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Doctor-led Weaning: Damaging & Distressing

Doctor-led weaning is damaging; breastfeeding is not a medical decision, but a parenting decision.

Truly, the stories that mothers report about their experiences with breastfeeding, doctors, and hospitals never cease to amaze me. Every time I think I’ve heard it all, I hear one that is beyond the beyond. Understand, I’ve heard of mother-led weaning and child-led weaning. But now, I’ve also heard about doctor-led weaning.

Outrageous as it is, this is a real story.

Once, while teaching I met a woman who’d won the scholarship we offer for the course.

When she took her newborn to the pediatrician for the first visit, her 18-month-old toddler went along. The pediatrician realized that she was tandem nursing the newborn and the toddler, and decided to take matters into his own hands. He told the toddler, “No more breastfeeding. No more breastfeeding for you!” The child was devastated. Luckily, when the pediatrician was out of earshot, mom reassured her son that he could still have “magels” (The toddler’s word for breastfeeding).

Doctor-led weaning: Worse than picking on the mother

Over the years, I’ve heard many stories of doctors who badger, order, and otherwise intimidate mothers into weaning. But here, the doctor wasn’t picking on the mother! Apparently, he thought that having the conversation with the child would force the mother to wean.

So whose decision is weaning?

At some point, doctors and other healthcare professionals in American culture need to realize that breastfeeding is not a medical decision. That might help to avoid doctor-led weaning.

One might argue that it’s not a nutritional decision, either; human milk certainly provides nutrition and is therefore food, but breastfeeding is more than food. Breastfeeding is a parenting decision. The pediatrician wouldn’t decide the time of a kid’s curfew or the age at which a young girl can start dating. Why then, should the pediatrician decide when a baby should stop nursing?

How have you (or will you) decide when a baby should stop nursing? Have you had a physician pressure you to wean?

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6 Comments

  1. Maryam Hamzia

    Im lucky that my pediatriacan is a women and she has a son she breastfeeds so I need had taht issue butr from family yes indeed.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Support is so important, yes, and anything that undermines the mother is so distressing. Thank you for your comment.

  2. Cindy Rasmussen

    Oh yes, I worked for a wonderful OB/GYN who unfortunately told a mother she had to quit nursing her then 18 month old because her body couldn’t support both the pregnancy and breastfeeding. She had no health conditions that would be a contraindication for this advice. I could tell the mother was distressed by this advice. She continued to come to the clinic, but never said whether she was still breastfeeding this toddler or not. I hope she was able to get some knowledgeable assistance and continued.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Thank you for giving yet one more piece of proof that women do exactly what I’ve suspected for years: They continue nursing, but they don’t say they are nursing. What a strange society we live in where women are “empowered” to do so many things in life, but they do not feel empowered to say they are giving their child the best nutrition in the world. Wow. Sad.

  3. Luvisca

    Sad indeed! But I’m confident that we’re making strides to empower more women to take charge of their bodies, their needs and what is best for them and their little ones!

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      So true; all of this just takes time. Making breastfeeding the norm still hasn’t happened, so making breastfeeding the norm for older children is the next step. Thank you for reaffirming my beliefs!

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