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Dr. Phil is Glad He Wasn't Breastfed

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

If you haven't already started to hear the buzz, you will soon.

On today's episode of Dr. Phil, he and several other doctors (including a pediatrician and an OB/GYN) were covering a wide variety of controversial topics. Things like older women having babies, celebrity rehab, sleep issues, and so on. During the conversation, wet nursing came up.

Since I can't find the video anywhere on YouTube yet, I've put together a transcript for you.

DR. PHIL: All right. Another topic that gets people talking, and this one just, I got to tell you, this kind of creeps me out, is the use of wet nurses popping up in social circles. Can't breast-feed your baby? No problem. Call one of your friends who's breast-feeding and see if they can do it!

What is up with this?

Dr. MASTERSON: They need to really start thinking about it, because they don't know what their friends have that they could be passing to the breast milk. So at that point, you know, formula may be just as good. I mean...

McGRAW: Well, psychologically speaking, I got to tell you...

Dr. STORK: That's gross.

McGRAW: ...if I grew up and found out that my mother had been passing me Around the neighborhood, I'd be walking down the sidewalk going, 'Oh, God. Is she one of them? Oh, no!' I mean, that would be horrible.

Dr. ORDON: I know--I know I was never breast-fed. Maybe that's why I went into breast surgery. I...

McGRAW: Yeah.


McGRAW: Well, I wasn't either, and I'm glad now.

Dr. MASTERSON: I think there's real big time when that, you know, nursing helps to, you know, mother and child bonding. I mean, what do you think?

McGRAW: Yeah, but I don't want to bond with the neighbor.

Dr. ORDON: On a serious note, some women, for whatever reason, they may have had cancer surgery, they just may have very poorly developed breasts, they just can't breast-feed.

Dr. BROWN: There are people who cannot breast-feed and there are alternatives. They actually have mother's milk banks where this milk is actually, you know, the moms are tested, the milk is tested. It's pasteurized. I mean, I would definitely do that. But this is just really wrong on so many levels. OK?

McGRAW: We got to move on.

I find this sad.


Not because they talked down about wet nursing...after all, I can completely understand that most people would be uncomfortable with the idea in this day and age. I personally don't think there's anything wrong with it, but I understand how it weirds people out.

What makes me sad is the fact that a group of doctors that includes a pediatrician and an OB/GYN think that the only benefit of breastfeeding worth mentioning is the bonding.

Perhaps Dr. Phil and his guests fall into the 25.7 percent of Americans that think formula is just as good as breast milk.

While I have no problem with them cautioning against the casual sharing of breast milk without properly screening the mom acting as wet nurse, they could have easily done so without all the "gross" and "really wrong on so many levels" talk, you know?

What they've done is further perpetuate the myth that breastfeeding is ONLY about emotional bonding.

They've also perpetuated the idea that breastfeeding has some type of sexual aspect to it by ranting about how sick and disgusting it is for one woman to nurse another's child.

Then again, Dr. Phil and I don't agree on a lot of issues, so I don't suppose I should be surprised about this one. Again, I'm just VERY disappointed to see them fail to recognize the health benefits of breast milk and to understand that some moms may want those benefits badly enough to seek out a wet nurse. It also fails to take into account that to many women, cross-nursing babies (say while baby-sitting for a friend) is no different than letting another mother give your child a bottle.


  1. Blogger Eilat | 2:41 PM |  

    You are right that the saddest thing about this is that the people making these comments are EDUCATED people. Medically educated, no less. And people who aren't as educated just have their misconceptions reinforced by listening to this type of talk.

  2. Blogger spacecat1974 | 3:44 PM |  

    Even sadder are the folks (moms, dads, grandparents, etc..) who will listen to these guys and take what they say as gospel.

    Makes me wonder how many are going to think breastfeeding is "icky" because he didn't think before he opened his mouth and said "I'm glad I wasn't breastfed".

  3. Anonymous Nev | 4:38 PM |  

    To be honest, I've never been a fan of Dr. Phil. (I think he panders to what he thinks people want to hear, but that could be just my impression.)

