Mothers, ignore anyone who tells you to ignore your doctor

Red IGNORE button on a computer keyboard

I’m the first to acknowledge that medicine is far from perfect. Members of my family have been victims of poor medical practice: failure of a doctor to listen, failure of a doctor to take the time to think about what’s really going on, failure of a doctor to believe what a patient is telling him or her, not to mention sheer incompetence.

Despite that, the most important medical advice I can give you is ignore anyone who tells you to ignore your doctor.

Modern medicine is the worst form of treatment except for all others that have ever been tried.

It’s not that your doctor can’t be wrong; if you don’t agree with what a doctor has told you or you don’t like the way that a doctor cares for you, get a different doctor. But don’t listen to a layperson or a purveyor of alternative health.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill:

Modern medicine is the worst form of treatment except for all others that have ever been tried.

There is no system that has saved more lives, cured more diseases, performed more successful surgeries, invented more lifesaving drugs and devices than modern medicine. Nothing else even comes close.

Who might tell you to ignore your doctor? In my experience, there are two types of people who make that recommendation: those who are selling something they want you to buy and those who are desperate to boost their self-esteem to have their own choices mirrored back to them.

That’s especially true in the realm of natural parenting.

People have been parenting naturally for millions of years and during that entire time span the mortality rate of children (and mothers) has been astronomical.

How have we lowered the death rates of mothers and children to current levels?

1. Alternative health advocates like to claim that it is entirely due to clean water and sanitation. It’s true that those have saved millions of lives. What people fail to realize is that clean water and sanitation are MEDICAL advances. The rationale for both is the germ theory of disease and that was not proposed by laypeople.

2. Better nutrition has saved lots of lives, too, although the main component of better nutrition is simply adequate food. Children died because they were forced to live a subsistence existence. Sure, all the food was organic, but there wasn’t enough of it.

Moreover, everything we know about nutrition was discovered by doctors and scientists. No nutrition discoveries were made by advocates of alternative health, chiropractors, homeopaths, reiki masters and any of the other charlatans who claim to be practicing medicine when they are simply stealing your hard-earned money.

3. Antibiotics have saved millions of lives and continue to save millions of lives every year.

4. Prenatal care saves millions of lives and it was developed by doctors. No one besides obstetricians, not even midwives, have contributed a single life saving intervention to the care of pregnant women.

5. Infant formula has also been one of the greatest life saving discoveries of all time. It is estimated that 5-15% or more of women are biologically incapable of fully nourishing a child with breastmilk. In the past, those babies simply died of starvation or dehydration. Now they are easily saved.

6. Vaccination, after sanitation, is the greatest public health discovery of all time. Once we learned about the way the body fights off disease (by recognizing bacteria and viruses as foreign and killing them) and why it often fails (the bacteria and viruses act faster than the body can recognize and kill them), we used that knowledge to improve the odds. Now we teach our immune systems to recognize foreign invaders before they invade. We give the body’s natural defenses an enormous head start and that has led to the eradication (smallpox) and near eradication of many infectious scourges.

Who tells parents to ignore their obstetricians? Individuals and organizations who make money by convincing you to distrust the only people who can save your life. Midwives resent that obstetricians learned to do what they did better, more safely and with far less suffering. Midwives make money when they tell you to ignore your doctor despite the fact that THEY count on the SAME doctors to rescue you when they can’t. They tell you to ignore the preventive medicine that obstetricians offer since they can’t offer it themselves, but they’re more than happy to call the obstetrician to save your life when the disaster that the obstetrician might have prevented actually occurs.

Who tells parents to ignore their pediatricians? For a long time that distinction went to the anti-vax lobby, which makes money from books and supplements. Anti-vaxxers are the 21st Century flat-earthers. Doesn’t the world look flat to you? That makes it flat. Doesn’t it seem to Jenny McCarthy that vaccines cause autism? That makes vaccines the cause.

The ultimate irony is that anti-vaxxers rely entirely on vaccination in order to convince you not to vaccinate. If everyone rejected vaccines, millions of children would sicken and die. But if only a minority of people reject vaccines, their children will be protected by the herd immunity created when the majority vaccinate.

More recently, lactivists have climbed on the “ignore your doctor” bandwagon. Why? It is an article of faith among them that breastfeeding, uniquely among all bodily processes, is both perfect and never fails. Both claims are spectacularly wrong, and sadly, babies are dying preventable deaths because lactivists tell people to ignore life saving advice from pediatricians. Lactation consultants aren’t medical professionals; they are special interest marketers. They make money only when women breastfeed, and they make more money when women struggle unsuccessfully to breastfeed, paying for countless $100/hour sessions of LCs telling women with low supply to breastfeed harder.

To my knowledge, not a single term baby’s life has been saved by refusing to supplement breastfeeding with formula, but tens of thousands of babies lives are saved each and every year by formula itself.

