Everyone knows breast milk is the optimal nutrition for infants. There’s a reason why the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of infancy and then continued breastfeeding for 12 months with complementary foods. But the truth is, medical schools don’t teach much about breastfeeding beyond the biological process and explaining the benefits. That means even well-intentioned pediatricians may be not well-educated in offering practical support for mothers who want to give their babies (and themselves) the proven health benefits of breastfeeding.
How can you know whether your pediatrician is knowledgeable enough to help you meet the AAP recommendations for infant feeding or your own breastfeeding personal goals? We’ve got you covered. We asked two nationally-recognized pediatricians who are also members of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine, a worldwide organization of breastfeeding supportive physicians, for important questions to ask and recommended answers to know if your doctor is truly breastfeeding-friendly.
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1. Question: What education or training regarding breastfeeding have you had?
Answer: Not just medical school. Physicians should have received some sort of additional certification in lactation consulting, are members of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine and state that they follow ABM’s recommended office and practical protocols.
2. Question: What is your recommended age for weaning?
Answer: “The correct answer is, whenever a mother and child choose to wean,” says Laura N. Sinai MD MSCE FAAP, a pediatrician in private practice in Gaston County, North Carolina and the state’s breastfeeding coordinator for the American Academy of Pediatrics.
3. Question: When do you recommend starting solid foods?
Answer: Six months (4-6 months is also acceptable). “Complimentary foods should be introduced after 6 months of exclusive breastfeeding since breast milk is sufficient to meet all of a healthy full term baby’s needs until then (Note: All exclusively breastfeeding babies should receive a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU shortly after birth),” says Dr. Sahira Long, a board certified pediatrician and lactation consultant.
“There are special considerations for premature infants and those who have medical issues that preclude exclusive breastfeeding but these are the exception and not the rule,” adds Long, who is also president of the DC Breastfeeding Coalition.
4. Question: Which growth chart will you use to measure my baby’s weight development?
Answer: Both the AAP and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommend using The World Health Organization’s (WHO) Growth Curve Standards for 0-24 months. (Note to parents: Many doctors use growth charts that are sponsored and developed by the infant formula companies and they make breastfed babies look underweight when they are not. Healthy breastfed infants tend to grow more rapidly than their formula-fed peers in the first 2-3 months of life and less rapidly from 3 to 12 months.)