    On the subject of wet-nursing--I don't find it icky, but I have to admit, I couldn't see myself nursing just any other baby. It feels too...emotionally intimate. Maybe a neice/nephew or best friend's baby that I already felt bonded to, but that's about it.

    Unfortunately, this sounds like it's going to perpetuate the idea that nursing is somehow sexual. :(

    I'd almost bet that these guys haven't been around any nursing mothers very much. Hubby and I laughed after the first few weeks about how now all breasts just look like baby food.

  4. Blogger Debbiemommy | 4:39 PM |  

    I don't always agree with Dr Phil sometimes I think he suffers from recto-crainal inversion, but I'm kinda ticked I missed this show! I don't really think in this day and age casual sharing of breast milk is a good thing. If the person you are getting the milk from or allowing your child to nurse from is a milk bank donor that would be one thing, they have to undergo testing, but I would caution against using an untested persons milk. To me too risky. I'd go for the formula first but that is a risk too! However I think what was said was very ignorant. First off who's mom would pass a baby around the neighborhood to nurse? I could see if somebody let say a sister nurse thier child but several different people?? Dumb comment! And secondly breast feeding goes way way beyond bonding. That is only 1 of very many benifits to breastfeeding. Also it is rare that a woman can't produce enough milk however it does happen in a very few cases and if these so called experts got their stuff together and stop telling woman things like "your breast are small and that is why your not producing enough milk" (yes I do know somebody who was told that)more woman would be breast feeding. And as for what you said about some people thinking formula is just as good as breast milk ... oh don't get me started on that one! I have this argument with my mom all the time. But my smart,10 yr old, breast fed son set her strait! He had told her he was making strait A's and at the end of the year would get a bumper sticker saying "my child is an honor student at ..." and my mom said she would rip it off my car because I never got one for her in all my years of schooling. My son said "But grandma that is because I was breast fed and you didn't breast feed mommy so you MADE her dumb!" At first I didn't know if I should punish him for calling me dumb or reward him for knowing breast fed babies score higher on IQ tests! Ahh makes me feel good when I catch my kids paying attention to important stuff.

  5. Blogger Melissa | 4:50 PM |  

    I find it disturbing that the doctors (on top of the misconceptions of BF) seem inarticulate. Why do I want a Dr. that uses "you know" twice in one sentence?

    I think there's real big time when that, you know, nursing helps to, you know, mother and child bonding.

    One would think that since they were chosen to be on the show that their vocabulary was a bit bigger...

    I'm off to Dr Phil's webpage to make sure none of these Drs are in my area.

  6. Anonymous Brenda Z. | 6:14 PM |  

    Debbie- that story about your son is hysterical- They should make a bumper sticker that says "My Honor Student was Breastfed" ! i would definitely put that on my car- Anyways- I definitely agree that it could be very unsafe to let someone else nurse your baby unless you were 100% sure it would be safe- but I am so glad i didn't see this episode today cuz i would have been fuming! One of my best friends goes back and forth with me and her only argument is always "well i wasn't breastfed and i turned out fine" and it makes me so sad that people are so uneducated about the subject- Because people are fed misinformation from formula companies and their moms and grandmas and the Dr. Phi's of the world that "breast is best" but formula's right up there w/ it. I almost don't even know what to say sometimes to people- because it seems even if you hand them a sheet with all the hard facts about breastmilk vs. formula- people still just say "oh- well I just don't think it's for me"- I know so many people that refuse to even try breastfeeding and I just have no words to say- But I feel worse for people that really think they "can't". There are so few cases where women can't breastfeed and even in areas where hospitals have great lactation programs it's still not enough b/c what happens when you leave the hospital or you're at home sore and crying from a bad latch and you don't have the energy to go see a consultant- It takes a village and w/o everyone around you being supportive it can be so hard- and I just wanna cry for women who have "doctors" even of all people telling them that they can't do it! Women are told that we can do anything we put our minds to- but then told that we "can't" feed our children the way God intended? We are women- hear us roar- and watch us breastfeed because (almost) all of us can! Ok- going to sleep now:-)

  7. Blogger venessa | 6:48 PM |  

    I am just struck by the complete incoherence of that transcript. Does anyone speak in full sentences anymore?

