Monday, July 09, 2007

An open letter to the medical community

Dear doctors/nurses/other medical professionals who really should know what you're talking about (because it's your job and because you have an ethical obligation to do so),

Please do your research. I realize you probably only had an hour or so on breastfeeding during your education. I know more and more studies are constantly being released that show the negative effects of not breastfeeding. I realize you have busy practices and busy private lives, but please, I beg of you; our children beg of you; my sister begs of you, please be informed. YOU HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO BE INFORMED.

I am sick and tired of trying to help moms fix what misinformed doctors have screwed up. I've gathered information for a mom whose baby suffered through nipple confusion because the pediatrician refused to follow the AAP's standard treatment for newborn jaundice. I've counseled moms in tears because their sleepy babies weren't gaining weight. When I shared the information with them from recent studies about the effects of epidurals on newborns, several moms told me, "But the L&D nurses/OB told me it wouldn't effect the baby." I've had to bite my tongue so as to not rant and rave over a doctor who recommended unnecessary supplementation of an infant whose weight was nowhere near the threshold for recommending such action. The mom hoped to supplement for only a day. A month later, she was forced to continue giving formula as her supply was drying up as a result. The baby's already "not quite right" latch got much worse thanks to nipple preference from the supplemental bottles of formula. And yes, I admit that I too suffered through almost unbearable physical pain as a result of how our breastfeeding experience was mismanaged in the hospital when my girls were born. After that, I had a pediatrician whose first line of defense was to supplement. When I refused, she reluctantly agreed that I could try nursing more often. I did and at a weight check a week later, they gained substantially more than was expected.

My daughters' first year had far too many of those moments. Each time, I provided the doctors with stacks of research. Every single time, they handed them back immediately. The most they ever did was glance at the paperwork. Being ignorant is one thing. Willful ignorance, however, is disgusting and can be devastating.

I have a soft spot in my heart for those moms who get awful medical advice in part because I was one such mom. I also have a particular disdain for medical professionals who are not informed. That is their job. They have a responsibility to the mom and baby.

This rant is brought to you courtesy of my sister. She called me today from the doctor where she was being treated for an eye infection. The doctor informed her that she wouldn't be able to breastfeed while taking the Fluoroquinolone antibiotic eye drop he was prescribing for her. She called me while in the office to have me look it up in Hale's book to see what the alternatives were. I was floored when I saw it is an L2 which is "Moderately Safe." Ratings start at L1 and go up. To give you an idea of the ratings, Percoset, which is commonly prescribed for many nursing moms after birth is an L3. The eye drop he wanted to prescribe is listed by the American Academy of Pediatrics as "Maternal Medication Usually Compatible with Breastfeeding." Under "Pediatric Concerns," Hale notes, "None reported..."

Now, keep in mind, my sister has a family history of allergies to dairy and soy. Her daughter had severe allergies to both. So should my sister have decided to follow this doctor's advice and stop breastfeeding her infant son while on the medication, what on earth would she have fed the child? Why would she expose him to these potentially dangerous proteins when the drug is safe?

And this doctor she saw had never heard of Dr. Hale. Pardon me while I lift my jaw up off the floor. I have never known a doctor who wasn't familiar with the foremost authority on breastfeeding and medication. He, quite literally, wrote the book on it and he continues to do so. To not be familiar with Hale and continue to give erroneous information when such a wealth of the accurate variety is readily available is a violation of the hippocratic oath.

So, medical professionals, I beg of you to DO YOUR JOB. Be informed. Help your patients make accurate and informed decisions. I'm not asking you to develop any psychic abilities. I'm not asking you to take on the weight of the world. I'm simply asking that you make use of the tools that already exist for the taking. I'm asking you to do your job. Treat your patients. Don't spout misinformation and simply send them on their way. DO YOUR JOB!


Giselle said...

AAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! It was an EYE DROP!!!!!??? Who is this brain damaged mental defective? Man, route of administration, people, route of administration.

Pardon me while I go find a bucket and a pipe wrench.

Pixie LaRouge said...

Yup. An EYE DROP. I wrote a letter. I wrote a letter that works as an article (it's cited and everything!) that is going to the doctor, the state medical board and the head of whatever company runs that clinic. I'm including a resources list in the off chance that said idiot,er, doctor actually wants to educate himself a bit. And then I'm going to try to get it published. Maybe other women need a copy to hand to their own dumbasses, er, doctors...

Anonymous said...

I am so linking to this post! I've been ranting about this in a much-less-eloquent fashion for years now. This is why i don't generally get all ra-ra over things like nurse-ins. The real reason why there are such low bf rates in this country is summed up very well in this entry!! It's so frustrating when it's all info that has been WELL DOCUMENTED and WELL REPORTED. Bring that up to a certain ped in Norman, and she will say, "That LLL has done it again!" in front of a waiting room full of patients. Oh, the insanity.
Leah at

Anonymous said...

Oh, and you should send this as a letter to the editor!


Anonymous said...

I am so sorry.
I have been fortunate to have Dr. Jay Gordon - a big advocate of drug free childbirth/childhood (including no immunizations).
I have friends who are grieving the consequences of following advise to do so.
It is a time of awakening - not only for the mothers but for the medical community too.

Reiza said...

Gina, I'm a big fan of Dr. Jay. He actually sent me my latest copy of Hale. He wanted to make it available for those of us who provide help for moms via online forums.

I've turned to him in the past when doctors provided misinformation about my twins.