Breaking Up with my Pediatrician

By: Jeannette Bezinque

Our pediatrician did a bad, bad thing. Actually, he’s done a few bad things over the past year and a half that have led me to the decision to walk out the door. It’s not easy to select a doctor for your kids before becoming a parent. It’s even harder to recognize when that professional is giving you poor advice. I’ve been aching to find someone new for a long time. His words at Audrey’s 6 month checkup sealed the deal.

He thinks that I need to give Audrey rice cereal during the day to get her to sleep through the night. Now, he also suggested this at the four month visit and I balked at the idea because it didn’t work for Hannah. I’ve done a lot of boob-related soul searching to learn about what went wrong breastfeeding Hannah and there are quite a few things that I’ve pinpointed. For one thing, there was no need to begin feeding her solids at 4 months. Instead, I should have rested, drank more water, and allowed her more frequent access to the breast. This is what I should have done because I wanted to continue breastfeeding. It didn’t work out, and I ultimately weaned her around 7 months to both of our dismay. Sadly, our Ped supported this decision and encouraged me to wean early in order to allow my body to support the new baby I was carrying. In the depressing months that followed, I realized it wasn’t the right choice for us.

There are a lot of reasons why kids won’t sleep through the night at various points in their life. It’s also common for babies to follow a similar pattern of wakeful weeks around big developmental phases. Coincidentally, these line up with the 2, 4, 6, 9, and 12 month checkups so it would be easy to mis-diagnose a sleep issue as a feeding issue. I know that Audrey is getting enough milk during the day because she is content, satisfied and happy. Not to mention- have you seen the cheeks on this kid? She is also pooping a plentiful volume. This is not a picture of hunger.

6 month old baby

However, he charted Audrey’s growth and noted that her weight has fallen from the 60th percentile to the 45th percentile since our last visit. I didn’t see this as a big issue since she’s been much more mobile in the past weeks and is still giving me plenty of indications that she is well-fed. Since I was concerned that he wasn’t making the right suggestion, I asked if I should work at augmenting my supply. He told me that most women ‘top off’ around 32 ounces per day so there was no point in going that route. REALLY?! If that’s the case, then how do women feed twins, or tandem nurse a toddler and a baby? I suppose he didn’t think either of those could be done without formula since he already pushed me into weaning my first child prior to a baby’s arrival.

I put this topic up for discussion in my nursing support group and found great feedback. First of all, some pediatricians follow a completely separate growth chart for breastfed babies because it is normal and healthy for their weight gain to drop off at this stage. Another mama chimed in that she produces 50 oz per day after experiencing low supply issues early on. Everyone supported my decision to wait to feed Audrey cereal as a means to get her to sleep through the night. It simply doesn’t work like that. There are too many reasons why children wake at night and in this case, it’s not because she isn’t getting enough to eat each day.
crappy magAs if I didn’t already have enough cannon fodder to execute the decision to leave the practice, I noticed a stack of magazines on the way out the door. Articles titled, “Why Breast wasn’t best for my Baby” and “It’s OK to let him cry it out (really)” don’t belong in the office of the Doctor that’s right for our family. Along with the formula propaganda on the growth charts, I finally see that I’ve been in the wrong environment for a breast feeding Mom. I’ll be more careful with my selection next time because I know now what an advocate for breastfeeding looks like. It’s not just a person who states that breast feeding is “wonderful.” It is a person who makes a commitment to our children to best educate parents about their needs for a healthy start.

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21 comments on “Breaking Up with my Pediatrician

  1. What a frustration. We had a supply problem when my oldest was 7 months, I wish I’d known there was help. Our pediatrician was very similair in pushing a move to formula instead of encouraging continued breastfeeding.

    Our current Ped is wonderful. She didn’t panic when the baby didn’t grow like the chart says he should – she just monitored, she supported my decision to continue exclusively nursing.

    It can be so hard to find the right doctor, I hope you find one quickly.

    • ecoincognito says:

      Thanks for your support. I’m happy that I have such a great network of resources for the topic. Can’t imagine what I’d do if the words at the Doctor’s office were the final words on the topic for me.