    Oh, and I second all of your objections. I am part of a mom's group, we are very into The Village mentality. One of us has trouble pumping enough milk, so we all pitch in when we can. None of us have been tested, or if we have it's not shared info. (I assume we are talking about HIV here?) But we know each other, and trust each other. I don't know why everyone is so suspicious of everyone else in our culture. Yes, transmittable diseases exist and they always will. I wouldn't accept breastmilk from random people on the street. And I doubt that anyone who wetnurses or who accepts the services of a wetnurse does so without a high level of intimacy and trust between them.

  8. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:02 PM |  

    Didn't we just see in the day care case that the risks of accidentally feeding a baby the wrong bottle breastmilk is extremely low? Wouldn't these risks be similar to using a wet nurse in an emergency? I know this decision shouldn't be made lightly, but the risks of formula feeding or of dehydration (if the baby refuses a bottle) are just as real. Even though I've been seriously ill and in the hospital a few times while breastfeeding, it's always worked out that I've never had to resort to this. But my husband has strict instructions about which of our family or friends are currently breastfeeding should the need arise!

  9. Blogger sara | 7:14 PM |  

    The "you know" thing happens ALL the time in transcripts of TV or radio / podcasts. It drives me nuts.

    Apparently people learned that saying "umm" and "uhh" was bad.. but "you know" must be OK.

    (I'm hearing impaired so I end up reading a lot of transcripts.)

  10. Blogger Elizabeth F. | 7:17 PM |  

    Dr. Phil just needs to STOP talking about Breastfeeding in general. Maybe he should have some Breastfeeding experts on his show sometime to give GOOD info!

    And, I do not know one single mother who passes her baby off to everyone in the neighborhood to be nursed. I'm sure 99.9% of the time, it's usually an emergency situation where the mom cannot be there or isn't supplying milk, etc...And a regular mom cannot just call the Milk Bank to get some milk. It has to be prescribed and it has to be medically necessary (like baby is allergic to formula, etc...)

    I have nursed my nephew in an extreme situation, and while it was kinda weird, just cause he wasn't mine, I'd do it again in a heart beat. I also had a friend who had a preemie (her 5th child) and her milk did not come in right away. My SIL and I both pumped and gave her milk to take to the hospital for the baby. And, the mom had to pretend it was hers, because hopsitals don't like that sort of thing! Her milk would have been best, but our milk was better than the baby getting formula. She trusted me enough to ask. I was honored to do that for her.

  11. Anonymous amygeekgrl | 7:24 PM |  

    wow. it sounds like this show was "wrong on so many levels." it saddens me to see this kind of ignorance perpetuated by supposedly educated people.

    and brenda z. - i'd love to put that phrase on bumper sticker! it's awesome!

  12. Blogger Judy | 7:38 PM |  

    I thought about telling you about this, but you didn't like my idea about the other show so I lost my confidence (PMS among other issues)...

    Anyway, I actually saw the show today and the whole show was a "ask the doctor" show and was a light hearted show. The wet nurse thing you're discussing was a super fast segment within a segment. Like a rapidfire thing of 'Hot Topics.'

    If you don't find it on You Tube, imagine them as teenage girls at a lunch table in a cafeteria talking real fast, with all joking except one trying to inject some fact and seriousness to the topic. They were all sitting down on a couch or two except Dr Phil who was walking around the stage. They all were like, "ewwww gross!!!!" except for the pediatrician who brought up milk banks. If I remember correctly she was trying to discuss milk banks and options and was cut off by the OB who said it was wrong on many levels.

    I just found it surprising how 10th grade they all acted, especially Dr. Phil when he was imagining himself as a baby being passed around to his mom's friends and wondering later which boobs he sucked on.

