Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A blog post and a pediatrician

I subscribe to The Motherwar Breastfeeding Blog, and today Tanya tackled the every tough and ever present question-- What do you do when you and your pediatrician do not see eye to eye?  Rather than speculating or listing a bunch of ideas, Tanya is asking breastfeeding friendly pediatricians what they think. Afterall, it is the doctor we (parents) are hiring and firing. What does the doctor think?
Today's response is from a pediatrician in Wisconsin-- Dr. Jenny Thomas.   Here are some of my favorite quotes from the interview. (Bold emphasis mine)
Here’s the thing: we are the hired help.  We are the people that family has chosen to help them through their journey. We are not the arbiters of right or wrong, good or bad. We are the people who are supposed to give the information they need to make an informed decision, to help aid in the encouragement of and confidence in parenting instinct.
My first day of medical school, one of my deans told my class “fifty percent of what we are teaching you is wrong - we just don’t know which fifty percent,” a phrase that has stuck with me when I begin to feel like I have it “right” or I know what is “best” for a child in my practice.
(Dr. Thomas repeats this in several locations on her website.)
 In the end, as long as the debated parenting practice is not illegal, I am the paid employee.  If that kind of dialogue is not encouraged, if that freedom to parent is somehow curbed by a provider who is sure they have it right, if that mother feels as if she somehow has to modify what she says or outright lie about how she parents for fear of backlash from a physician, that family should fire that provider and hire a new, more-compatible employee.
After checking out Dr. Thomas's site, I can say that I love her spunk and straight forward talk. I will issue one warning-- if you do not want to hear that your two month old baby should NOT be sleeping through the night, do not go to her site. Or go and learn a little about normal sleep patterns for babies AND adults (I learned that 80% of kids have a "sleep distrubance/problem." Wow!) On the other hand, she is straight forward about what is medical advice, what is parenting advice, and where the studies are strong and weak in certain parenting areas. Her soapbox is especially intersting, but she also offers this disclaimer on her breastmilk/formula page-- again, emphasis mine--
If you are reading this and thinking that I won't respect your decision, should you make it, to bottle feed, you're wrong. I have a reputation as a "breastfeeding supporter" like it's something aberrant.  All pediatricians are breastfeeding supporters, given all the great benefits to our patients from breastmilk.  So I ought to be supporting it, and loudly. 
However, I will support whatever feeding method you choose for your baby, as long as it's an informed decision.  And I don't want all the information to be from formula companies because they aren't giving you the whole story. If you still choose to formula feed after reading this stuff, then you have made an informed decision, and I will support that.
And those of you who are medically unable to breastfeed, I want you to know that it isn't just breastmilk that makes a child special.  If you have tried to nurse, and were unable to or you have a medical problem that makes nursing impossible, then take heart in the fact that formulas now have the nutrition children need, and that you tried.  Your children are better for that effort.  And they can still have the important skin to skin contact, no matter how you are feeding! 
My personal experience with our pediatrician (and the pediatricians in the practice)-- He does not offer advice in parenting areas, and I do not ask him. He asks the necessary questions for the medical and developmental assessment of my son, but does not prod. HOWEVER, I have no way of knowing if the way he treats me and my son is the way he treats other patients. I do know that I go in confident in my parenting, and I leave little room for doubt about where I stand. The nurses also leave me and The Boy "be" ever since I got on to the nurse who made comments about my son's growth pattern. (Breastfed babies have a different growth pattern than formula fed babies.)
While no doctor or person is perfect, I found Dr. Thomas's answers and website to be refreshing. In a time when formula feeding is sadly the norm and much of the parenting style from the past two thousand plus years has been lost to that of the past one hundred, her website provides a lot of detail in an easy to read format.
Is your pediatrician supportive of your parenting style? Have you switched pediatricians? Do you want to fire your pediatrician?


Melodie said...

Great post Maria! We have only used our pediatrician for my daughter's autism spectrum issues. We see our family GP for everything else. I like the sounds of Dr. Thomas. My GP is pretty good too. If she doesn't know the answer, she doesn't pretend she does, she just looks in her compendeum and tells me the textbook answer and then I go off and do my own research. But when I see a walk-in clinic doctor, oh boy, they are so different. I don't have too much respect for them.

Rebecca said...

We like our doctor. She is clear about her opinions, which I don't always agree with, but she supports us in whatever decision we make. She is very helpful in providing us with a full perspective, including presenting the opinions that are opposite of her recommendations.

Great post. I enjoyed reading it and found it informative.

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