Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Breastfeeding & 'Experts'

When choosing 'Experts' to dispense advice, it is important to ensure that they are appropriately qualified for the advice that they will be meting out... Seems pretty simple, doesn't it?  They should have the education and experience on the subject matter, to support their stance and suggestions, right?

In the past, I have written about critical thinking and how it is important for mother's to look at where the advice (that they are inevitably inundated with) comes from.  Be it your OBGYN, your family practitioner, your paediatrician, your nurse, your mother/mother-in-law, your best friend, the lady in the grocery store, the man down the street, so on and so forth.  Everyone has an opinion when it comes to mothering, and it is important to keep in mind that some people are more qualified than other's to share their opinions (and having 'Dr' preface your name does not necessarily give you carte blanche in the advice department). 

Last week I wrote an open letter to CityLine, (a Toronto-based morning television show) regarding a breastfeeding segment that they will be airing in May.

I think it is wonderful that CityLine is airing a breastfeeding segment, but I question the breastfeeding advice that mother's will receive when the segment is being sponsored by Medela (a breast pump, bottle and breastfeeding alternative product company).

Medela's profits rely on interrupting the biologically evolved mammalian infant feeding norm - feeding babe at the breast. If mother's are able (and choose to do so) to feed their children exclusively at the breast, they will not need to buy Medela's products.  So, is it not questionable that this is the company CityLine has sponsoring their Breastfeeding segment?  Can we not assume that there will be a conflict of interest?  Would it not be safe to assume that Medela wants to make money, and to make money mother's have to feel as if they need their product, as if they could not feed and/or care for their child without Medela's product?  Does this not seem as if we are setting mother's up to fail? 

I question what advice will be given by their  breastfeeding 'expert', Marjorie E. Dixon, MD, FRCS(C), FACOG (whose professional affiliations include the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, the Canadian Fertility and Andrology Society, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada), straight from her website 'First Steps Fertility':
Her research thesis and interest lies in the field of recurrent pregnancy loss, looking at mediators of inflammation and their impact on the genetic expression of factors involved in the failure of embryo implantation. She also specializes in difficult reproductive endocrine cases including polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), reproductive aging, hypothalamic problems, thyroid disease and endometriosis as well as general gynecology and surgeries.

No mention of lactation.  No mention of mammalian infant nutrition.  No mention of breastfeeding.  

If you were sourcing out your own breastfeeding expert, would you not expect that breastfeeding, lactation and/or mammalian infant nutrition be an interest of theirs?  Would you not expect that they had spent time independently educating themselves on the biologically evolved norms of feeding ones baby at the breast?   

What really burns my butt (aside from the fact that CityLine essentially brushed off my concerns with this response:  'Thanks for your email.. we always appreciate viewer feedback.. I have passed your email along to our Sales department for their review.. someone will be in touch..'  I'm not sure why I require a response from their Sales department, since I am not trying to sell them anything), but what really burns my butt is that mother's will see that a doctor is the expert for the segment (factor in that she's female, and an OBGYN), and very few will question her advice.  

When we are inundated by suggestions from strangers; the lady at the grocery store or the man down the street, we automatically question their advice.  We wonder about what qualifies them to dispense such sage words of wisdom, and we actively take that information and put it through our own personal filter.  When it is a doctor putting forth a recommendation, it is harder for most people to question them.  We immediately think of the amount of time that they have put into their education, that must mean they are qualified.  Right?  

But that is not necessarily true!  A doctor will only have as much lactation and breastfeeding education as they wish to independently pursue.  Paediatricians and gynecologists cannot agree on who should be well-versed in lactation and breastfeeding information (it is my honest opinion that it should be both... paediatricians should be well-versed in the biologically evolved norm for human infant nutrition, since their specialty is human infants/children and gynecologists should be well-versed because they are delivering these babies and helping their mother's immediately after birth) and so the ball is dropped, and neither are experts on the matter.

It is my opinion that CityLine has missed out on an amazing opportunity; Toronto has a wealth of lactation and breastfeeding resources (ones that many expectant, and new mother's are unaware of).  

If you are a CityLine viewer, expecting a baby, a mother or someone that is interested in supporting breastfeeding mother's; please consider contacting CityLine ( or their email) and expressing your frustration.  Tell them, in no uncertain terms, that mother's deserve to have unbiased, scientifically supported (not anecdotal) breastfeeding advice.  

Breastfeeding Resources:
Dr. Jack Newman
La Leche League Canada
WHO (World Health Organization) 
Lactation Advocacy Group:  I hate it when people act like breastfeeding is obscene, GET OVER IT!
Ontario Lactation Consultants Association
Best for Babes Foundation
Infact Canada

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