    I just wanted to give my take. I just found the whole segment pretty stupid. They acted pretty immature for a bunch of doctors.

    I think the one doctor would have mentioned nutritional benefits if she were given a chance. But she was cut off. The whole segment lasted no more than a minute.

  13. Anonymous Rachel | 8:01 PM |  

    Ugh yet another reason not to like dr. phil...

    As for the idea of a wet nurse, i'm on the fence about whether or not i would do it or not. But my understanding is that for people that do, it's between family and friends - people you KNOW and not the whole neighborhood(riduculous, ignorant comment), and you get all these tests when you are preggers, HIV, etc and provided that you know the person well, that they aren't doing drugs, perscription or otherwise, they eat according to your standard and they are healthy, what is there to worry about? Are there people that hire wet nurses anymore?

  14. Anonymous amygeekgrl | 8:55 PM |  

    i hope it's ok to say this here (and if it's not, please just don't approve my comment - i won't be offended), but i did it. i put "My honor student was breast-fed" on a bumper sticker.

    thanks so much for the idea, brenda z. :)

  15. Blogger Judy | 10:09 PM |  

    1am and just thought of this....

    How could Dr Phil have been breastfed? Just imagine how much that mustache would have tickled. Ha Ha you just got a disturbing visual!!


    Night Night

  16. Blogger Debbiemommy | 5:10 AM |  

    Brenda Z. -- I think that bumper sticker is a great idea, I'd buy it! Jennifer how about putting that in your t-shirt store as either a t-shirt or bumper sticker. I'd like to see that one pop up on cars more often!

  17. Blogger Jennifer | 5:44 AM |  


    If you look in the comments, you'll see that Amy has already put it up. You can pick it up from her store. :)

  18. Blogger Stacy | 7:05 AM |  

    I was so disappointed in that show. The breastfeeding discussion was just terrible. The segment on heping the mom and dad get thier 2 little girls to sleep was awful too! They used some stupid acronym "SLEEP" to help them but did not provide any informaiton on how to implement the plan. It was really awful. To make matters worse I posted on my mothers nursing group that this show was going to be on. I am so humiliated now! UGH! HAte Dr. Phil.

  19. Anonymous amygeekgrl | 7:28 AM |  

    jennifer - you are more than welcome to add it to your store too. i'd love to see these sold all over. :) it's such a great saying.

  20. Anonymous Brandi K. | 7:59 AM |  

    I watched the show, and was also very bothered by the complete *lack* of the physical benefits of breastmilk. But I am glad that the pediatrician brought up milk banks!

    The whole getting kids to sleep segment bothered me just as much! The mom said how if she takes the kids in the guest room and lays down with them, they sleep great. So I'm sitting here thinking, "Then why don't you just do that?!!!" I wish somebody had said, "There is a thing called the family bed, and there's nothing wrong with it." DUH, people!

  21. Blogger Carrie Lauth | 8:03 AM |  

    When I was 5 days old my Mom had to go back to the hospital and I wouldn't take the bottles of breastmilk the local LLL moms dropped off. I ended up sucking on my Dad's pinky finger all night long. I bet Dr Phil would say I have issues. What an idiot.

    Anyway, my mom's friend nursed me a few times... which probably saved my life or at least kept me comforted and hydrated during what was probably the longest two days of my entire life. And I am SO thankful.

    I don't think it's a coincidence that I grew up to be an LLL leader, and mom of 4 who lets them decide when to wean (which usually ends up being 4). I guess I'm some kind of freak according to these educated idiots.

  22. Blogger Laureen | 10:11 AM |  

    I was at a wedding not too long ago, where one of the groomsmen was the bride's "milkbrother". They're Romainian, and in their culture, the fact that one woman nursed both children makes them like siblings, and that's a relationship that's honored and upheld.

    How cool is that?

