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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 my Comprehensive Lactation Course, 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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