Breastfeeding Is Hard, Even If You're a Doctor
We love professionals who spend their lives making the world a healthier place. And we know that, underneath those white coats, doctors are people, just like us. Yet it’s still surprising to learn that most physicians who are moms fall short of the breastfeeding recommendations to breastfeed for the first year or longer. These breastfeeding recommendations are set by doctors, and the World Health Organization, to make the world a healthier place (because breastfeeding provides a whole host of benefits for both babies and mothers!).
In a study of female physicians who are mothers published in JAMA Internal Medicine:
Only about 42 percent breastfeed for at least a year
Only 28 percent were able to breastfeed for as long as they wanted to
Nearly half of the doctor who stopped nursing said they would have kept nursing had their jobs been more accommodating
Sound familiar? Even though more than 80% of all new mamas start out breastfeeding, by six months only 55% are still breastfeeding—and, after a year, the number drops to 27%. One of the key reasons for this huge drop off is that when women return to work, it’s really difficult to continue.
For doctors in the study, time to pump and access to clean, private spaces for pumping breast milk were big barriers. While some of the doctors pumped in offices or lactation rooms—nearly half had to make do, pumping in an on-call room, an empty patient room—or in their cars.
Let’s show our appreciation for Mama Doctors by raising our voices in support of physicians who need schedule flexibility and clean, quiet spaces to pump breast milk for their babies.
Here are two ways we can help right now:
If you’re a doctor…
Thank you. We know that you are speaking up, and following up, to ensure that other people’s needs are met. All. Day. Long. Speak to human resources and advocate for yourself as you would for any patient. If your employer meets the federal requirements for lactation accommodations and human resources doesn't hear from the staff (or hear enough) that better, or more, spaces are needed, they’re unlikely to take action.
If you’re not a doctor…
Talk with physicians and other healthcare providers (your own, and friends who work in healthcare) about breastfeeding, and how to support it in all workplaces. Some people may not be aware of breastfeeding laws, why they sometimes fall short, or that there are inexpensive lactation accommodations options available.
Healthy communities and cultures are created when people care, and advocate, for each other.