Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Triumphant Tuesday: Menacing Medical Staff

Formula-peddling. A beloved pastime of many medical staff. You see, formula enables doctors, nurses and other assorted white-coats to escape the responsibility of actually *solving* a breastfeeding problem. Handy, no? It also masks the fact that these ‘professionals’ don't have breastfeeding-related training stretching beyond flicking through a Cow & Gate brochure. Consequently they can’t tell a latch-on from a let-down. By manipulating exhausted and scared new mothers into formula feeding, medical personnel can tick the box on their chart for ‘weight gain’ and send the mother on her way. Next!

So many mothers succumb to this approach, which often borders on bullying. Like school yard bullies, medical staff have years of manipulation experience, an arsenal of verbal and psychological weaponry, and an army of allied peers. They target the most vulnerable and use their disproportionate power to overwhelm their victim. It takes a truly fearless woman to stand up to these tyrants - Molly is one such woman.

Going into this pregnancy I knew I wanted to breastfeed more than anything. My mother and two older sisters had done it and it seemed so easy and wonderful. I could not wait to share that bonding experience with my baby as well. My family were on board and I thought that it was going to be no problem. I read lots of articles on breastfeeding and even read up on boobie-traps before I went into labor. What could possibly go wrong?

I was in labor for almost 24 hours when my daughter, Kyla finally arrived. She was what they were calling "cheesy". This means she swallowed some gunk on the way through the birth canal and some of it got down in her lungs. The nurses wanted to take Kyla from me as soon as she was born. Luckily I had my older sister there who had breastfed both of her kids and she begged them to just give me one minute of skin on skin contact. They agreed and gave me my one minute. 

When they brought Kyla back to me three hours later, she was starving. So, with my sister’s help, we latched on Kyla and she nursed for 30 minutes. The rest of the day was about the same. Kyla would nurse for a while and was doing just fine.

However the next day was a different story. For some reason my nipples were not cooperating, they were almost inverted; consequently Kyla was not latching well. She was also very exhausted. We would try to work on nursing for a while but she would just fall asleep. I felt confused since she had latched so well before. I phoned the lactation consultant. She described different techniques but told me not to worry, that babies are born with a lot of calories on board and Kyla was probably just very exhausted from the birth. 

Now my husband is a stickler for following the rules so when the nurses gave us the chart where we had to write down every time she ate, peed, or pooped, he follow directions adamantly. This ended up being our downfall. Every time I asked for assistance I would get a different nurse. None of them were very helpful. One of them even said, "Something is wrong with you; that's why she's not latching on. She's probably going to have to have formula because something is going on with your nipples."

Later, one nurse came in and saw how little Kyla had been eating based off the chart my husband had been filling out. The nurse started giving me a hard time. She said she's going to check my daughter’s blood sugar and that if it was below 40, it was the hospital's policy that they HAD to give her a bottle of formula. I started crying and arguing with the nurse, and I demanded that the lactation consultant be called to my room.

They went ahead with the blood sugar test, pricking my poor baby's foot and the result was 65. Yet the nurses still insisted that since it'd been so many hours since she had a ‘good feeding’ they were going to give her a bottle of formula. She and the lactational specialist started to argue with each other on either side of me, with me crying in the middle trying to get my baby to nurse. My husband was whispering in my ear that he would not let them give Kyla a bottle of formula; that he would check us out of the hospital against doctors orders before he would let that happen to us. He kept lovingly reassuring me that everything was going to be okay and he would not let them do anything to our baby that we did not want [Alpha: 'Husband of the Year Award' anyone?]

While the arguing was still going on, all of a sudden my baby girl latched onto me and started eating. Everyone stopped talking and watched her nurse. The lactation consultant remarked, "See! She's doing it! She's fine; you're not going to give her a bottle of formula." The nurse stormed out of the room. Kyla nursed for a good 30 minutes during that feeding. 