Doctors aren’t perfect. No one knows that better than a doctor like me. But doctors are dramatically more knowledgeable than midwives and lactation consultants. They know infinitely more than quacks like chiropractors, cranio-sacral manipulators, homeopaths, and anti-vaccine fear mongers.

You should ALWAYS feel free to consult another doctor if you have doubts about what your doctor recommends. And if a second opinion does not address your concerns, get a third doctor’s opinion.

Your doctor may be wrong, but that does not make your midwife, lactation consultant or alternative health practitioner right.

Ignore anyone who tells you to ignore your doctor. To do anything else is to risk your baby’s life.

  • Shawna Mathieu

    I was on a forum for IUGR moms, and the sheer number of times I saw people advise others to refuse medical advice was frightening. Worse were the ones where people told others to ignore the doctors and then outright lie to them about being compliant! And then the ones that were pushing agendas. A lot of those had sites that looked slick and official – and turned out to basically be the worst kind of propaganda.

    • EmbraceYourInnerCrone

      Why do people bother going to the doctor if they are going to lie to them and then not listen to a thing they say? I don’t get it…
      I have a friend who broke her shoulder, she has been unhappy with the care she got at the ER and with one of her orthopedic doctors. So did she decide to go to a chiropracter instead? or try homepathic remedies? NO, she asked people she knew if they had recently used an orthopedic specialist and if they would recommend the doctor, she got a list of names of possible second opinion docs, got a copy of her records etc and set up an appointment with a new doctor.(I do realize that not everyone has good insurance or the luxury of being able to afford a second opinion)

  • Amy

    “Your doctor may be wrong, but that does not make your midwife, lactation consultant or alternative health practitioner right.”

    Right here, in a nutshell.

  • ola

    Well, I live in a gentrifying neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. The lactation consultant affiliated with my pediatrician charges $300 per hour. There are others nearby who charge even more.

  • Fleur

    The thing I really don’t understand is this:

    Sure, you might not trust your healthcare provider when they tell you that, for example, your EBF baby is losing weight or isn’t gaining enough. You might even be right, because everyone makes mistakes. But do you (a) get a second opinion from another doctor or ask to switch health visitor, or (b) trust some randoms on an internet breastfeeding forum when they tell you that your baby, whom they’ve never even seen, is “obviously” happy and thriving (because the growth charts don’t apply to breastfed babies/ your baby’s stomach is only the size of a marble/ it’s normal for a breastfed newborn only to poop once every ten days/ lack of wet nappies doesn’t matter as long as your baby looks happy/ sleeping all the time just proves that your baby is contented/ crying all the time just proves your baby isn’t overfed like formula fed babies/ insert other reason as applicable)? I appreciate that I’m speaking from a UK perspective here and that I don’t know how easy and affordable it would be to get a second opinion in other countries, but I still can’t think of any circumstances where I’d think it was a good idea to trust my baby’s health to the collective wisdom of Netmums.

  • DelphiniumFalcon

    I’ve never understood this when second opinions are a thing. I mean I’m doing that right now! When I understood my nephrologist would likely suggest taking my entire kidney I didn’t run off to my massage therapist and say massage my tumor away and throw some essential oils at it! I found out if the NCI cancer center across the state took my insurance and asked their team to take a look at my images and tell me all my options.

    I mean I could just not listen to my doctor and eat tumeric or pot brownies or whatever the miracle herb is today…if I want to die in horrible pain in the next ten years. Seems like a no brainer!

    I mean if what the doctor your currently seeing is saying something that’s setting off alarm bells or doesn’t seem right, go to another doctor if there’s one available and see if your bad feeling is right or not.

    Yes I’m sounding very privileged right now and I wish this was an option for everyone but this is why if a friend needed to have treatment at the genomics center where I’m at I’d gladly put them up in my guestroom and drive them to appointments. Hell, I’d probably help them get out here if they needed it. Distance and travel costs shouldn’t cost them their life.

    • BeatriceC

      We’re getting paperwork together for a second opinion for MK, even though his current doctors are finally starting to actually act like doctors. I still don’t trust them as much as I should. Anyway, my MIL pretty much reacted the same way you did. She didn’t hesitate to offer a place to stay, though she can’t drive, so I’m on my own driving to and from her place, which is still kind of a long drive considering LA traffic, but a whole heck of a lot closer than my house.

      • Charybdis

        They finally got off high center and are maybe convinced that he does have a problem? Better late than never, but good that you are getting the second opinion.

    • Mrs.Katt the Cat

      As a massage therapist who occasionally uses essential oils, this made me laugh out loud. Yes, please don’t ask me to massage a kidney – especially a compromised one! Sad but true there are those out there who would try.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      You should eat tumeric in tasty dishes and eat brownies if you enjoy them, with or without pot. No, none of that will get rid of your cancer, but you’ll have had a tasty meal and that will likely make you feel better.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        I think I may invest in the brownies today. My appointment got bumped back to the 28th for a more critical patient. Definitely understandable since I’m not in danger of dying in the next two weeks.

