Basking in the joy of the birth of my new, giant baby boy, I wanted to stay positive.
Still, I’d like to share my experience breastfeeding in the hospital in case it helps anyone.
Part of the reason I chose our hospital is because it is more open to a more natural birthing experience than other hospitals in the area. And, although I think this is probably true, that is unfortunately a sad commentary.
My baby and I are breastfeeding well and everyone is doing great–but I fear that if I had not already successfully breastfed my first or if I were less informed or less assertive, our breastfeeding would have been sabotaged.
Immediately following birth, barring any urgent medical needs, my baby was supposed to be placed immediately on me. Since he was so large and stuck during part of the labor, they wanted pediatrics to check him out (which I fully understand–although I suspect this could have been done with him on me, as was done with my first child). However, after they verified he had not been harmed at all during the labor, they continued with the routine, non-urgent procedures.
I kept telling them, “I want my baby! Give me my baby!” but they did not hand him over until they were done. Although in the grand scheme of it all, this is minor, I was sad that I missed that magical feeling I had with the first when she was exactly the same temperature as me and stepped her way to the breast.
After they handed him to me, I had a short time to breastfeed before they took me to repair the tear. I got him to latch on one side and just as he finished, I was placing him to the other breast when the nurse (not the Certified Nurse Midwife) came in an said, “I have to weigh him.”
I told her was breastfeeding and it could wait.
She replied that I was getting “crazy” with the breastfeeding (huh?).
I stood my ground and responded calmly (really, I swear) that he had just finished one side and I was going to feed him on the other and then she could take as many measurements as she liked.
She got very snotty and said that she was going to have to go tell the doctor that I was not allowing her to do her job.
That says a lot right there about her perception of her role and the hospital’s role in birthing babies.
Of course, she’s just one person, and my husband overheard some other nurses speaking of her in a negative way, but at the very least some retraining needs to be done.
Following the repair, I was placed in temporary Operating Room Recovery until the epidural wore off (they had given me more medication during the repair). As they wheeled me in, I saw my husband. I called out, “Why aren’t you with our son?” Perhaps not the most pleasant greeting, but I was starting to lose a bit of trust in the hospital.
“They want to give him a bottle,” he told me.
“What for?” Now I was starting to get a little nuts, “Is he okay?”
“Yes,” he reassured me, “But they said his blood sugar will start dropping because he is so big, so they want to give him a bottle. And they said if they wait too long, breastmilk won’t do it”
“But I’m breastfeeding! Bring him to me! And I’ll feed him!” I was in full on mother bear mode and unfortunately they had sent my husband and there was no target for my protective rage. My poor husband kept going back and forth to tell me the baby’s blood sugar level and to try to negotiate with the doctors to allow my son to come to me.
They first lied and told us he was under the warming lights (he wasn’t and he was perfectly healthy so there was no reason to hold him there) and then admitted they just “did not have the personnel” to bring him to me from the nursery. Now this is not a huge hospital. It takes two minutes to walk from the nursery to where I was. And post-op had no problem with me feeding him in recovery. The staff in the nursery was creating a situation where they would need to give him a bottle because they would not let me breastfeed.
And there was no reason for him to be in the nursery, anyway, as I was rooming in with him and would be in the room as soon as the maternity ward would accept me–as soon as the medication wore off. The post-op staff again was very helpful. I asked them, “How mobile? Like walking or just some approximation thereof?” They told me that maternity liked people walking but they would start releasing me as soon as I could bend both knees. I had one leg already moving and was trying to get the other one working. Eventually they took pity on me and pretended not to notice as I grabbed one of my legs with my hand and said, “Look, it is moving!”
Finally, we were in maternity recovery and they brought me my son! With the delay, it took time and patience to get him to latch. Of course, as soon as he fed his blood sugar was fine and he was healthy and wonderful.
But they had one more curve ball to throw at me–the next day they came without any notice to take him for his circumcision. They said I could not feed him even though he was due right then for another feeding. I was concerned, but they assured me it would just be an hour and then he’d be back. Three hours later…it was now six hours since my son had fed and the poor thing had just been circumcised. He was upset and had difficulty latching.
Then they started harassing me because he had not urinated since the circumcision…again they wanted to give him formula. I told them to go away and leave us alone. Of course, once he fed a few times, he was fine.
The kicker was that the day we were checking out, after all this was over, the lactation consultant comes by, sees me nursing, says “good latch,” quizzes me (how do you know if the baby is getting enough?), and then leaves. Gee, that’s helpful.
While I’m complaining, on a completely unrelated note, I got the demonically possessed hospital bed. The bed is for patients who cannot move and it automatically adjusts as you move. So when I shifted my weight in my sleep, the bed moved, waking me. If I lowered it so I could get out to use the bathroom, it raised. And of course it was noisy, too.
As you can imagine, I could not wait to break out of that place!
To add one last final insult, they insisted I be pushed out in a wheelchair by a staff member. I would have protested, but I just wanted to leave.
I think if I have a third birth, I’m going to just make the absurdly long drive to the nearest birthing center or do it at home.
All of this is not to say you cannot breastfeed if medical need requires your child to have a bottle early on, nor is it to criticize those who choose to formula feed–but just to show how hospital policies that are not always rooted in actual medical need, can create problems during the crucial early stage of breastfeeding. This is why we need to promote breastfeeding and support nursing mamas!
Okay… end rant. Back to enjoying motherhood!