Question Everything Except Your Instincts

I remember being so excited to finally go to work and tell everyone “I’m pregnant!” We had been trying for a few months and so when it happened it was hard to keep quiet. We wanted to wait until we had heard the heartbeat. This took about 4 months. The day we finally heard it and could come out to the world was the day I became someone new. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of unsolicited advice that was about to come my way for the next 9 months. I was even less prepared for how this advice not only didn’t stop once my son was born, but actually quadrupled. While pregnant the piece of advice I heard the most was “get the epidural.” It went from there to “never sleep with your baby,” “supplement with formula,” and “get on a schedule.”

I don’t know who is reading this, but if you don’t already know, this is terrible advice. I heard this from countless mothers, but I don’t blame them. Every last piece of bad advice I have received up until this moment has come from doctors. And I know this is why women pass along this information. We want to help each other. We trust doctors to tell us the god’s honest truth. We are taught that doctors have the final say in our lives—in our children’s lives. I remember being a child and being “talked to” by doctors. One time this doctor said to me “turn around and face me.” I was sitting sideways in the chair after being poked and prodded by him. He stood in front of me and looked down at me in the chair. He proceeded to lecture me on, well, I don’t even remember. He did a terrible job of connecting with me; he talked down to me, literally and figuratively, and he made me feel small. He acted like he was an authority figure over me. This is pretty common. This is how doctors think of themselves and how we have come to see them. Authority figures.

Dr. Minkus: Breastfeeding Friendly Physician Award

Another time, after my son was born and before we found a wonderful doctor who understands he is a support and a guide not an authority figure, we were at a wellness visit. I had some questions about vaccinations. This doctor grew the dirtiest look on her face and proceeded to tell me in not so many words that I had no right to question her about her advice. I felt so horrible and confused because my instincts were telling me one thing and this horrible person who thought she was king of my son’s life was telling me another. If a doctor has ever even one time made you question your instincts and doesn’t make you feel like the world’s best Mom every visit then I suggest that right this second you stand up and get the hell out of that office and find one that does. They are out there. I promise you.

You are a good mother. Your questions are valid. When you feel something is wrong then it is. When what your doctor is telling you feels like an emotional struggle then it is not right for you. We’ve been duped. Doctors do not know everything. They are often operating from information that is outdated or biased. They operate from a standpoint of “this is how it has always been done” or “this is what we were taught in medical school.” Mamas, it’s time for us to take the power back. Mothers have been parenting by instinct since the dawn of time. We have never needed an “authority figure” to tell us what is right for our baby. We know this in our bones, our souls and our spirits. We were born with this knowledge and it is time we tap into that. We are in control of what we decide is best. We have been taught that we need men, doctors, science and education. While these are wonderful things in their own right they are absolutely unnecessary when deciding how to care for our young. If we truly needed this to survive then there would be no other species than ours on the planet. Question the mainstream information coming at you from books, television shows, other mothers and your doctor. Question everything.

I can also tell you with certainty that the majority of doctors are NOT TAUGHT ABOUT BREASTFEEDING IN MEDICAL SCHOOL. This has been revealed by several breastfeeding friendly pediatricians including Dr. Jen 4 Kids. This is real. This is the truth. This should scare the shit out of you. The bad ones will recommend formula. The good ones will refer you to a lactation consultant. The great ones have gone out of their way to learn about breastfeeding for you and these are doctors you should look for. We need doctors. I’m not suggesting we don’t, but you deserve one who cares enough to learn about what’s best for your baby and treat you like you are king of the world. Because to your baby that is exactly who you are.

Abby Theuring, MSW

About Abby Theuring

The Badass Breastfeeder is a mother, writer, social worker, attachment parent, proud breastfeeder and advocate. Her career as a social worker has shown her that gentle and connected parenting is vital for life-long emotional health. You can find her blog at www.thebadassbreastfeeder.com and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheBadassBreastfeeder.

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14 comments

  1. It is so important for mothers to support and encourage each other to trust our instincts, so thank you for this post!

    We have now had two incidents with doctors trying to force and bully us into procedures on our daughter that every bone in my body was screaming against. When she was 4 days old and we were first learning how to breastfeed, I had a moment when I thought I had literally drowned her with my over active letdown. I started panicking that she may have inhaled some milk and read all about dry drowning on the internets, and worked myself up so much I had to bring her into the ER. They took her temp, hooked her up to an oxygenation monitor, and everything was fine. Normal. A nurse practitioner came in and said she wanted to do a full sepsis workup, including a catheter, chest X-ray, and iv. No. No no no! I explained why each procedure was unnecessary and unacceptable. She left in a huff and sent a nurse back with AMA paperwork and discharged us. The next day a social worker from CPS showed up on our doorstep and said we had to return to the hospital and get the procedures done. The doctors threatened to diagnose our daughter with failure to thrive unless we complied with the procedures. We entered a standoff-we refused utterly to comply or let them touch our daughter, they refused to let us leave the hospital with our daughter so we stayed at the hospital until our pediatrician came back on duty. I trusted my gut. I fought for my daughter. My husband fought just as hard. We didn’t blink in the face of all their threats and we were finally allowed to go home 2 days later with the CPS case dismissed. It was a brutal introduction to what it means to be a parent, but I’m glad I learned those lessons early and my daughter was not subjected to their poking and prodding.

