Physician calls for peer breastfeeding support

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Dr. Wiseman pictured with her children Hanna and Leonard and husband Robert.

Emergency medicine doctor Colette Wiseman, MD, CLC comes from a long line of physicians and nurses, but she’s the first to express a deep interest in breastfeeding.

Dr. Wiseman became passionate about infant feeding after nursing her firstborn.

“I had no concept of what [breastfeeding] really meant until I had my son,” Dr. Wiseman says.

During medical school, Dr. Wiseman remembers learning how the breast makes milk. From there, it was up to her to wade through the often turbulent waters of breastfeeding and new motherhood.

Several friends and family members also with new babies consulted Dr. Wiseman asking for breastfeeding advice.

Dr. Wiseman found herself seeking supplemental information online. Concerned the advice wasn’t always great, she sought professional lactation training.

Dr. Wiseman researched several options and chose to take The Lactation Counselor Training Course: an in-depth and intensive training that she could ​attend without compromising her work commitments.

“I was surprised by how evidence based [the course] was,” she says. “I didn’t know how much [breastfeeding] research there was. I loved it. It was like being back in medical school.”

Several months prior to completing her CLC training, Dr. Wiseman started Mama’s Milk Works, a lactation and breastfeeding advising service for working mothers.

Dr. Wiseman uses a variety of communication methods. She hopes to meet mothers at their comfort level whether that be through in-person meetings, phone calls, texts, or emails.

Because her CLC training taught her the importance of establishing breastfeeding in the first few weeks, Dr. Wiseman plans to focus her support prenatally and in the first few weeks postpartum.

Early breastfeeding support is especially important for physicians and other medical professionals who are expected to return to work very early postpartum.

“There is an intense pressure for us to get back [to work,]” she explains. “It’s not really considered OK to take off so much time.”

By so much time, Dr. Wiseman means three months. She says she can count on one hand the number of physicians who have taken three months maternity leave.

“I don’t know how this can happen, but I wish we could support our peers better,” she says. “Beyond a lack of support, there is animosity.”

During her residency, Dr. Wiseman pumped for her baby about every three hours. Her residency directors called her to a meeting and insisted, “Just give him a bottle; you’re pumping too much.”

“That was their message,” she reflects.

On top of peer pressure, Dr. Wiseman describes self pressure too.

“We [physicians] are used to succeeding,” she says. “In general we are pretty pleased with the things we’ve done.”

“But then all of the sudden there is this simple, natural thing that you can’t do,” she goes on. “It’s devastating.”

Support needs to start early on for moms and babies. Equally so, breastfeeding support should be emphasized early on in health care providers’ careers.

“I wish medical schools would require students to shadow a lactation consultant,” Dr. Wiseman says. “They wouldn’t learn that much, but they would realize that [breastfeeding] is a huge thing… they would start to get an idea that [breastfeeding] issues exist.”

Dr. Wiseman also acknowledges a need for  better awareness of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.

“Teaching physicians more about that would be great.”

Find out more about Dr. Wiseman’s work at http://www.mamasmilkworks.com/

 

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