My Daughter’s Peditrician’s Shocking Advice
When I went into labor with my daughter, Avery, it was 3 weeks before her due date. My contractions were frequent and intense, and before I knew it we were headed for the hospital, ready to birth Avery just hours after my first contraction.
After just barely entering the delivery room, Avery was ready to make her entrance into the world. And so, with no one but a nurse in sight, Avery came into the world with one single push. She was 21 inches and weighed 7 pounds. She came out screaming her little head off. She was beautiful of course, with a full head of blonde hair, that delectable newborn skin, and a deep, olive, tan. We didn’t think much of it. I’m biracial, so it made her look similar to me. But, it was something all of our visitors commented on. Her coloring was, well, it was a little bit strange for a newborn.
Not soon after her first in hospital check up with the pediatrician, we learned that Avery had jaundice– and it was pretty severe. It was that, in fact, that accounted for what appeared to be a sun-bather’s glow. So, I was instructed to meet with the pediatrician the very next day, after results from blood tests came in. It all seemed very serious, and I did as I was told. I headed into the office with my tiny baby in tow. Nothing could prepare me for what my doctor told me the next day.
“Stop breastfeeding,” he said, “breastfeeding can cause jaundice to become more severe. You need to start her on formula immediately or she could risk brain damage.” I felt confused, scared, and numb as I left his office. If formula was what was best for Avery, then I didn’t want to refuse. But, how could breastfeeding be bad for Avery? I had never heard that before, and well, it seemed suspect.
After we left the doctor’s office, it took me some time to think. My husband and I did a little research and we decided something quite daring for us: I wasn’t going to follow my doctor’s recommendation. Avery would continue to breastfeed.
We learned over the course of the next few days that yes, breastfeeding can cause jaundice to rise at a slightly higher rate than formula can, but that it doesn’t pose a threat to baby. In short, the view that breastfeeding was responsible for jaundice was old-fashioned, out-of-date advice. We decided to seek other treatments for Avery- and to search for a new pediatrician who could support our breastfeeding goals.
The next day, after finding a new pediatrician on the spot, we came home armed with new information, and a new, more effective treatment for Avery, one that didn’t compromise my breastfeeding goals: a little billicot (a specialized lighted bed that helps baby’s blood process and break down billirubin the substance in the bloodstream that causes jaundice.) Within a few days her jaundice had cleared AND she was still breastfeeding.
But, even to this day, I still think about that moment. How discouraged I felt when I heard my doctor’s recommendation. How scared I was to go against his advice. How desperate I felt to find another solution. And, I’ve wondered since, how many other moms’ breastfeeding journeys have ended abruptly because of bad advice or out-dated information. It was my first realization that fear is easy to stir up in the heart of a mom; but what I learned is you can’t let fear paralyze you! Do what you do best, mom, and do what YOU know to be best for your child. I did, and my child and I are both better for it.