  2. Kelly says:

    Wow! Our pediatrician’s office has a nursing room and encourages all mother’s to use it as long as necessary. You really need to use a WHO growth chart for breastfed babies since breastfeeding is more common in other countries and that takes into account the entire world and not just the US. A lot of times, breastfed babies do grow at a slower rate, but they also have lower obesity rates down the road. I don’t think that is a coincidence.

  3. Karin says:

    Docs are “trained” on formula fed babies so they don’t realize that breastfed babies don’t need more milk as they get older — since the milk itself has more calories. This change was obvious for me — very thin watery milk when Miles was an infant, but now at 17 months my milk is extremely high fat.

  4. sherry moore says:

    you should have read the articles in that magazine before making a rush decision on it. That article about breast feeding wasnt best for her was about struggling with breast feeding her first baby but she was able to breast feed her second child better than the first. They have a lot of pro breast feeding advice in there. I know because i read that magazine and have the issue your bashing. I wasnt able to breast feed my baby due to early on issues and no help. Cudos on switching pedis i listen to mine but when i disagree with mine i typically dont do as they say because in the end its your choice : )

  5. Missy says:

    I have come to realize that pediatricians (well, all doctors really) are trained to help when there is an illness, but aren’t trained for “normal”. We have been through several doctors who all said we had to feed formula, feed rice cereal at 4 months, leave our babes to CIO, turn the carseat around at 1, retract our sons intact foreskin and without question, the babies HAD to be in their own bed. everything they said was against nature and against “normal” because, really, they aren’t baby sleep experts or feeding experts or car seat safety techs or nutritionists, or urologists. Many are stuck in the Dr. Spock style of parenting (or worse- Ezzo!!) and are used to seeing formula fed babies who have slept through the night the first time a parent out rice cereal in the bottle at 3 weeks old. I listened to their poor advice (half-heartedly) and then would research on my own. Then switch doctors hoping for a breast-feeding, co-sleeping, ERF, & intact friendly doctor. I gave up. I settled on a handsome doctor so it is easier to smile and nod when I pretend like I am going to follow their misguided advice on sleep training.

    • ecoincognito says:

      This is so true, and one of the biggest reasons why I chose to have a home birth. Other than seeing the pediatrician out of necessity for entering school down the road, I’m not sure we would go. I do like your suggestion!

  6. […] Breaking Up with my Pediatrician. […]

  7. Jodi says:

    Sorry Jeannette but I have a lot to say – No matter how informed, and aware of your body and your baby’s needs, it’s still confusing and frustrating to get not so good advice from your ped. A confident, educated and aware mom still looks to them for guidance and support and it’s hard when it’s not there. I for one do not look to my ped for advice or recommendations regarding nutrition but I still hear their message. I was told to give rice cereal at 5 mo and although this advice made me question myself, I stuck to my instinct and gave vegis and fruit a month later. It’s hard to know when to tune in and tune out the advice from our “experts”.

    I think a lot of us are getting similar bad advice from our peds. Your doctor could have looked into other ideas that may have affected Audrey’s sleep or get this, even normalized that she is not sleeping through the night! I doubt they asked if you are struggling with nighttime parenting (yes this is a thing) before assuming you needed to “fix” it. I still nurse my 13 month old sometime between 3-5 am and then he goes right back to sleep. At 9 and again at 12 months he was waking more so what you said about waking more at developmental milestones is a great point. At the time my ped also saw this as an issue but I am not sure why. It is not an issue for my son or for me. We are happy mama and baby here and isnt’ that what they should really be aiming for.

    Someone on FB said that it was “offensive” to blog about your Ped since they think he is wonderful. I just want to thank you for starting this important conversation because it will encourage mom’s who want to listen to their instinct and get others to do research before blindly following all recommendations. I also want to note that no where here did you mention the name of your ped, so while that person may know who you are talking about, you were respectful in opening up this dialogue.

    • ecoincognito says:

      Thanks Jodi for the comments and the support. You’ve been a great person to know and talk with about breastfeeding.