        Still I’m not going to have any nails left by next week with how stressed out this makes me. It’s the not knowing that’s driving me up the wall. Still no consensus on if it’s cancer or not but if it’s that ambiguous afget three CT scans, two MRIs, and an ultrasound I’d rather they just do the partial nephrectomy and get rid of the damn thing. It has some small septal walls inside the cyst and everything I’ve read points to that being a bad sign for it staying benign if it isn’t already cancerous. What scares me most is that we’ll still be doing watchful waiting. I don’t want to go through this freak out every year while we wait around and decide if it’s cancer or not and then have it come back ambiguous -again- and then we wait another year with this always in the back of my mind.

        I’ve just never been good at waiting. And it’s killing my productivity at work because I can’t concentrate. And I’m afraid I’ll just get branded an attention whore if I say too much but I still need to take days off to get o my appointments. Or worse they’ll think I’m faking it or something…

  • J.B.

    Here’s the main thing I don’t get about anti-vax: you don’t trust vaccination (a major pillar of public health) but you want your child to see a pediatrician. So what is it – do you trust doctors or not?

    • Mel

      Like untrained homebirth midwives, doctors are evil incarnate when they offer preventative care like vaccinations, treatment for gestational diabetes or a CS when labor stalls.

      Doctors are a necessary evil when your child has meningitis from measles, a raging staph infection during chicken pox, lung damage from whooping cough or a crash CS for a moribund infant and a dying mother. The evilness of the doctor is shown by the fact that they can’t patch your child back together 100% and have the audacity to suggest preventative measures to prevent the illness in the first place.

      The only way I can wrap my head around it is if doctors are a form of evil magic compared to the good magic of naturalistic care. Rather than seeing that the “good” magic is causing the problem, the people believe that “evil” magic is needed sometimes when the good magic fails.

    • Who?

      Doctors are the last resort. When you haven’t got your natcheral stuff right-because we all know it is perfect, only the execution fails-then you go to the doctor.

  • Marie

    “Your doctor may be wrong, but that does not make your midwife, lactation consultant or alternative health practitioner right.”
    Exactly this.
    I was fortunate to have a lovely, non-lactivist LC. She works as a nurse practitioner in my son’s pediatrician office. She is not woo-ey at all and supported us supplementing with formula. Unfortunately it seems LCs like her are few and far between.

    • Anonymous

      Our LC was the same way.
      LC-“You aren’t providing enough milk.”

      Wife-“Ok”
      LC-“Supplement with formula or switch to formula completely but you need to be sure to feed the baby.”

      And that was how we went to formula.

    • Heidi_storage

      I had decent women, too. I was pumping exclusively because of a bad latch (Baby 1) and bitey baby (Baby 2), and felt a bit guilty about it for some reason (I have no idea why, except maybe that breastfeeding hurt like holy heck and pumping didn’t, and it somehow felt like cheating to pump and then rest while someone else fed the baby). The consultants watched, helped, weighed the baby before and after, and then said I should do whatever worked best for us. They both said, “Fed is best.”

      • Jennifer

        Well my lc did point out my supply was too low, but that was pretty obvious. She suggested supplementing, which was good, but recommended half an oz per feeding. After listening to the little guy scream in hunger for a day I caved and gave him 2 to 3 oz in supplement (this is how much i was giving him before i saw her). My supply never increased and maybe this is why but fed is best first and foremost. Anyway my lc was $400 (I live in nyc) and I guess was not a zealot or terrible but ultimately didn’t really improve the situation in any way I could see. One thing I noticed was that the 400 bucks was supposed to buy me all this follow up care but she sure disappeared fast after that check was cashed. My insurance is supposed to reimburse me for her services but she somehow provided the wrong code on the paperwork she gave me to submit to them. They contacted her to correct it but she ghosted them so they finally contacted me and when I tried to get her to respond to them she refused. I thought that was pretty crappy considering she was paid so much for so little. It would not have killed her to spend 20 minutes on the phone with them to sort it out.

        • Who?

          Very rude. I wonder whether she is hiding income from the tax man that way.

          • Jennifer

            Wow I never considered that. Could be. I wondered why she was so weird about providing the right code. That would make total sense.

          • Who?

            It’s sad I’m so jaded. ‘Follow the money’ rarely fails as a tactic for understanding apparently inexplicable behaviour in the business world.

      • Ainsley Nicholson

        I’ve done both. If breastfeeding hurt anywhere near as much as pumping for me, I wouldn’t have done it. I found pumping to be quite uncomfortable. I’m guessing our pumps were more similar than our babies.