  23. Anonymous Anonymous | 1:12 PM |  

    I am SO glad you've already addressed this; I just shot an email off to Hathor in hopes she would address Dr. Phil's gratuitous slam and the bullcrap response by the Dr. that it was "so wrong on so many levels." I forgot about how Phil was glad he wasn't breastfed. rolleyes

    I won't even allow them the slack to be squicked out by wet nursing; that was a gratuitous slam on nursing as being gross, and I think it was intolerable.

  24. Anonymous Anonymous | 1:16 PM |  

    Ohhhhh God I didn't hear or see this part - "Dr. ORDON: I know--I know I was never breast-fed. Maybe that's why I went into breast surgery. I.."

    That was the plastic surgeon? I find this extremely disturbing! He never had the chance to participate in what comes natural for a breast (and a baby) so he prefers cutting them up instead? What kind of freaking logic is that? It's scary, scary logic. Because yes, mutilation of a breast is a far better thing than nursing.

  25. Anonymous Debby | 2:57 PM |  

    This makes me so angry on so many levels. I'm just speechless.

    I used to watch this show every day. EVERY day. Then I fell out of habit until I got TiVo. Ahwile back, Dr. Sears was on and while Sears did his best to get his point across, I was upset that Phil seemed to just dismiss it out of hand. Then a few weeks ago, I had to TiVo it again because I just couldn't miss an episode on homeschooling...only to be angered by the lack of real homeschoolers actually interviewed. But this latest...I'm glad I hadn't heard about it and wasted my precious TiVo space. I'm done with this show for good.

    By the way, just to attempt to bring a bit of levity, I never fully understood the term "wet nurse" until I had my first baby. Five years and three kids later, I get it. Especially first thing in the morning after your baby has just started sleeping through the night.

    Have a blessed Good Friday, everyone!

  26. Anonymous Brenda Z. | 5:32 PM |  

    Well I hope everyone starts buying those bumper stickers:-) I'm gonna buy a few for the future- My son just turned 3 so no honor roll yet- but i'm gonna give one to my sister and anyone else I can think of-- It's funny cuz I made that up last night in bed when I was almost falling asleep-I barely even remember typing that:-) Well maybe tonight when i'm groggy i'll make up something else good---Oh and on the Dr. Phil thing- I think that we need to have a letter writing campaign of some sort for him to have a show on the benefits of breastfeeding as World Breastfeeding week approaches and Jennifer can be on it:-)

  27. Blogger Labor Nurse | 7:50 PM |  

    I'm not surprised by this at all. Is it ever a wonder why the public has such misconceptions about breastfeeding? Because the "educated" on television are feeding it!

    Yet another great reason I don't watch that show.

  28. Blogger Jessica Yanow | 6:52 AM |  

    i already disliked dr. phil. this just reinforces that.

    amygeekgirl- that bumper sticker is awesome! My son is 10 weeks old, but I'm so buying it to hold onto (since I know he'll be an honors student of course). :)

  29. Anonymous Anonymous | 7:55 AM |  

    Dr. Phil is such an egotistical, arrogant, jerk. Oh there are so many things I don't like about him. I don't think he even thinks about the things he says, because he just things everything he says is 100% truth, so what's the use of doing any research?

  30. Blogger JK | 3:31 PM |  

    So sad.

  31. Blogger Working Girl | 6:13 PM |  


    Thanks for sharing this. I'm a labor and delivery nurse and I'm adding your excellent site to my blogroll.

  32. Anonymous aruni | 8:14 PM |  

    I don't watch Dr. Phil often and when I do catch a few minutes, I've found the topics to be approaching those of what I have seen advertised for shows like The Montel Show, Jerry Springer, Geraldo Rivera, Judge Judy, or some other 'lets find all the poor, messed up folks in the world and put them on TV' Why is it that the media tends to go that route? Is it because so many people want to know the gory details of Anna Nicole Smith's life?

    Anyway, when I read the post and the comments the first thought that came to my mind was "What would Oprah think about this? Was she breastfed? Even if she wasn't I can't see her condoning a conversation like that." She's the one who gave him his big break, right? And interestingly it was because he helped her in the Beef case in Texas. I wish I had time to watch Oprah more because she puts on some good/interesting shows (she recently had one on SAHMs vs. WMs that was very interesting.)

