Every time I return to the United States to visit family on holiday, I bring a collection of items home with me. This time around I brought home my eldest's baby book, from 15 years ago.
I read through the book reminiscing on the past with it's challenges and triumphs... and there it was.
Under "Advice You Received During Pregnancy," I wrote:
"My obstetrician told me 75% of paediatricians recommend that mothers who are on antidepressants should NOT breastfeed."
It's been over a decade and this ill-informed advice still pisses me off. I was a teenage mom, having my son just before I turned 17. I had been to all of the prenatal classes and was told about how awesome breastfeeding is for mums and babies. I had loads of support from a hospital social worker who worked primarily with teen moms. I desperately wanted to breastfeed because I knew it felt right for me and my baby...
And then my obstetrician gave me this inaccurate information during pregnancy. Clearly he knew I was struggling with depression at the time- I was a teenager dealing with the overwhelm of unplanned pregnancy and an unsupportive, absent partner. My entire life was shaken up.
Instead of providing further support for my mental health issues or discussing antidepressants that actually are safe for breastfeeding (they do exist!) he made a generalised statement WITH NO EVIDENCE TO BACK IT UP and I accepted it.
I was young, I was naive and more than anything, I trusted my doctor. At that time I didn't realise what International Board Certified Lactation Consultants were or that my doctor obviously knew very little about breastfeeding. He certainly was not an expert. Instead of questioning his advice, getting a second opinion or asking for more detailed information, I took his word for it. In fact, I believed the medication I was on could actually harm my baby, despite there being no evidence of that. I didn't ask about alternatives or other mental health treatments.
Eventually I learned that the made-up statistic he told me was false.
I felt a mixture of grief and anger. How many other expectant moms got his inaccurate advice!? I grieved the breastfeeding relationship that was taken from me. I grieved for my son who developed bowel issues for years directly related to being on formula.
Misinformation such as this continues. I respect doctors and midwives of all types, however, the advice that is given to new and soon to be parents is often hit or miss. Some healthcare professionals are amazing and will refer to the only real experts in lactation, International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. Others give ill informed advice that may be unnecessarily detrimental to a breastfeeding relationship.
Takeaways: If you really want to breastfeed, know where to get the most accurate, evidence-based information- an IBCLC. Learn who they are in your community so you can link up with them if needed. Look into other breastfeeding support in your area, such as La Leche League, Cuidiu and Friends of Breastfeeding. If you are given advice that doesn't sit well with you, ask about alternatives and don't be afraid to get a second opinion!