Recognizing an Unsupportive Healthcare Provider for Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding holds significance in a baby's growth and development, making it vital for new mothers to receive the support they need to succeed in this endeavor. However, not all healthcare practitioners are equally supportive of breastfeeding, with some even discouraging it. It becomes crucial for new mothers to know how to identify healthcare providers who may not offer the desired level of support, ensuring they receive the care and encouragement they need.

While many healthcare providers claim to be supportive of breastfeeding, their actions may reveal a different story. Some might only extend their support when everything goes smoothly, while others may show no backing at all. When faced with challenges during the breastfeeding journey, some providers might suggest weaning or supplementation as solutions. Therefore, recognizing these signs is essential for mothers as they seek care that aligns with their breastfeeding goals.

Recognizing the Significance of Supportive Healthcare Professionals

Breastfeeding is important for promoting the well-being of both mothers and infants. However, numerous obstacles can impede a mother's ability to breastfeed, and inadequate support from healthcare professionals can compound these challenges. Supportive healthcare practitioners play a crucial role in advocating for and safeguarding breastfeeding practices. They possess the knowledge, expertise, and counseling skills to assist women in overcoming any hurdles they may face.

Identifying Unsupportive Behaviors and Attitudes

  • Promotion of formula: Healthcare professionals who promote formula or distribute formula samples may not be fully supportive of breastfeeding.
  • Lack of knowledge: Healthcare professionals who lack knowledge about breastfeeding may not provide adequate support.
  • Attitudes: Healthcare professionals with negative views towards breastfeeding may not provide the desired level of support.
  • Medication recommendations: Healthcare professionals who suggest medications that may impact breastfeeding might not prioritize supporting it effectively.
  • Using nipples: Some healthcare professionals may not endorse the use of nipples, like pacifiers or bottles, as it can lead to confusion for infants and make breastfeeding challenging.
  • Concerns about liability: Healthcare practitioners who have worries about liability may not provide adequate support for breastfeeding.
  • Fatigue or lack of time: Healthcare providers who are tired or pressed for time may not prioritize breastfeeding support.

The Impact of Education and Training

Education and training play a vital role in ensuring that healthcare practitioners are supportive of breastfeeding. Research has shown that educational interventions, such as simulation-based training and other forms of instruction, positively influence the knowledge and attitude of healthcare personnel towards breastfeeding.

In conclusion, education and training play crucial roles in ensuring that healthcare practitioners are equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to support breastfeeding. Healthcare professionals across disciplines, such as pediatricians, lactation consultants, nurses, faculty members in schools, residents, and nursing students, require comprehensive education and training programs focused on breastfeeding. By implementing interventions, we can promote positive attitudes towards breastfeeding among healthcare personnel, ultimately enhancing the overall experience for mothers involved.

Marketing and strategies employed by formula companies also impact healthcare practitioners and new parents, aiming to promote the use of their products. It's crucial for healthcare practitioners to recognize how marketing tactics employed by formula companies can influence their decisions and strive to provide evidence-based information when guiding parents.

Enhancing Breastfeeding Support in Healthcare

  • Participate in breastfeeding education and training programs.
  • Share evidence-based information about the benefits of breastfeeding.
  • Assist mothers in making informed decisions regarding infant feeding.
  • Foster a positive and supportive relationship with both the mother and baby.
  • Provide appropriate lactation support services and refer mothers to resources when necessary.

By promoting breastfeeding support in healthcare, healthcare professionals can help improve breastfeeding rates and ensure that mothers receive the care they need to successfully breastfeed their infants.

Questions? Email Jack Newman at, or Edith Kernerman at or consult: Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding (called The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers in the USA) or our DVD, Dr. Jack Newman’s Visual Guide to Breastfeeding; or The Latch Book and Other Keys to Breastfeeding Success; or L-eat Latch & Transfer Tool, or the GamePlan for Protecting and Supporting Breastfeeding in the First 24 Hours of Life and Beyond.  See our website at  To make an appointment email and respond to the auto reply or call 416-498-0002. 

Handout How to Know a Health Professional is not Supportive of Breastfeeding. May 2008

Written and Revised by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC 1995-2005

 This handout may be copied and distributed without further permission,
on the condition that  it is not used in any context that violates
the International WHO Code on The Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes


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