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To Doctor Blank on World Breastfeeding Week

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To Dr Blank, (and whomever else this may concern)

I had an appointment with you on Thursday, which you might not know was actually the first day of World Breastfeed Week (you’ll catch the irony of that soon) and I needed prescription for the mini-pill. You asked me if I was still breastfeeding my daughter and I told you that I am. You informed me that in order for the minipill to be effective I would need to be breastfeeding – so far so good.

You then asked how old she is and I told you that she’s 16 months old. From there on you repeatedly questioned my decision to continue to breastfeed my daughter.

You were polite and undoubtedly well-intentioned. I appreciate that some people aren’t used to the idea of a child over 12 months breastfeeding – as you suggested “the majority of women stop breastfeeding at 12 months”, but this is not a reason for me to stop breastfeeding my own daughter. As I’d told you, the World Health Organisation recommends at least 2 years of breastfeeding and I had said I am happy to continue breastfeeding her. Somehow you still took this to mean that you should point out – again – that I shouldn’t be breastfeeding my daughter much longer.

If you are interested in reasons as to why a mother might choose to breastfeed her toddler, the main reason for me you actually brought up yourself. You asked me if I was giving my daughter regular (cows) milk. This is exactly why I choose to breast feed my daughter beyond infancy. Because she is a human toddler, my breast milk is human breast milk, why – in your medical opinion – should a mother, who is happy to continue, stop breastfeeding a healthy, happy, thriving toddler to then substitute human breast milk with the breast milk of cows. It should go without saying that human breast milk is optimal for the overall health and development of a human toddler.

I’ll give you some more reasons – breast milk can provide my toddler with:

  • 29% of his daily energy needs
  • 43% of protein requirements
  • 75% of Vitamin A requirements
  • 60% of Vitamin C requirements. (source)

Breastfeeding toddlers can reduce the frequency and longevity of illnesses – for my own children breastfeeding has helped when they’re unwell and not eating or drinking, they’ll still breastfeed, so at least they’re having something, this is especially helpful with gastro and sore throats.

Also the benefits to mothers include it may reduce the risk of various cancers, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis (source). More recent studies suggest a link between breastfeeding and reducing the risk of alzheimers “Longer breastfeeding history was significantly associated with a lower Alzheimer’s risk” (source) . Feeding helps ease pain of teething, injury and illness without needing to use drug-based analgesics. Breast milk helps my toddler fall asleep and get back to sleep without fuss. It makes going out a bit easier knowing that I always have a perfect snack food AND drink, on me, at all times. Not to mention that my own breast milk is completely free and environmentally friendly as it requires no farming, no processing, no transport and no refrigeration.

Doctors should support breastfeeding, not actively discourage it. At the very least, respect the mothers choice, because it is not for anyone else to decide if and how long she breast feeds. Full stop.

Our conversation about how long I choose to breastfeed my daughter might have been more tolerable if this was the first time someone has felt entitled to tell me when to stop breastfeeding one of my children, but it’s not even close. In fact, you’re not even the only doctor at that medical centre to have this conversation with me, though that was in regards to my son breastfeeding about 2 years ago.

I already complained to the medical centre the first time, but clearly nothing has changed.

I wish I could have spoken up more during the appointment. I did try to politely inform you, but you just kept insisting I shouldn’t be breastfeeding her. You then checked my blood pressure and you were concerned I had hypertension. (I was fine, it’s just my heart was pounding because I don’t do well with confrontation).

So, Dr Blank, I hope that you do take this moment to consider your own personal ideas with regards to toddlers being breastfed, as I’m sure if you examined these beliefs you would find them unsupported medically, that these are just your own personal opinions. Which is fine – the wonderful thing for you, sir, is you will never have to breastfeed a toddler, so this will never be an issue for you.

I hope you had a great World Breastfeeding Week!

Regards

Rachel.

About Rachel Stewart

Rachel is the founder of Parenting Central Australia. She is raising two children, boy and girl, with her partner.She has a background in early childhood education, but right now is content to be a stay at home mum.She is passionate about birthing rights, breastfeeding and mental health. She enjoys crafting, drinking coffee (sometimes wine) and spending a little too much time on Facebook.

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2 comments

  1. Leia Barrett from Facebook

    Well written xx

  2. Sam Munn from Facebook

    Love it! …but on a serious note, it is a bit disturbing how little most GPs know about Breastfeeding. You could suggest that he might like to take a course with ABA specifically designed for health professionals….