Tag Archives: breastfeeding

How About A Mom Friendly Hospital Initiative?

I recently gave birth in a “baby friendly” hospital. My newborn was with me through out my entire hospital stay, except for a few minutes when they gave her a bath and a few more minutes when our pediatrician took her to another room to suction mucus out of her throat. There was no mention of formula and lots of breastfeeding support. From what I have read, having babies room-in with mothers (infant and mother bonding) and encouraging breastfeeding (classified as the optimal way to feed an infant) seem to be the corner stones of the baby friendly initiative. Sounds good, right? For the most part I am sure it is, but I think we can do even better by working towards a mom friendly hospital experience too.

Everyone knows it’s nearly impossible to get any sleep in the hospital, but I don’t think it has to be that way. For new mothers, sleeping, while in the hospital, should be more of a priority. If you’ve been in labor for hours, given birth, and then spent 48 hours not sleeping because hospital staff kept interrupting, you’re going to be a hot mess by the time you get home. I calculated that I got exactly 20 minutes of sleep during my most recent hospital stay. I’m pretty sure this lack of sleep, after the tiring exercise of pushing a tiny human out of your body,  doesn’t help in the prevention of postpartum depression. Exhausted isn’t exactly a baby friendly or mom friendly way to begin parenthood.

How About A Mom Friendly Hospital Initiative?
Sisters

After giving birth people were coming in and out of my room day and night. At one point during my stay the nurse was hooking me up to receive some antibiotics while the pharmacist, the phlebotomist, and the hospital ombudsmen were all waiting in my room to speak to me. Through out the day the medical records clerk stopped by twice, the lactation specialist came by three times, and someone stopped to offer a prayer.  These visits all happened in between the nurses, the medical technicians (blood draw every four hours, blood pressure, oxygen levels, and temperature check every two – for both me and baby) and the doctors visiting. Basically we got 5-8 minutes of quiet and privacy at a time. The second night, when it finally seemed like we might get a reprieve, we turned off the lights and tried to get some sleep. Just as we started to doze-off a nurse came into our dark room to ask us if we needed anything. In a polite, clench teethed sort of way, I said, “Some sleep would be nice.” She laughed. Of course she did because everyone knows there is no sleeping in the hospital.

In a mom friendly hospital there would be a coordination of medical visits so moms would have uninterrupted stretches of time to sleep or bond with baby. There would also be a checklist provided early on so mom could choose who they wanted visiting. Don’t want to be visited by the hospital pastor or lactation consultant? Don’t check them off. Prefer to have your medications explained on paper instead of a visit from the pharmacist? Don’t check off the pharmacist. You see where I am going with this.

I don’t want to get into a debate about breastfeeding versus formula feeding (but you can find my thoughts on it here), but I wonder, why do we have to go to such extremes? I’ve read some baby friendly hospitals keep formula under lock and key and that a doctor has to write a prescription for it. Formula is not a controlled substance. This doesn’t make any sense to me. We were told if we wanted to give our baby formula we’d have to bring it into the hospital ourselves. So we did just in case we needed it. I have a history of low milk production and we didn’t want to starve our second child like we did the first one. On the other hand, hospitals used to push formula on people who didn’t want it. Wouldn’t it be more baby and mom friendly to find a balance here? Mothers want to do the best they can for their child. They don’t need to feel guilty on the first day they become a parent. In a mom friendly hospital, both feeding options would be equally available and supported without judgement. I think this is baby friendly too.

Another confusing thing baby friendly hospitals are doing is getting rid of the nursery. I get it. The baby rooms with mom so there is no need for a nursery, except sometimes there is. When I had my first child I spent a little over 24 hours in the ICU after giving birth. I couldn’t stand or get up on my own so I wasn’t allowed to have my baby with me unless someone else (like my mom or husband) was in the room with me. I wonder, what happens now under similar circumstances? Where will the baby go? Does mom take care of the baby anyway even though it may not be safe for her to do so?

How about we keep the nursery just in case so mom doesn’t have one more thing to worry about after giving birth? Can we be a little more mom friendly and provide space and time for mom to heal when she needs it? Again, we are going from one extreme to another. Mom’s couldn’t room with their baby before and now they have to no matter what the circumstances are. Where is the balance and sensible decision making?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m pro baby friendly. It’s a terrific idea to push hospitals to do better. I’d just like to see some effort in making hospitals a little more mom friendly too. And a little more balanced. Hospitals don’t have to be friendly to one group and not to the other. We can be kind and supportive to both mom and baby…at the same time.