My husband kept filling out the chart, but he hid it whenever someone came in the room. That night when the nurses wanted to take Kyla so my husband and I could get some sleep, we were very reluctant to let her leave. It was a different nurse on duty, but still we were afraid of what they would do if Kyla was away from us. So my husband made a sign for her carrier that said, "NO formula please! If she cries bring her back to her momma." 

The rest of the hospital stay was challenging because my nipples remained inverted for whatever reason. However, I continued to work with the lactation consultant who gave me some latch assistants. They looked like little turtle shells that you put on your nipples when you aren’t nursing, and the suction makes your nipples hard. They helped a little bit. The biggest thing that helped was time. After 2 weeks, my nipples went back to normal.

I am proud to report that I currently have a six-month-old baby who is still exclusively nursing. I'm so glad that I didn't listen to the nurses, and that I had faith in my baby and faith in my body. Breastfeeding is the best gift that I can give my child and I'm so happy that I am able to do it. I don't want any other mother to have to go through what I went through in the hospital. Thank God for good lactation consultants and for my husband and sister for their solidarity.

I really feel sorry for people who don't try breastfeeding. They are missing out on a truly spiritual, amazing, financially pleasing, bonding experience that I have ever had.

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Nat said...

This is a tricky situation. Obviously there are always going to be some nurses or doctors who push for formula, but I feel like those are the exception rather than the rule. I had contact with about 15 different nurses during my hospital stay when my son was born, and not only did they agree to work with me on breastfeeding, they encouraged it! They were all simply amazing. The only time formula became an issue is when my son's blood sugars plummeted right after birth despite him nursing well. They explained the situation and made sure to emphasize that it was nothing I was doing wrong that caused it, but occasionally that happens with small-for-date babies like mine. Thankfully his blood sugars improved enough at the next testing that they didn't have to give him formula, but I would've been okay with it if he needed the sugars from it. One bottle isn't going to ruin the next year of breastfeeding and it was more important than he start off with his sugars at a healthy level. We successfully nursed exclusively for a year before my body gave out on me.

Luminita Monaghan said...

Oh...happy Mother!!! Awesome story!!!
Unfortunately,as a first time mother,I was weak enough to give in to the nurses,who used every reason to make me give to my little boy formula!One of them was that the lady who was sharing the room with me can`t sleep,because my baby is crying,because he is hungry!!! My milk is not good enough,she said! So,tired , inexperienced,feeling guilty that my milk is not good enough for my baby,I accepted! Even now,thinking about it,I feel anger towards the nurses! I was trying after that,home,to breastfeed again,but my poor baby got used to the bottle ,and barely drink my milk,even though I was expressing all the time,so he can drink it from the bottle..he did not like it any more!!! :(
I felt bullied by the nurses,intimidated and manipulated! And that was my only chance ever to breastfeed,I can`t have babies any more..I am writing this not to attract pity,but for all the ladies out there to stand up for themselves,like I should have done,if I knew better!
It`s your bodies,your babies,you have to decide!

Mdegraeve said...

thank you for sharing your story. I'm so glad you were able to stick to your guns and had some great support from your husband and family. Hearing stories like this really sickens and disappoints me. the medical professionals should be more helpful and encouraging. so many woman aren't able to stay strong and its really sad to miss out on the experience.

Karlene Hamm said...

Oh I wish I would have been more forceful with my first!!! I was in labor for 72 hours with her and the nurses did the same thing to me stuck a bottle right in her mouth :( At the time I was a young (20) unknowing mother and just looked at my husband with a shrug :( I wish I would have known!!!!! Now with my second child I demanded and the nursing staff (at a different hospital) were wonderful in helping me get the hang of it!! Now my son will be three months tomorrow and has ONLY been breastfed!!!

Danielle said...

This is so awesome! Molly, I applaud you, it is not always easy to stand your ground when someone of perceived authority is telling you otherwise. Thank you for this, you are making the world a better place!

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