    Dr Phil was probably not breastfed because the in his day 'breastfeeding was a poor (wo)man's solution. Educated, families of means used formula.' So of course he probably has to rationalize his mother's choice or lack of choice to breastfeed him by making it sound like a good thing he wasn't breastfed because she might have handed him off to the nearest nursing mom! Since he is a doctor of the mind, he might feel as I've seen on a bumper sticker before 'if it's not one thing, it's your mother!.' :-)

    Well Dr Phil, your mother should have taught you to respect a woman's choices...especially when it comes to babies! If people offered more support to nursing mothers maybe we'd have less day time TV drama!

    By the way, it would be great to know how many of the guests on his show were breastfed. I am pro-whatever works for the family/mom. I was breastfed for a couple of weeks and I think my mom is a great mom! She had to do what she had to do and I respect her for that.

  33. Blogger NNP | 5:58 PM |  

    I happen to just publish a posting on my blog in regards to donor milk. I do not watch Dr. Phil, but it saddens me that healthcare professionals, ones that should be knowldegable about the benefits of breastfeeding made these ridiculous comments. Happy I found you. Added you to my blogroll.

  34. Blogger letsgetsmart | 7:19 AM |  

    I used to like and respect Dr. Phil, but recently I've begun to think he's kind of a schmuck. Not fully addressing issues, especially medical ones, will only reinforce people's misconceptions about them. And on the subject of breastfeeding, HELLO... the most vital and important nutrients that an infant should receive are contained in a mother's first few weeks of breast milk. And not one of those FIVE doctors even mentioned that fact while they were sitting there "ewwwing" the subject. I find it unbearable when a medical professional uses terms like "gross" to describe a perfectly natural function. Although I do see how it might be a little strange to breastfeed someone else's child, I am struck at how incomplete the conversation about breastfeeding was, not to mention sophomoric and devoid of real medical information. Too bad, because most people who follow the moronic teachings of Dr. Phil will, of course, now have one more reason to denounce breastfeeding before they fully understand the importance of it and why it is a built-in function of chilbirth. Oy vay, enough with these idiots already..... Let's get a female doctor on the air to show the other side of the coin. I bet it would really open up discussion on how one-sided and largely biased Dr. Phil's shows have become.

  35. Anonymous teresa | 11:46 AM |  

    We are a breastfeeding family. My younger sister tried, but wasn't able to, but she was the only one. Breast size is a reflection of the amount of fat, not the size of the milk ducts. I nursed my daughter for 20 months, and my son for 18. My daughter nursed her son for over two years. My husband's sister nursed her son for 3 years. I nursed my babysitters child once, when my babysitter was ill. I actually had one moron tell me once that breastfeeding was more expensive because you had to eat right! This was the same woman whose doctor told her it was okay to smoke, as she would be stressed out otherwise. I never had to worry about clean water, or sterilizing bottles, or remembering to bring a bottle, etc.

  36. Blogger Christy | 6:39 AM |  

    It just amazes me that something so natural has turned into a big debate. After we have a child our breasts fill up with milk for a reason. It's actually pretty strange that people find this so revolting...our culture teaches that breasts are for men only. When will common sense on this issue prevail?

  37. Anonymous Anonymous | 12:53 AM |  

    Wow, These guys are misinformed to the point of ignorance. Shocking from "so-called" experts.

    25+ years ago my neighbor and I breast fed each others children. Our children were a couple months apart in age. She had a girl, I a boy. We babysat for each other and when feeding one child it was natural to feed the other as well. Our husbands were uncomfortable enough that we stopped even tho they didn't [try to] demand we stop.

  38. Blogger tikalal | 12:38 AM |  

    I think the person who wrote the article didn't understand what the people on the show were talking about. Dr. Phil was talking about wet nursing vs breast feeding from the mother. They didn't talk about the nutritional value of breast feeding because it was assumed some form of breast feeding was taking place.

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