Doctors and Extended Nursing
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve seen and spoken with numerous doctors and nurses and all had notable reactions to the fact that I still nurse my toddler regularly. One was my dermatologist, who finally rectified my eczema treatment. The others were because I’ve been sick with pneumonia, no walk in the park! This post is mostly just to share my outrage. I am confounded at the lack of information and knowledge available within the medical community on something as normal and healthy as extended breastfeeding.
After going through the new treatment approach for eczema, I asked her if it was safe to use all this stuff while nursing. I had all three of my kids with me and she looked at them, then back at me, bewildered. “I nurse that one, she’s 22 months now.” “Oh. How often? Once a day?” I told her it was more like 4-6 times a day at this point and probably forever scarred her by adding “we really like it!”
When I saw the doctor for pneumonia, I was pretty ill and had no kids with me. Usually the fact that I nurse comes up when asked whether I could be pregnant but she never actually asked me that. So I walked out of there realizing I’d never actually discussed this! Thankfully she’d only prescribed an antibiotic, or so I thought. At the pharmacy they also tried to give me a cough syrup that includes codeine. I told her I’m a nursing mom so no thanks. She really tried to talk me into it and seemed frustrated that I kept declining.
A few days later I spoke with the nurse to just check in and make sure I was supposed to still be feeling as bad as I was. She said something like “oh yes! You won’t feel better until the weekend!” It was Monday… She then asked me how I was sleeping and whether the coughing was keeping me up. “No,” I told her, “I just wake up and feel really cold when I’m out of fever medicine.” “You really should be taking a strong cough medicine, do you have your prescription for that?” I explained the whole codeine issue and she kept me on the phone for another 10 minutes trying to look up the information. After finding out that I was breastfeeding a toddler, she actually asked me if I could just not nurse her for a few days till I felt better.
The nurse a few days after that didn’t know whether another medication was safe to use because their internal database no longer lists that information. “We deal with nursing mothers so rarely…” She recommended that I just not worry about it too much, but if I was really concerned I could call the pediatrician and ask them. Thanks a lot for that!
I’m blown away by these interactions. I wish more moms nursed their babies for longer. I wish doctors were taught to treat us as normal, healthy people rather than anomalies. Mostly, I wish that people could see the beauty and joy that exists in our extended breastfeeding relationship. Those moments where she comes up and does a little dance when the sun comes up and it’s time to nurse again, where she actually cheers, or walks up and looks me right in the eye with the most expectant face ever: “nurse peeeaaze?”