Should I Break Up With My Daughter’s Pediatrician?

I should have seen the warning signs long ago. Even that initial honeymoon phase showed harbingers of future tension.

Like lots of soon-to-be moms I had scheduled a prenatal visit at a locally recommended pediatrician’s office. The meeting was swift, but cordial. The doctor met me and my husband for about five minutes, told us how much experience he had treating children, newborns especially, and we left. Cut and dry. Even though, at that stage, I left feeling a bit rushed and slightly confused, I was eager to form a relationship with a pediatrician my husband and I could trust.

When she was born, my little girl didn’t take to breastfeeding so well. In the hospital, it was hard to get her to latch so the nurses told me to supplement with formula. One nurse even advised that I’d be wise to consider the alternative, an exclusively formula fed baby.

On day three of her life, we saw our new pediatrician. I was a zombie. I was in pain (I showed him my ridiculously torn up nipples). My daughter was unhappy. I wanted some relief. So I asked the question, “Can we start formula?” He instantly pooh-poohed my concerns (which should have been my first clue that something was “off” with our mommy-doc relationship) and was instead adamant that I seek the services of a pricey lactation consultant and continue to exclusively breastfeed.

When I look back now, I think that was probably the moment when I knew that if I didn’t give breastfeeding my best shot, I would feel like a massive failure.

In between brief moments of sleep and calm, I wondered why pumping hurt so badly and why the baby wouldn’t sleep longer than a few minutes at a time. I felt crazy. But every time I went to him, or called during those initial weeks, trying to explain how I needed a break, how pumping wasn’t yielding much milk, and how I wished I could give my daughter a bottle of formula, he remained rigid about his “breastfeeding only” policy. So I went with his advice because he was the expert on newborns. What did I know about my own kid?

I could go on…but let’s fast forward. I stuck with him, and I stuck with breastfeeding. He was almost like a bad boyfriend who was pressuring me into experiences I didn’t want to have. For some reason, I was more afraid of his perception of me as a mother than anything else. If my friend had a doctor that she was afraid to be honest with, I would tell her to move on. So, why was I so worried about disagreeing with my daughter’s doctor?

When my little girl was just shy of four months, she stopped gaining weight and then she lost a bit of weight. True, she was developing in other ways but he swiftly deemed her “failure to thrive.” When he spoke those words, I was petrified. If you Google “failure to thrive” babies, you’ll see some pretty scary things. I think I realized he had a very shortsighted way of looking at cases at this point because I sought a second opinion. A feisty older woman, another pediatrician recommended by friends, explained that my daughter just had petite features. “Bird-like bones,” she called them. She would be fine, this doctor said.

Even so, I continued to go back to our current pediatrician.

Now I have to stop and say that I live in a small town. So as my daughter grew older and took to habits like sucking on a pacifier or wanting to bottle feed well into her second year, I would be running into him all the time. This, after he had told me repeatedly in his office that my daughter’s teeth would be ruined from pacifier use, or that I was not letting her grow up into a proper toddler because she was still using a bottle. I would inevitably find myself looking over my shoulder at the grocery store, the playground, or on the way to her nursery school.  My daughter might be noshing on her binky, or the top of a bottle might be peeking out of my diaper bag, and I’d think, “Oh no, I hope we don’t see him right now.”

At every milestone he continued to make his opinions known. When I thought of going back to work full-time and putting my girl in daycare, he made it pretty clear he liked that his wife stayed home with his two children. He felt kids needed a parent around, and I’m pretty sure he was implying the Big M. When it came to sleep training, he was a firm cry-it-out method guy. I had a hard time with this, but he warned that not sleep training in a strict format would result in bad sleep habits for life. Later, when we switched my daughter to a toddler bed she would get up every night and sneak into our bed. I asked for his advice and the response was dismissive at best — something along the lines of, “Well you can let her do it, but good luck. You’ll have a teenager in bed with you before you know it.” And, to this day, I always feel like he seems rushed at visits or like he’s talking down to a child (me!).

Still, most recently, we had a heated debate in his office. He was telling me how much medication I should be giving my daughter, and when, for her asthma symptoms. I began questioning the reasons for a particular steroidal treatment and how often it should be used. I was not questioning his reasoning. I was not questioning his credentials, but even so, I sensed a cool defensiveness from him that I had seen on occasion, but never this intently.

I left the office feeling stressed, unsure of my own choices as a mom, unclear on the actual dosing information, but afraid to go back and ask again because, Sheesh idiot mom, you should know these things! When I told a friend, she quipped, “He’s not the only pediatrician in town. In with the new!” And then she forwarded me this video, which has apparently gone viral and knocks every pediatrician pretty much out of the playground.

I admit, I’ve made my life more difficult in this situation. Despite all my inclinations otherwise, I have stuck with this pediatrician and my kids really love him. They aren’t scared of going to the doctor. It’s clear he’s probably better with the kids than he is with their parents. But I’m thinking this relationship needs to come to a close.

What do you think? Would you stay or go?