Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Of Post-Partum wards, Breastfeeding and Newfoundland - a bit of a rant

Once again, a disclaimer to this post: I am an advocate of breastfeeding. I'm not a psycho-advocate and I'm not judging those who end up using formula. But I do have opinions and these are them. Also, some might not care at all about this stuff. Fair enough, feel free not to read this one either.

My birth story hospital experience was very positive. Aside from one pushy (literally) nurse, the doctors and nurses were really supportive of my choice to be natural. However, the post-partum stay was not quite as positive. For some reason, the hospital here is kinda stuck in the dark ages. In Winnipeg, they have these beautiful LDRP (Labour, Delivery, Recovery, Post-Partum) rooms, so you don't have to change rooms when you're in labour, rooming in with your baby is automatic (and the only option) and all of the nurses are trained lactation consultants who teach new moms how to breastfeed.
Here, not so much. I was in a room with four other beds - luckily only one roommate (there were three of us for a few hours at one point). There was quite a bit of pressure to put my baby in the nursery for the night, and the nurse in the morning was "shocked" that they let me keep her with me for the night. I am a strong believer in bonding after birth and there was no way I was going to let them take her away just to bring back every 3 hours to feed. I wanted to see my baby when I wasn't pressured to feed her! The best part was there was a big sign on the wall about how rooming in was the best way for mother and baby to bond and to get breastfeeding started. It's a shame the nurses don't read that sign!
Since I had breastfed G, I had very little trouble this time, so I didn't need much help from the nurses. I hated having to share a room and just wanted to get home, but I was okay in most respects.
However, the other woman in my room and the treatment she received made me realize why Newfoundland has the lowest rate in Canada of breastfeeding moms.
First of all, she was completely ignorant of breastfeeding to start with, so obviously the education needs to start prenatally. She assumed that since she didn't leak milk in pregnancy that she couldn't breastfeed at all (that's not how it works for 90% of women), so she was surprised when her daughter latched on and she was told she could breastfeed. However, she was not given any decent instruction in the hospital and by the time she left, she had fully decided to bottlefeed. I put the blame almost entirely on the nurses and the clear lack of education in the hospital.
The first nurse she had asked if she had "taken any classes" or "read any books" on breastfeeding, and when she hadn't, the nurse indicated that she might have missed the boat.
The overnight nurse offered to take her daughter to the nursery and she accepted, and when she brought her back to feed 3 hours later quickly asked "Should I just give her a bottle or do you want to nurse her?" Given these options, she asked "Oh, can I do both here?" and the nurse said she could, so she chose the bottle for the night.
In the morning, the next nurse asked her what she had decided, saying "Well, we don't pressure women either way, but if you bottlefeed we won't have to worry about bringing your baby to you every 3 hours and making sure you're properly feeding her." When the woman said she was thinking about bottlefeeding because her daughter was "so big" (at less then 8lbs) and "didn't seem like she was getting anything", the nurse made no effort to correct her about when milk comes in. The final nurse was the nail in the coffin of breastfeeding. She killed any chance of this woman choosing to breastfeed instead of giving formula.

It killed me to listen to these exchanges. I didn't have the guts to speak up, but I wonder if I should have. She went from "maybe I'll breastfeed after all" to "Heck no, formula is better" in the span of 24 hours.

I think this post is long enough, so... Coming Next: The First Days were Yellowy


  1. Wow. This breaks my heart. I have to fight to make breastfeeding work, since I have low production and it's pretty late coming in. But I fight. I fight and it's worth it. It drives me crazy that drs can't just let us work. Just last week, at Kinley's 9 month check up, he said he wanted me to supplement her 2-3 times a day! She is absolutely healthy in every way, she's just gaining weight slower right now. I wish people could just be supportive of the decision. At least Brian and my mom are!

  2. That is so crazy and sad. Obviously the nurses are not trained to instruct and highly encourage moms to breastfeed. The lack of education re colostrum and when milk comes in is appalling - she should've been given all the information so that she could make an educated choice. I guess we can both be thankful that we were given good information and coaching...and that your first experience was in Wpg rather than Nfld.

  3. Wow, the attitudes there sound pretty lame.

    I'm being pretty laid-back about all this pregnancy stuff, but stories like this make me think maybe I should be more proactive about planning. I guess I just figure that giving birth in Vancouver (granola) with midwives and a doula in a women's hospital that I'm sure handles half the births in the city...yeah, I guess I'm thinking everyone will be encouraging all the healthy natural bonding stuff. Or should I be more concerned? Advice from the pro is welcome =)

  4. Well, I would educate yourself a bit on breastfeeding specifically, since your midwife and (maybe)your doula probably won't be around for your early hospital days. It's just good to know in general that it's difficult at the beginning and you can easily get discouraged, but if you stick with it, it almost always gets easier (and is SO much easier and cheaper in the long run).

    As for birth, it's proven that the more you know what's going on with your body, the more relaxed you can be, which has good results. However, if you have a good midwife and doula who you trust, that can also help you relax.

  5. As part of my midwifery dealio, I attend group sessions that do a basic overview of all things pregnancy and birth. We've covered nutrition, exercise and posture, next we'll be doing a few sessions on labour & birth & interventions, and we'll also be covering breastfeeding & parenting. A grand total of 9 sessions, 2 hours each. These are also my medical checkup times, it's all-in-one. We have a binder with info & homework too.

    I guess what I'm trying to figure out is whether this is sufficient education, or if I should be out reading books (which books?!?) and attending hypnobabies and whatnot on top of this.

  6. Oh, that's TONS of education for your pregnancy/birth! If you wanted any advice on parenting books I highly recommend Dr. Sears Baby Book and Healthy Sleep Habits, Healthy Child by...somebody for things after birth.
    If you're interested, I can send you the files for the hypnobirthing relaxation - I didn't take the class at all, but I listened to the thingys.

  7. Okay, sweet! I figured this was probably enough, but some people just seem to know everything and have highly informed opinions with accompanying lingo, and then I feel like I'm kinda winging it. I guess I just have confidence that women have been doing this for the entire history of our species, and nowadays we've also got a great safety net in medical know-how just in case, so everything will be fine. (Barring freak accidents and unlikelihoods, which are by definition unlikely.)

    Sure, if there are thingies to listen to, send them on over! Thanks!

  8. I feel pretty lucky that the night nurses were so supportive and that it went relatively smoothly for us. I actually feel bad for the nurses though - it is clear that they aren't informed or trained, and are passing information on the option they are more familiar with, and likely they don't have the time for training in breastfeeding techniques. Maybe you should get your LC training! ;)

  9. I came across your blog and reading this post made me sad. When I gave birth I fully planned on breastfeeding my child. For me it was the ONLY way. The nurses were helpful and supportive as they could be but it was obvious they had a lot on their plates. (short staffed) One nurse spent a lot of time with me, helping me latch my baby on properly, and got me started breast pumping and finger feeding my baby so that he wouldn't get nipple confusion. Rather then offering to bottle feed him. It helped build my confidence in that I was producing something. She treated the small amount I pumped as gold even called it that. She involved my husband by allowing him to finger feed, and she gave us formula and said this. "Breastfeed, finger feed, and then try him with a little bit of formula (which was finger fed)" I think that some of the nurses are still stuck in the era where mother's shouldn't breastfeed. There are not a whole lot of young nurses out there, and there also doesn't seem to be a whole lot of education readily available unless you actually go looking for it yourself. And let's face it a lot of mom's don't. As for speaking up? Why not. If you are presented with an opportunity I think we as mother's should teach other mother's. Perhaps they will still chose a different way but we also may help someone. :)