Friday, January 4, 2013

Who's Looking after the Breasts That Are Breastfeeding?

This article nails it when it says no one is really looking after the breasts that everyone encourages to breastfeed. I asked this question---"Who's looking after these?" when I was breastfeeding my son.

Seriously, if you're doing it right, they're practically smoking from use. The idea of a checkup or tune up on them does cross your mind. Knowing that someone--anyone--really cared or knew more than you did about the whole process would be a start.

The pediatrician looks after the baby. He or she wants you to breastfeed, exclusively and for as long as possible. But they can't field a real question about it. It's clear they don't consider it their area, and as this article points out, they have no way to bill you for that work anyway.

OB/Gyns give the six-week post birth check, but that doesn't include an inventory of the breasts. They also want you to breastfeed, but if you have questions, good luck. They aren't interested, informed or able to bill either.

And lactation consultants, my experience is they are gung-ho breastfeeding supporters and will give you helpful advice but ask a real question--"Why does one breast supply so little and the other much more? Is that normal?" and you'll hear, "Is the baby gaining weight?" If so, it's all fine.

Except sometimes it's not; sometimes it could be indicating a physical problem--like breast cancer. My left breast never supplied what its sister did. And after two years of breastfeeding, the difference between them was noticeable. I discovered the cancerous lumps in my left breast six months after I stopped breastfeeding.

It didn't take me long to theorize that the low milk production in my left breast might have been a sign that cancer was there, growing. Here's the thing, women are at a significantly heightened risk for developing breast cancer after giving birth to a child. Generally women of childbearing years have a very, very tiny risk for developing breast cancer, but after you give birth your chances explode and remain elevated for several years.

It becomes a lottery that anyone could win. I did. All doctors need to know of this risk, take it seriously, tell their patients about it and watch for it--with breast exams and close monitoring of breastfeeding. As this article points out, things can go wrong with it. And those things need to be followed up on and medically investigated, because it can be important for the health of the baby AND the health of the mother.

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