We were living overseas when Donovan was born. We managed to find an English-speaking pediatrician pretty easily, thanks to two separate recommendations for the same guy. We loved this pediatrician, he was cheerful and friendly and seemed to know his stuff. He was also extremely pro-breastfeeding, practically cheering at each check-up when I told him we were still exclusively nursing.
When D was about 4 months old he started dropping down his growth curve. Our pediatrician didn't worry about it right away, but when at 6 months D had gone from 50% for weight down to 25% he sat us down and expressed his concern. Perhaps my milk wasn't enough for him anymore, he said, and it was time to try using formula.
"We want to make sure he's getting enough calories and nutrition for his brain to grow properly," he said. Talk about striking fear into a new mother's heart (mind you, there were no other red flags- D was happy, active, and meeting milestones).
I'm not sure if he ever even asked about diaper output. He didn't mention seeking help from a lactation consultant to help increase my supply, if that was even the issue (and I was too naive to think about seeking one myself, or to know how to go about finding one). We did try giving D formula, but he completely refused. We kept an eye on his weight and encouraged eating lots of foods with healthy fats and to nurse lots. It took till D's first birthday till we finally realized that our happy, very active, very healthy kid was just...skinny. His growth curve was simply a variation of normal.
A few months later, now living back in California, this strange thing happened where at about 10 months my milk supply plunged for a week or two (I noticed that D wasn't putting out many wet diapers all of a sudden). We had a different pediatrician, but the experience was mostly the same-- up to then she'd been very supportive of breastfeeding, yet when my supply became questionable the only suggestion was, "Why don't you try formula?" Which D once again refused, and after a week or 2 my supply came back to normal and we nursed for several months after that.
Moving ahead a few years, Quinn had no breastfeeding issues until he started a 12 day nursing strike at 9 months old. I went in to see our current pediatrician (different from the previous two). She was out, and the doctor we saw instead was completely and utterly clueless. I don't think he even knew what I meant when I said "nursing strike." Thankfully by then I knew better-- I walked out of that useless appointment and found an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) in the area. Her encouragement, advice, and support played a major role in getting us back to breastfeeding again. Quinn is still nursing now at 15months and we don't have any clear deadline for when we may stop.
These are my own anecdotes, but hearing others' stories I get the sense that my experiences are not unusual (at least none of our pediatricians have "celebrated" breastfeeding by gifting bags of free formula for meeting a breastfeeding milestone, yes I know a few different moms to whom that actually happened). Many doctors today "know" that breastfeeding is "best" and certainly encourage and support it... as long as everything's going well. Yet most pediatricians have little or no training on how to handle the challenges that can arise. They won't even refer a mother to an IBCLC so she can get quality information and help. This is perhaps one of the biggest "booby traps" breastfeeding mothers face- we turn to our pediatricians for help (they're the experts, right??) and get well-intentioned bad advice that can derail a breastfeeding relationship.
If you're having trouble with breastfeeding and you want to continue (because when you decide to wean is up to you and your baby, no one else), please seek an IBCLC. Find someone who is helpful and supportive. Many breastfeeding problems can be solved with the proper support.
Do these stories sound familiar to you? Was your pediatrician truly supportive of breastfeeding?