Was that a diagnosis I heard?!

I’ve heard a few people getting quite hot under the collar because individuals are “diagnosing” conditions in mothers and babies who are just not qualified to do so.  But I can’t help wondering – are those people really making a diagnosis or are they just talking openly to parents about a variety of situations and conditions before suggesting that they visit a GP or other medical professional to get a diagnosis?

Imagine you are a stressed/tired/anxious (all of the above) parent of a baby and things are just not going well.  You visit your well-child provider, peer supporter, LLL group, breastfeeding counsellor, a n other person, and talk about what’s going on.  They listen well, they encourage you to explore how you are feeling, what’s happening now, what happened prior to the current situation, they show empathy and understanding of how you are feeling, they discuss things that could be going on with you and/or your baby, and suggest you go to your GP/other medical professional to find out one way or the other if a particular condition exists.

So, you go away feeling relieved that it’s not all in your head or because you are doing something wrong.  You visit your GP/medical professional and they say “oh yes, that thing you discussed with that person – yes, that’s what’s happening, we can fix that”.

Yay!  Someone who listened suggested a couple of things to you and that enabled you to have a discussion with a medical professional about the situation, who then pinpointed the problem and helped you fix it.  Thank goodness that lovely person who helped you first could tell you what was wrong… thank goodness they were able to diagnose the colic/reflux/thrush/vasospasm/tongue tie/lip tie/food intolerance etc….

But they didn’t actually diagnose anything.  They listened, they discussed options, they gave you some space to air your concerns and talked about the things that can sometimes happen.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard a parent say “but they told me I have to do xxx, and it’s not working” or “she said that my baby should be sleeping xx hours/feeding xx times/putting on xx grams…”

We humans sometimes hear things in a way that wasn’t intended when it was said.  Sometimes that’s due to poor communication skills and sometimes because different words mean different things to different people.  Most people try to clarify understanding when they are working with parents, but even then there can still be misunderstanding.

Next time you hear or think someone diagnosed something when they shouldn’t have done – maybe they didn’t.  If, like me, you are working with mothers, remember that what you say isn’t always what is heard… and accept that sometimes you can’t do anything about that, but be aware and just keep trying… I try to remind myself often, but I bet I often get it wrong too 🙂

This is a fabulous article written by Diane Wiessinger in 1996.  It’s all about the language used in relation to breastfeeding – Watch Your Language



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