    • Amanda says:

      I agree with Jodi. With my first, I followed my daughter’s doctor’s advice as best I could. I gave her cereal early to get her to sleep longer, which she didn’t. I tried to have her cry it out and it was way too painful, plus that’s how she learned to climb out of her crib at 15 months. I couldn’t follow his advice early to have her sleep in her own bed because she just wouldn’t sleep. We had MANY sleepless nights until I figured out on my own that I could nurse in bed and we’d both fall asleep in doing so. That worked for us. Baby number 2 – I told the doctor the truth and had defenses ready when he told me that she should be in her own bed. He told me that she’ll never learn to sleep in her own bed and I said that we’ll cross that bridge when we get there, It works for now and we did it with our older child. I must admit that even with the sleeping/bed differences we’ve had, the doctor has always been supportive of breastfeeding, he even pulled a script under Ellie’s name for my yeast infection, when I showed signs on my nipples but Ellie didn’t show signs. Plus he told me that the percentiles on the growth chart really don’t mean anything until the kids are 3 or four because the differences in the weights are so slim. Hannah could’ve taken a poop in the middle of the appointment and been in a different percentile…

      I basically take the advice I like and think about the rest but not too hard – just like my in-laws. Every family knows what’s best for them deep down and we can’t all fit into the boxes the doctors have to check off.

  8. Jocelyn says:

    It is really important to let you doctor know why you are leaving. Some may ignore your input but most doctors would be receptive to learning new things.

  9. ecoincognito says:

    That’s a great point and it’s one that I’ve been going through over and over in my head. I do intend to let him know when I call to have the records transferred.

  10. Don’t get hung up on pediatricians– I LOVE our Family Practice doc and I think they’re overlooked way too often! Between her knowledge as a professional, the way our personalities click and the sheer CONVENIENCE of getting my son and myself seen in the same place at the same time I’d never go back to a pediatrician….

  11. Glad that you are going with your gut! We have been lucky to have an understanding pediatrician, but those that understand and support breastfeeding and attachment parenting can be tough to find in our area. Best of luck with finding a new one!

  12. ecoincognito says:

    I wrote this post to share my experience and my thoughts on visiting with a pediatrician who shares the beliefs of the majority of formula-feeding parents. I’m a breastfeeding Mom and it’s great for us. Everything about raising Audrey is what I dreamed my experience parenting would be like. I didn’t need him to tell me that my intuitions were wrong because I am following the guidelines set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics. He is a member of that group, but he’s not giving advice that coincides with best-practices for breastfeeding, so I call it bad advice. For some people his advice might ‘work’, but it’s not right for me or my child. It also wasn’t right for my first child. He probably does think I’m a bad parent, which is why I’m seeking a pediatrician who wouldn’t judge a parent who wants to do what she considers the right thing and is succeeding in that.

    Being open to the suggestion of giving formula and being open minded are two different things. No one HAS to give her child formula. I wish my first baby never drank the stuff, but she did because of the advice of pediatricians. A baby could drink breastmilk from another mother. Are you open minded enough to live in a world where that is a possibility? It’s not my intention to open up a can of worms here, but in all seriousness, why doesn’t each NICU employ a wet-nurse? A healthy woman with regular screenings could easily provide more than enough milk to satisfy the needs of supplements for all the babies in the ward. I would do that on a volunteer basis.

    I think it’s unfair that providers make women think that there is not a choice whether or not to give a baby formula. There are other options.

  13. Meg A says:

    Thank you so much… this really echoes my experience with our current (and soon to be former) pediatrician. I received the growth chart covered in Similac ads, was told my baby was failing to thrive at 1 month old (he was consistently 10th percentile, happy, healthy & meeting milestones), formula was pushed on me but I resisted, and my supply was constantly questioned. When I spoke with him before my son was born, I told him about my vaccine reservations and he assured me that whatever I decided to do was fine with him. Well… that turned out to be a lie b/c all I got was pressure from the doc & nurse to accept whatever vaccine the CDC had lined up at that appointment. That was NOT what I wanted, hence the pre-baby interview! Then came the rice cereal advice (which I did not follow)… and I just started getting the vibe that they viewed me as the “problem mom” who didn’t follow doctors advice like a good little girl. It was so demeaning. My son’s next appointment is in April, and I’ve already found a holistic family doc that I’d like our whole family to see. There is going to be an awkward break-up in the near future. I kinda feel like writing a letter w/ an explanation.

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