Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Sabotaging Breastfeeding

*I wrote this post late last night but since I was falling asleep while typing I though I'd refrain from posting it until I had a chance to read over is this morning ;)

I'm sitting on the couch, Pinteresting (I totally just made that word up and it's awesome), and I have the TV on in the background. The Office is about all that is on, and although I've always disliked the show this one caught my eye because it has a birth and a newborn in it.

The scene: Pam and Jim have just had a baby and are in the hospital.  Pam is trying to nurse her newborn.  She is having trouble with helping her daughter latch, and worrying about her supply.  You know, normal new nursing mom fears. They buzz the nurse to ask for help.

The nurse is where I get angry. Very angry. She refuses to help them. She demands offers to take the baby back to the nursery so that Pam can sleep. She tells Pam she will offers to give the baby a bottle and tells Pam she can try again later. This continues throughout Pam's hospital stay. I can't remember everything that was said but at the end the nurse tells Pam, who is still having trouble with latch and has again asked for help, that it's okay  if the baby won't latch because there's nothing wrong with bottles.

Not until Pam is sitting on a bench alone outside the hospital waiting for Jim to pull up the car is she able to successfully nurse her baby. And she is excited, she is proud, she is finally sure that she can feed her baby.

This episode really ticked me off. It ticked me off because this is very very frequently how new moms who want to breastfeed are treated by nurses. It ticks me off because Pam didn't want her baby given a bottle, she wanted to breastfeed and she was simply asking for help. It would have been so easy, not to mention confidence inspiring, for the nurse to have just helped her! She wasn't asking for help to give the baby a bottle feeding, she didn't want to give her baby a bottle, she just wanted help learning to breastfeed, and the nurse clearly had a different agenda. Um, did you know that most American hospitals get PAID to push formula? They do. It's not widely known. Except, that is, for Baby Friendly Hospitals (and maybe a few knowledgeable others).

You see, there is something called the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative. It was put in place by the World Health Organization and UNICEF.  There are not very many hospitals that are Baby Friendly certified, and if you are going to give birth in a hospital I urge you to find one that has this certification.  Even birth centers can be certified, although by nature a birth center is generally friendly toward all things natural. This is a link to Baby Friendly USA which explains more about the BFHI, or Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative.  According  this website, the BFHI is a  "global program sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to encourage and recognize hospitals and birthing centers that offer an optimal level of care for infant feeding. The BFHI assists hospitals in giving mothers the information, confidence, and skills needed to successfully initiate and continue breastfeeding their babies or feeding formula safely, and gives special recognition to hospitals that have done so."   There are ten steps outlined on the website that include things like rooming in, 24 hour breastfeeding support, staff trained to assist in breastfeeding, early establishing of breastfeeding, not offering pacifiers or artificial nipples, and not offering free gifts of formula.  If you are an expecting Mama who plans to breastfeed, I'd check this link out. Even if you can't give birth in a BHFI certified hospital, you can know what you ought to be offered.

Obviously for a normal pregnancy I would recommend the care of a skilled midwife and a homebirth or birth center birth. This already will set you up for breastfeeding success.  But if for whatever reason you are going to give birth in a hospital I urge you to have a support system in place. Join your local La Leche League. Have the number of a Certified Lactation Consultant. Hire a doula to take to the hospital with you. Do your research, read everything you can, know your rights, know what you want, and don't be afraid to ask for a different nurse. 

Because our society is unfortunately not a society where breastfeeding is normalised girls are not brought up watching their mothers/aunts/other adult women breastfeed and so the knowledge is not passed down, it is an unknown and many new moms are unsure about the how of it all. Breastfeeding is instinctive in that baby's want it and many women feel the urge to do it, but it is not necessarily instinctive in the execution. Women need help, encouragement, support, and advice. Women need to be able to talk to someone who can tell them that it's okay their milk hasn't come in yet, that colostrum is sufficient for the minuscule stomach of a newborn and they need someone who can tell them whether or not the latch looks good and that hey, maybe your baby has some stage of a tongue tie and that's why he's not latching properly and many, many more things that "there's nothing wrong with a bottle" doesn't encompass.

I was blessed. My son took right to nursing, I had a visit from the lactation consultant in the hospital, and for two weeks I had my mom (who breastfed three children) there to help me. Other than numerous painful clogged ducts and now pregnancy making things painful I've had an easy, rosy breastfeeding experience with Shane. I still had things to learn though, and I did a lot of reading before hand. I didn't realize until my dad came to visit at two months old that the little squeaks and grunts and gulps and slurps were a good sign, a sign of plentiful milk supply and a happy baby. I didn't know until I visited my mom at three months that Shane's lower arm could go around my torso instead of being crammed under my chest. There's a learning curve to breastfeeding and I've had the last 18 months to practice. There is not guarantee that the next baby will be like Shane. You have a different nursing relationship and different challenges with each baby and there is no guarantee that this baby will take to it as easily as Shane did. Or it could be vice versa for some of you moms who had a difficult time initially with your firstborn.

There is never, ever a good reason for someone to sabotage your breastfeeding relationship. If someone does, I encourage you to find a different person to ask for help. You are the Mama. You are your child's advocate. You are strong, you are beautiful, you are important, you can do it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I know that I breastfed and my nurses in the hospital were awesome and supported me and really helped me to learn how to do it. I do know that some people honestly cant breastfeed due to supply issues though (have had two friends that have tried everything). So it does make you feel very blessed to breastfeed seeing that some truly cant.