What Doctors Aren’t Telling New Moms

 Image via: pbs.org

Image via: pbs.org

Part of an obstetrician’s or pediatrician’s job is to communicate important health info to new mothers, who in the days following their baby’s arrival may still be tired and overwhelmed by the delivery and demands of an adorable but totally needy infant.

Yet a new study published in the August 2015 Pediatrics suggests that some women are hearing crickets rather than crucial advice, particularly when it comes to nursing and how and where babies should sleep. 

According to the study, about 20 percent of new mothers reported that their doctor told them nothing about breastfeeding or that babies should be positioned to sleep on their backs, which lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). And at least 50 percent of the moms said they weren’t informed about where an infant should sleep (in the same room with parents but not in the same bed).

“The most surprising thing was to see how many women weren’t hearing this established advice about baby care and safety,” Staci Eisenberg, MD, a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center and co-author of the study, tells Yahoo Parenting.

The study came about because researchers realized that even though health advocacy organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) make recommendations on many baby care and postnatal topics, not all new moms were following them. So the researchers decided to look into why.

They surveyed 1,031 new mothers who had given birth in 32 hospitals across the country, asking them to report back on what advice doctors and other health care professionals passed on to them at two months and then again at six months after birth.

Among the other findings in the study: 11 percent of the moms surveyed said they heard nothing from their doctor about when to start immunizations. And 50 percent were given no information on pacifier use.

Also alarming is that when doctors did inform moms about these issues, 10 to 25 percent of the time, what they said was wrong — or at least not consistent with the recommendations set by health organizations, reports the study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Why didn’t the doctors fill in all their new-mom patients? Eisenberg theorizes that perhaps they did — but it wasn’t communicated well enough for the mothers to hear it. “The takeaway for doctors is to stop and think, Did I give that advice clearly?” suggests Eisenberg. 

Another explanation is that doctors might have assumed that some of the moms already knew the recommendations, she says, so they kept mum. Or they didn’t want to get into what could be a time-consuming discussion on a controversial topic such as breastfeeding.

Parents can glean something from the study results as well. “Parents need to know that they are proactive partners in their child’s health, and it’s important to ask questions or ask for more explanation if what your doctor says is inconsistent with what you’ve heard,” she says.

That goes for pregnant women as well. Tonse N.K. Raju, MD, chief of pregnancy and perinatology at the National Institutes of Health, tells Yahoo Parenting, “Before the baby comes is a good time to make sure your doctor informs you about breastfeeding benefits, sleep care, and other things that will maintain your child’s health.”