Now, as an actual scientist (ha ha ha) I’ve been alarmed in the recent trend in popular culture and media to disregard expert opinions, facts from actively researching professionals and the like in favour of anecdotal, circumstantial lay opinion. The ‘we don’t need no stinkin’ experts’ ethos gets up my nose in the worst way.
However I find myself contraindicating that ideal in favour of breastfeeding friendliness. Why? Because it’s become rather clear to me that a lot of modern medicine is about treating symptoms not causes. Most cases where you are going to be speaking to someone about your breastfeeding problems they aren’t actually a breastfeeding expert. For instance, until recently medical schools were not necessarily teaching students or residents about breastfeeding issues. So it’s really no wonder that so many people have sad stories about doctors giving them shoddy advice in regards to breastfeeding. Learning about the shoddy advice after the fact from other mothers only sparks sadness, regret and outrage.
Compounding this are people billed as breast feeding support professionals who have taken a short course or have limited training on the subject. I find this troublesome because it’s often difficult to have a good idea of who is really a breastfeeding specialist. I’ve encountered these people myself. My midwives labeled themselves Breastfeeding Councillors but then were not equipped to deal with my more abnormal problem of low supply/or difficult to diagnose tongue tie (whichever it was, I’ve narrowed it down to one or the other), but also not prepared to refer me to anyone else.
So having gotten poor advice and support from someone who was ‘supposed’ to be helping me, then turned away by my doctor, I became afraid to seek advice anywhere else. Unfortunately that’s really what you have to do. If a professional told you some part of your body was not working, but didn’t seem to bothered about it, would you take that for granted or would you seek another opinion? Shouldn’t it be somewhat alarming that some part of your body isn’t functioning correctly? Or some part of your baby’s body?
So who can you turn to when you want to breastfeed and are getting no assistance from your regular professionals?
- Other mother’s recommendations. You’ll find the online world full of well meaning, as well as not so helpful, advice. Everything from ‘eat oatmeal’ to detailed lists of herbs to take, to people telling you to keep going. This can be varying degrees of helpful, but the most important thing you can get from others is information on where they went, who they saw, and how they were helped.
- Local lists of IBCLC, CLC or CLE provided by your health nurses, home visitors or LLL. While your health nurses, home visitors and LLL may indeed have helpful information, I wouldn’t be comfortable making a blanket statement about going to them for help. My Well Child nurse didn’t have much advice except ‘nurse more’, and ‘try switching sides’. However, these organizations do often keep lists of professionals who can help you with your issues. Be aware that not all breastfeeding professionals are necessarily created equally. Which is why a recommendation, and making sure there are appropriate credentials involved is key. You might find yourself in a referral chain. Your nurse tells you to ask person A who then says they’ve heard good things about person B who says they know person C has dealt with this before. It can be really frustrating, but chase it up.
Now, you may be lucky and have a good GP or a supportive paediatrician. Spread the love. Let your local LLL know how supportive your professionals are. Tell your home visitor or health nurse. Tell the breastfeeding educators at your hospital. Tell your friends. Reward your good professional for their initiative to become knowledgeable about breastfeeding and supporting mothers and babies.
Unfortunately it’s a sad fact that you have to be fairly well educated about how breastfeeding works to know when you’re being fed bad advice by a professional. Unfortunately no one is necessarily looking out for your success and needs. You have to be your own advocate and unfortunately you might have to learn from a bad experience.