Breastfeeding expert causes controversy with northeastern Ontario moms

A Toronto pediatrician who established the first hospital-based breastfeeding clinic is causing controversy with some mothers in Sudbury.
A lactation consultant in Sudbury who helps new moms who are having troubles breastfeeding has begun offering teleconferencing sessions so women in more remote areas can get help.

A Toronto pediatrician who established the first hospital-based breastfeeding clinic is causing controversy with some mothers in Sudbury.

Dr. Jack Newman will be in Sudbury on Thursday to talk with heath care professionals and the general public.

He’s the author of Dr. Jack Newman’s Guide to Breastfeeding, which has been translated into several different languages.

Breastfeeding guru Dr. Jack Newman says what doctors are taught about breastfeeding is pitiful. He'll be in Sudbury to talk to health care professionals and the general public. He shared some of his thoughts on breastfeeding with us over the phone. 9:05

Newman said breastfeeding is a physical and emotional relationship between a mother and child.

“It’s a close, intimate relationship between two people who are usually in love with each other and … it’s not the same as bottle feeding,” he told CBC Morning North host Markus Schwabe.

“We know that there’s tonnes of information out there that formula fed babies are not as healthy. That doesn’t mean they’re unhealthy. Lots of babies are fine. They grew up formula feeding and they’re fine.”

But Newman said there is research that shows there are risks when babies are fed formula, such as behavioural problems as teens and increased risk of certain diseases such as diabetes type one.

Mixed messages

We received a lot of feedback from upset mothers over an interview with Dr. Jack Newman about the advantages of breastfeeding over formula. Laura Forget of North Bay and Lynn Despatie of Sudbury shared told us about their breastfeeding experiences. 10:50

Laura Forget of North Bay said she was shocked when she heard Newman’s message.

“I have been hearing this for the past three months since I decided to stop breastfeeding and start formula feeding my daughter,” she said.

“When I made the decision to switch, and that was a very hard decision for both my husband and I, I dealt with a lot of guilt.”

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Forget said she nursed her daughter for a month, but decided to stop because she felt she couldn’t bond with her child because she was in extreme pain.

“My husband would tell me that my daughter was waking up from a nap and I would burst into tears because that meant she needed to feed,” she said. “And I knew how much it hurt.”

Forget said it was hard to hear a message like that from a doctor, especially after the effort she put in to try to breastfeed her daughter comfortably, including seeing breastfeeding consultants, being part of peer support groups and visiting clinics.

Lynn Despatie of Sudbury said she finds Newman’s message mixed.

She said Newman said feeding your baby formula is fine, but then adds that breastfed babies have more advantages.

Despatie said she breastfed her child for five months and also supplemented with formula, but not without a bit of help.

“I went to see my family physician and I was having breastfeeding issues and he said ‘Yes, just formula feed,’” she explained.

“I made an appointment with the lactation consultant and I saw three [consultants].”

Eventually, Despatie said her fourth lactation consultation helped her define what personal success is.

Now, she’s expecting her second child and is making decisions on how her child will be fed.

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