 

 

I’m Pro Breastfeeding, But Formula Saved My Baby’s Life

Breastfeeding Saved My Baby's Life

 

If it weren’t for baby formula Tiny-Small might not be here today. I don’t mean to sound overly dramatic, but I did almost starve my baby girl to death while I was trying to breastfeed her. Three weeks after she was born she continued to lose weight and her pediatrician gave me the weekend to get her weight moving in the opposite direction, or he was going to have to hospitalize her. It was one of the scariest moments of my life.

I am very pro breastfeeding. Before Tiny-Small was born I had a small breast feeding book collection on my bookshelf. I was well versed on how how to do it, where to do it, and when to do it. I knew all of the benefits of breastfeeding. I was focused and committed. I was already practicing the football hold and a few other positions. I was ready!

Then, towards the end of my pregnancy, I developed preeclampsia. I ended up having to be induced, strapped to machines, and given an epidural to help lower my blood pressure. I don’t know for sure if that contributed to my inability to produce milk or not, but something sure inhibited my milk production. While I was in the hospital the nurses lectured me on producing more milk (as if I had any control over it). One nurse even came into my room at 3 am and woke me up so she could tell me, “If your baby doesn’t start gaining weight soon you are not going to be able to take her home with you when you get released.” Those threats didn’t make me produce milk any faster, but they sure scared the hell out of me.

After two days the lactation specialist practically moved into my hospital room. She stripped Tiny-Small and I naked so we would have skin to skin contact. She did massage, hot cloths, technique training, and, of course, worked on Tiny-Smalls latching skills. After a while she strapped some contraption to my breast. I fed my daughter formula through a tiny hose that emptied into a plastic nipple that was placed over my actual nipple. I was like the plastic bionic woman of breastfeeding. I pumped every 2 hours and finally on the third day I was starting to get some milk.

The hospital sent me home and we rented a hospital grade breast pumping machine. I pumped every two hours and I nursed my daughter whenever possible. I didn’t get any sleep between the nursing, the pumping, and the bottle sterilizing, but I was committed!  I thought Tiny-Small was getting enough to eat between the bottle feedings and the nursing, but it turns out she wasn’t. After three weeks her pediatrician told me that some women just don’t produce enough milk and that I was going to have to consider supplementing my daughter’s caloric consumption with baby formula. She was hungry and she wasn’t thriving.

When the pediatrician gave me permission to give up on exclusive breast milk feeding and start formula feeding I did so with enthusiasm and relief. Of course, I cried at first. I felt like, at three weeks, I was a bad mother. I felt guilty and mourned our lost opportunities and all of the advantages Tiny-Small would likely never have because she would be forced to drink artificial breast milk. At the same time I wasn’t about to let my baby starve to death. When faced with the consequences the decision became pretty easy to make. I gave her baby formula and I don’t regret it. She immediately began gaining weight and she was happier. She was healthier. She was thriving.

In the past I agreed with the whole “breast is best” movement, but now I am more apt to say “feeding the baby is best.”  I will never make another mom feel bad about using baby formula or for breastfeeding. Whatever works…works and besides, it’s really none of my business anyway.

When Tiny-Small was born I was so wrapped up in doing what I thought was “right” or “best” that I missed the bigger picture. My daughter was getting breast milk, sure, but she was hungry all the time and losing weight. She was starving. I can’t help but think those few hungry weeks probably had more of a negative impact on her development than formula feeding ever will. At the time I felt guilty about not continuing to breast feed her, but now I feel more guilty about not switching to formula sooner. My new mantra? Feed the baby!

Sometimes, as parents, we have to make very difficult decisions. Sometimes our choices are limited and our options are not particularly popular at the moment. Sometimes our beliefs are challenged and we find ourselves doing exactly what we were arguing against the week before. There is no script to follow. We just get through and do what we have to sometimes.

Breast might be best for some families, but I make sure to know all of the facts and the whole story before casting judgement on another mother who gives her infant baby formula. I know some moms may have had to make a life or death decision.  I know some moms may have had no other choice. I know some moms just don’t want to breastfeed and I understand that too. Breastfeeding can be very stressful when things aren’t going well. I also know most moms are just doing the best they can to make it. As far as promoting breastfeeding goes, I’ve decided that it is more important to be kind than to be right.