06 June 2011

Innocent Question?

When I took Agent A to the pediatrician for his six-month check-up a few weeks ago, I expected the usual well visit banter. But this question took me by surprise:
How long do you plan to breastfeed? 
Before I replied I cringed a bit, because in my mind I heard:
When do you plan to stop breastfeeding?
I don’t think he liked my answer: I nursed A’s two older sisters until they were ready to wean, and intended to do the same with A. He immediately went into a spiel about the “negatives” of breastfeeding longer than a year. What if he’s not getting sufficient calories? What if it affects his iron levels? What if he doesn’t want to try new foods because he’s nursing “too much”? I think he said more, but I tuned out at that point. I didn’t like being asked to consider an expiration date on my breastfeeding relationship with my last baby.
(Of course this wasn’t nearly as bad as the anesthesiologist who, because he wanted to put me under for a simple outpatient procedure rather than give me a breastfeeding compatible med and monitor me, asked (of my four-month-old, never once even took a bottle, baby) Can’t you just give him formula for 12 hours?)
Me and Agent A at the botanical gardens in Florence, Italy.
So, anyway . . . why ask a mother this when her baby is meeting every milestone and thriving? Why even bring up, for instance, “not getting enough calories from breast milk alone” when in the company of a chubby, 21-pound six-month-old? Why jump to “this might be a problem and here’s why”?
My son is a happy, healthy, plump little guy (see adorable photo below) who breastfeeds on cue and enjoys a variety of foods. (I posted on starting  baby-led weaning last month and added this update just a few days ago.) I will continue to breastfeed him as long as we both want to. 
I suppose I should mention we LOVE our pediatrician. Agent E is leery of the medical community in general, and even she thinks he’s fabulous. When we left her last appointment, she kept going on and on about how nice Dr. P is. Agent J is the model patient for him. Unlike with other doctors we have seen, I have never felt the need to defend my parenting choices. He doesn’t typically offer unsolicited advice. He actually has copies of both the CDC and WHO growth charts. Not once has he inquired about where the baby sleeps. He is a great doctor with a great bedside manner. 
My beautiful boy.
I suppose I should also mention I am One of Those People Who Is Very Into Breastfeeding, both for myself and as an advocate for others. I have no professional experience or credentials—just successful breastfeeding relationships with my own three children and a love of reading/researching the topic—but I find it fascinating on many levels. I would venture to say I’m more up-to-speed than average.
And I said nothing. That’s the real problem I’m having here: Should I have extolled the benefits of extended breastfeeding? Said something pithy? Does everything need to be a teachable moment?
What would you have done? Would you have also remained silent, secure in your knowledge you are doing what’s best for your child? Or piped up with a comment? And does it really matter? (Maybe I am just being neurotic about the whole thing, which is entirely possible.)

1 comment:

  1. Well, there are no "benefits of extended breastfeeding" - you are just ensuring the normal good health and relationship for your child for the duration of your nursing relationship :) Unfortunately, many people don't see it that way. Not sure why it magically becomes useless after 12 months either, very interesting. I often will just make a comment, depending on how peeved I am at what was said. Some people just don't want to hear what you have to say. Keep on keepin' on, mama! (Stacy from BestMilk Bistro)