  2. I’ve seen a lot of comments about ‘what the doctor says’. My husband and I used this mentality to our favor many times with my in-laws. When they would doubt one of our decisions we would always reply that it was our pediatrician’s idea (regardless of whether or not that was true). This pretty much always worked.

  3. This is why WIC is so valuable. They are very knowledgeable and supportive when it comes to breastfeeding. I have found it to be so helpful – it helped me to exclusively breastfeed my baby for a year. If you qualify for WIC, definitely go to your nearest clinic to sign up. It sounds like I am preaching about WIC, but it’s so worth it!

    • I’ve learned even at WIC you have to be careful. I was just told at my local WIC office last week that I need to start giving my daughter (11.5 months) whole milk after she turns one later this month. I said that I plan to continue to breastfeed, to which she replied my daughter should only be nursing 1-2 times a day or when I felt like it after 1 year. Obviously, I do not plan on taking her advice.

  4. I was actually please with one of my pediatrician’s recommendations. He told me to take a dietary supplement called momMaid. It was made by a doctor and nurse practitioner. I found it on vitaherbal.org. Wow! My baby was actually underweight because I had not been producing enough good quality (hind) milk. After just two days of taking this stuff I noticed I was pumping a lot of nice white (not watery) milk. My baby was 10th percentile for weight and then shot up to 50th after just two weeks!!! I am so relieved!!!

  5. I’ve always been told to trust my instincts, and I’m glad I did. Thankfully, my ped has always been pro breastfeeding as my mom had him as her ped with myself and two siblings. She breastfed in the 80’s and early 90’s past one year.
    A co worker of mine was determined to breastfeed her daughter in the 70’s. The docs kept telling her to only feed her baby every 4 hours and told her that she needed to supplement when her daughter wasn’t gaining weight and angry all the time. Finally a good friend of hers told her very bluntly “if she cries PUT A BOOB IN HER MOUTH!” problem solved.

  6. Thank you, Abby. I was just saying this very thing to my husband last night. He comes from a family where “if a doctor says it, it must be true”, so you can imagine the struggles I go through to be heard. It’s so frustrating, and I wish people would stop handing their power over to so-called authority figures. I, too, question EVERYTHING, but it’s hard always having to defend my instincts to those around me. Some days I feel like its a constant battle…but one worth fighting. Thank you for all your work!

  7. My doctor is amazing and I never truly realized this. She is my family practitioner/OBGYN/and Pediatrician, and she’s known me since I was 15. She left the practice I attended for 10+ years when my daughter was 9 months old. Before that time every single time I went for a wellness checkup I felt great after, she was genuinely excited to see my daughter’s development and gave great advice and ALWAYS was an advocate for continuing to breastfeed. The first time I saw a different pediatrician I started getting hammered with “well she’s so skinny, there has to be something wrong with her”. This never came up before and it was all I heard from the next several doctors we saw – Finally after a freak hospitalization for something else entirely all of the blood work was done and after 2 years the pediatrician finally accepts that it is in fact Genetics keeping her so thin and not me doing something wrong. I switched back to my original doctor once I found out I was pregnant because I couldn’t stand the thought of dealing with these other incompetent people :(.

    • I agree! My GP is amazing! After I was transferred care at 7 months from my midwife to a horrible OB he continued to see me every week bc he knew I was so uncomfortable with the OB. (Eventually leaving care with the OB at 37weejs). My GP never left my side the entire time. He has been so supportive if breast feeding. Even when I asked about my daughters very slow growth(bc of pressure from others), he reassured me that all was well and her growth rate was consistent and she was just a slow grower. He has been a great support for my husband and I.

  8. Thank you so much for this. I have been getting bullied all week to give my 15 week old formula because he is not following the growth chart. He may be small but he is perfectly healthy. I looked at some formula this week and the FIRST ingredient was corn syrup! Instincts are key, thank you so much for the reminder!

    • Jen,
      Stick with your instincts. I just had my 5th child. I have breastfed them all. The pediatrician for my second child wanted me to put him on formula because he didn’t like where he fell on the chart. I kept telling the doctor that his weight was comparative to his older breastfed brother. The doctor’s response was we couldn’t compare the two! He wanted to diagnose him as failure to thrive! I knew that my son was developmentally hitting his milestones and growing just like his big brother did. Both boys are now 17 and 14 tall and thin and healthy.

  9. I don’t understand the outrage that doctors aren’t taught about breastfeeding. It seems like common sense to me. If you have questions about FEEDING your child, go to someone who has studied NUTRITION, not medicine.
    Doctors aren’t meant to give out parenting advice, or tell you what and how to feed your baby. They’re meant to treat illnesses.

    • The outrage comes when doctors give bad breastfeeding advice or push a mother into using formula when they don’t know the first thing about breastfeeding. When you take a child to a Wellness check up they ask what and how much they are eating, they take the child’s weight and then give out advice on these subjects. Doctor’s who see babies should know about how babies are fed, that idea seems like common sense to me. They continuously give out bad advice and pray on the weakened state of a new mother who may not know better that her child’s doctor actually doesn’t know anything about the way breastfeeding works, which is why research and reading blogs like this are helpful. You may not understand the “outrage” but I do.

  10. Love this! As far as my dr, I was lucky to have a sister with three children ahead of me to give me a great referral. My family practitioner is amazing as far as breast feeding and all that stuff. I walk out of that office every time feeling like the best mom in the world! After seeing things other moms have said about their drs I know how truly lucky I am!

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