Breastfeeding in Medicine: Time to Practice What We Preach – AAP News

At first, breastfeeding was not at all what I had imagined. To this day, I wince when I recall the toe-curling pain that coursed through my body each time my daughter’s tiny newborn mouth latched onto my breast, a sensation that stood in stark contrast to the exhilarating magic of her existence. Despite prenatal preparation, supportive family, and knowledgeable physicians, nurses, and lactation consultants, the early days of breastfeeding were more challenging than I had ever imagined. The physical and emotional intensity of serving as this small human’s primary source of fluid, nutrition, and comfort was simply overwhelming. More than once, with nipples cracked and bleeding, I sat and cried. How could something so simple, so fundamental, so primal, be so hard?

More than 70 months of breastfeeding later, nursing my 4 daughters is one of my proudest, most precious accomplishments. The hard work and tears paid off; by the time my youngest infants were born, they latched like champions, and breastfeeding was second nature. At many points along the way, however, achieving this goal seemed in irreconcilable conflict with a career in medicine. To be clear, as a pediatrician I support parents feeding their infants in whatever way is best for their family without judgment. The history and politics of what (and by whom) infants are fed is long and storied, rife with deep racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic inequities that persist in a variety of forms to this day. Some contend that, driven by ideology, the benefits of breast …

Address correspondence to Phoebe Danziger, MD, Division of General Pediatrics, Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan, 1540 E Hospital Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. E-mail: phoebed{at}med.umich.edu

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