Dr. Laurie Jones and her daughter, Caroline. Photo courtesy of Dr. Jones
Pediatrician and new mom Laurie Jones, MD, just couldn’t get her first-born daughter, Caroline, to latch. She’d been to three lactation consultants. Nothing worked.
“I knew how good it was for her,” says Jones, “I knew how important it was to breastfeed her.
“My mother had nursed me until I was a year old – my husband supported me.
But I was bleeding and engorged and exhausted. I cried so hard one day trying to nap, and thinking about failing at this, and failing my daughter. The whole bed was shaking from how hard I was crying.”

Medical students, residents and physician moms can face unique challenges when it comes to meeting their breastfeeding goals. Like any other mother who will return to work, there’s the question of how the pumping experience will go.
Depending on the medical specialty, working hours can be unpredictable.

Plus, family members, friends, even medical support staff may assume that a doctor must know what she’s doing when it comes to nursing a baby. After all, she’s trained so thoroughly on the subject of human anatomy and physiology.
But that’s simply not always the case.

Many physician moms don’t always feel comfortable asking for help in the hospital, or after the baby comes home. Some skip pre-natal breastfeeding classes. There’s the feeling that they should know how breastfeeding should work –especially those who practice within the primary care fields, taking care of mothers and babies.

“There was a moment of deep despair that I thought I might have to quit being a pediatrician if I couldn’t breastfeed,” says Jones. “I was failing as a doctor too – how could I face my patients later when I went back to work and had to tell them that I couldn’t do it. How could I ask them to do if I couldn’t do it?”

Dr. Laurie Jones and her son, George
Ultimately, Jones found the help she needed. “That horrible day, my parentsrecognized what a terrible struggle I was having. They got my husband to take me to one more lactation consultant, who figured out the problem and got us on the right path.”

She was able to breastfeed Caroline, now 3, and then her son George, 13 months. The experience changed the course of her practice- she became a board certified lactation consultant and a teacher of breastfeeding medicine.

Jones realized how critical support and encouragement from other moms could be during the breastfeeding experience. So she started Dr. MILK, or (M.othersI.nterested in L.actationK.nowledge).
She began collecting stories and tips and local resources from friends to pass around to any of her fellow doctors or residents who needed the information. She stumbled upon the Arizona Breastfeeding Coalition. “They took me under their wing and said — you’ve got something here.”

When Jones saw an article defining physician moms as a high-risk breastfeeding group in the journal Breastfeeding Medicine, it was official. Everything clicked. She knew she needed to spread the word beyond Phoenix.

So, she created a web site, a private Facebook page just for physician moms, and a Twitter account for Dr. Milk. A La Leche League (LLL) member advised her to find a gathering spot in a lounge and hold face-to face meetings for physician moms.
“I was skeptical at first that anyone would take time away from a busy work day to come to a lunch meeting, says Jones, “but that LLL leader was right!!

When physician mothers experience personal success with breastfeeding, says Jones, no matter their specialty, there’s a ripple effect. “It impacts their support of breastfeeding in their careers with hundreds, if not thousands of interactions with breastfeeding mothers over the span of their career.”
Jones hopes to grow Dr. Milk groups at other area hospitals and eventually,

Dr. Laurie Jones with Caroline and George
around the country. “I see how much the support and encouragement helps people past their barriers and road blocks. And how just talking about the struggle to work and maintain a family (and milk supply) is so helpful to the members. I get energized every time I go to a meeting.”