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Authors > Ruth A. Lawrence, MD

“If we can get physicians to support breast feeding, we can change the world.” – Dr. Ruth Lawrence

Dr. Lawrence’s Path to Pediatrics

When I went to medical school, there were almost no women. Women were also not welcome in many medical fields. Because so many women went into pediatrics, I wanted to do something different, so I tried not to become a pediatrician.  But, after doing my clerkships in pediatrics I felt that’s where I wanted to be.  I had the good fortune to be the first woman invited to be on Yale’s house staff.  I left when my husband was called to Korea, and when I returned, the only job they had at Yale was in internal medicine. So I took a semester as a resident in internal medicine, but I came back to pediatrics.  I had my chance to take care of adults, but taking care of children was what I wanted to be doing. 

The Beginning of Breastfeeding

When I was in New Haven in 1950, nobody breast fed. And when I went to Rochester, where I am today, I found that nobody breast fed there either. After a few years, I had answered so many questions and phone calls and had been asked by so many other doctors’ patients about how to breastfeed, I thought “I should write about this.”  I contacted Mosby and said, “Here’s my idea for the book. Here’s a chapter and here’s a table of contents.” And they signed me up. That was the first edition of Breastfeeding, which was published in 1979. I wrote it at my dining table at night after I’d put my children to bed.

About Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding is now in its seventh edition and has been updated every five years. People ask, “What’s left to say about breastfeeding?” The research is just huge now. We went from a handful of articles to thousands of articles of research today. The book starts out with a summary of the history of breastfeeding, then goes on to cover anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, and the psychology of breastfeeding. We also look at problems, such as infectious diseases. If a mother is sick, can she breastfeed? If the baby is sick, should the mother breastfeed? Can a diabetic breastfeed? Can a mother with renal disease breastfeed, or a mother on dialysis? There are actually 24 chapters covering all these issues. There’s also a chapter on breastfeeding if the mother is taking medications.  There are political issues around breastfeeding.  How do you educate people about it?  So, there’s a lot of material, which is how it just grew.  Breastfeeding, 7th Edition is over a 1000 pages, but it’s also available as an e-book.

There’s a huge market out there for this book. Nurses buy it, midwives buy it, laypeople buy it, and lactation consultants buy it. The main audience, though, is physicians. If we can get physicians to support breast feeding, we can change the world.


Ruth A. Lawrence, MD is an award-winning educator and physician. She is a professor in the Department of Pediatrics and Neonatology and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Rochester. She researches neonatal nutrition, with a primary focus on human milk and breastfeeding, and her medical practice focuses on neonatology and clinical toxicology. She has published extensively in this area, and is an editor of the seventh edition of Breastfeeding.

Dr. Lawrence has been recognized for her contributions to the field with numerous awards and accolades. She is a recipient of the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Anthony L. Jordan Health Center’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Association of American Medical Colleges Humanism in Medicine Award, the Susan B. Anthony University Center Lifetime Achievement Award, the La Leche League International Award of Achievement, among many others.