All health professionals say they are supportive of breastfeeding, but many are supportive only when breastfeeding is going well, and some, not even then. As soon as breastfeeding, or anything in the life of the new mother is not perfect, too many advise weaning or supplementation. The following is a partial list of clues, which help you judge whether your health professional is supportive of breastfeeding -- at least supportive enough so that if there is trouble, she will make efforts to help you continue breastfeeding.
Ten ways to tell that your health professional is not supportive:
1. She gives you formula samples or formula company literature when you are pregnant, or after you have had the baby. These samples and literature are inducements to use the product, and their distribution is called marketing. There is no evidence that any particular formula is better or worse than any other for the normal baby. The literature or videos accompanying samples are a means of subtly and not so subtly undermining breastfeeding and glorifying formula. If you do not believe this, ask yourself why the formula companies are using cutthroat tactics to make sure that your doctor or hospital gives out their literature and samples and not other companies’? Should you not also wonder why the health professional is not marketing breastfeeding?
2. She tells you that breastfeeding and bottle feeding are essentially the same. Most bottle-fed babies grow up healthy and secure and not all breastfed babies grow up healthy and secure. But this does not mean that breastfeeding and bottle feeding are essentially the same. Infant formula is a rough copy of what we knew several years ago about breastmilk which is in itself a rough approximation of something we are only beginning to get an inkling of and are constantly being surprised by. The differences have important health consequences. Certain elements in breastmilk are not in artificial baby milk (formula) even though we have known of their importance to the baby for several years -- for example, antibodies and cells for protection of the baby against infection, and long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids for optimal development of the baby’s vision and brain. And breastfeeding is not the same as bottle feeding -- it is a whole different relationship. If you have been unable to breastfeed, that is unfortunate (though most times the problems could have been avoided), but to imply it is of no importance is patronizing and just plain wrong. A baby does not have to be breastfed to grow up happy, healthy and secure, but it does help.