthcare providers will say they “know” this already, but I work with women who have been destroyed by a well-meaning pediatrician, lactation consultant, nurse, or OB.  We spend months trying to pick up the pieces.

However much I would love to figure out a way to end this madness and make sure that no healthcare provider ever hurts a new mom’s feelings ever again, I can’t.

The best I can do is teach you how to not let them shatter you. Okay? Okay.

Disclaimer: I am not anti-medicine, anti-doctor, anti-ob, or anti-trusting medical advice.  I am an RN first, I believe in hospitals and drugs and surgery, blah blah blah. 

Have you heard these statements before?

“In my medical opinion…”

“My medical advice is…”

“I think we are going to try this drug and see how it works.”

“Judging from the results of this (test, bloodwork, ultrasound, etc.), I think we should…”

This is how every health care professional should start every statement they ever say to you unless they have a 100% conclusive medical diagnosis upon which they are basing their advice. (There are relatively few 100% conclusive medical diagnoses, by the way).

So, a lot of what we, the medical community, do is judgement. It is opinion. It is advice. Based upon our education, certification, experience, and intuition, we know more about this particular topic than you do, so we are going to tell you what to do.

You are a consumer of this service. You choose which doctor to see. You pay him money for his advice (well, you pay the insurance company who pays the doctor way less than he deserves and then makes you pay the rest).

If you went to get your haircut and the stylist said, “I know the perfect hair cut for you! Trust me!” and she proceeded to give you a she-mullet that took you three years to grow out, would you return and pay her money again to cut your hair?

If you went to get a pedicure and the esthetician spent the entire time making remarks about how disgusting your feet were and how you were a terrible human for letting your callouses get so thick, would you leave there hating yourself for being so gross and then return two weeks later for more verbal abuse?

If you went to the mechanic and they found something wrong with your car and he told you that it was your fault for driving the car so much, would you trust him to do the work on your car?

Healthcare is a service, just like any other service. We just happen to be taking care of your body or your child’s body. There is a lot more at stake, yet our standards are so much lower.

So, you may be disliking breastfeeding because of something your healthcare professional said to you. (Note: Each and every one of these statements has been made by a medical professional to a real mother. And each one caused real damage to the mother’s confidence.)

You may be disliking breastfeeding because your doctor implied that you don’t matter one little bit:

“As long as baby is gaining weight, then that is all that matters and breastfeeding is going well” (as you stand there, butt sore, nipples throbbing).

You may be disliking breastfeeding because of some silly non-evidence-based, opinion-based, impractical advice your doctor gave you, which is making your life a living hell:

“If you don’t feed your baby for at least 20 minutes on one breast, he is only getting the low fat, thin foremilk, not the fatty hindmilk, and he won’t gain weight. But, if he nurses for any longer than 25 minutes, he is using you as a pacifier. You don’t want to be a human pacifier, do you?”

(Your baby ate really well for 15 minutes on one breast and is now fast asleep. However, because of this nonsensical, untrue comment from your doctor, you are now certain that the last five minutes that your baby refused to nurse was the only source of life for him. Now he will die. Then, at the following feeding, he nursed for 28 minutes and you are certain you have ruined and spoiled him for letting him pacify. He will never go to college.)

You may be disliking breastfeeding because the doctor foretold your future and sealed your breastfeeding fate:

“Your breasts are tubular-shaped. That means you won’t ever make enough milk.”

(Again, this is bologna. Please don’t look down your shirt to see if you have tubular-shaped breasts).

So, how do you protect yourself from the torment of your well-meaning, trustworthy medical caregiver?

1. Choose wisely, then choose again.

Get recommendations from friends. Find out why they love their healthcare provider. Go meet that provider and see if you agree with your friend. If you don’t, go ask another friend and see if you agree with her. Change healthcare providers until you find one you like.  Afterall, how many hairstylists have you had? I have had six and I hope my current stylist never, ever leaves me.

2. Seek opinion.

I mean, know that this is opinion, not a proclamation from Heaven. Take it or leave it. The scariest thing is that you are ultimately responsible for your child’s well-being, not the doctor. So, you get to chose when to take your baby to the doctor. You get to choose if you are actually going to fill the antibiotic prescription and you have to decide if you are going to give it to your kid.

If a doctor says something, rather than immediately accepting it as truth, listen. Ask a few questions, jot down some notes, then process it for a moment. Thank the doctor for his time and opinion, then go home and decide what your opinion is.

3. Think about it, research it, and get another opinion if necessary. 

Once you come home with this medical advice, do some research carefully on the Internet. Ask yourself if it makes sense and what the pros and cons of implementing this advice would be. If you are feeling conflicted or unsure, seek a second opinion. Yes. A second opinion. Pay another guy who knows more about medicine than you to tell you what he thinks you should do. Because this is all opinion, get it?

4. Know his specialty (and what he isn’t so special at).

A lot of people tell me that they chose their pediatrician because he was breastfeeding-friendly. Really? I chose my pediatrician because he knows how to diagnose strep throat and I don’t. I trust my pediatrician’s medical advice. He is not a breastfeeding specialist, an IBCLC is. He isn’t a sleep specialist. I can buy 15 books on that written by specialists. He isn’t a GI specialist. I will hop over to A.I. DuPont for that one.

But a lot of healthcare providers are expected to be jacks of all trades. They can spew out some basic breastfeeding, sleep, and GI knowledge, but that doesn’t mean this is the best, most up-to-date and evidence-based information. They simply don’t have the time to be specialists of everything.

Seek out the specialist. 

soapboxSpeaking of specialist, I am going to go on a tiny rant about the breastfeeding world.

We lactation people are not all created equally. Many of us have “IBCLC” behind our names, which we means we passed a rigorous exam proving we have the booby book smarts, but that doesn’t mean we are all good at our jobs.

So, I say this to you.  If you have an encounter with a “lactation specialist” (if you want to make sure you are seeing a real deal expert, read here) you should leave the encounter feeling as follows:


  • Hopeful
  • Empowered
  • Educated
  • In less pain
  • Like you were part of the planning process
  • Comforted
  • Listened to
  • Supported
  • Connected
  • Like you can replicate what happened in the office on your own
  • Clear about what the next steps are

If you don’t feel all of these things, seek another IBCLC. Then seek another. Then another. Don’t give up on breastfeeding just because you feel like your IBCLC was worthless or, worst of all, like she gave up on you.

It is easy to enjoy breastfeeding! Just don’t get trapped in one of these ten common pitfalls.  😉

Currently nursing?

Come see me or one of my fabulous colleagues at The Birth Center in Wilmington, DE. Let us take the time to teach you about your own unique baby and breastfeeding relationship during a one on one consultation.