Friday, April 22, 2011

Breastfeeding Assistance

When I first started working in the nursery, I wasn't yet a mom. I shadowed a couple of nurses as they assisted new moms with breastfeeding and that, I guess, was enough to make me an "expert." HA! I had no idea what I was doing, but was supposed to go help women nurse their newborns. I feel so bad for those moms! Sorry!!!

New moms deserve someone who knows what they're doing to help them!

How can someone teach about something as personal as breastfeeding if they've never tried it before? How can they encourage it and offer empathetic support if they've never experienced it?

I am so grateful for my births. I've had an induction and c/s, and an unmedicated vaginal birth. I've breastfed both of my kids. I've had mastitis. I've pumped (stupid 6 week maternity leave!). I've nursed during pregnancy. I've tandem nursed. I've had cracked and bleeding nipples. I've cried over low milk supply. I've cried over engorgement! I've leaked in public. I've nursed in public (and been accidentally "exposed" in public... in church, no less!). I've had pumped milk leak all over my purse. I've donated milk. Husband even tried making breastmilk yogurt (lol.. it didn't work...). I nursed my very hungry son every hour to two hours for the first 4 days after a c/s until my milk came in. I was exhausted. I've had breastmilk regurgitated onto me more times than I can remember. I've been through it.

No amount of second hand experience can replace first hand experience. I am young and my adventures in breastfeeding are recent and current. I can relate and sympathize. I love making a difference; I am so grateful.

I found my "kind"

::Smile:: I've gained quite a reputation at work for being mom-and-baby friendly.

The L&D nurses told me last weekend that they love when I come to their deliveries. If a baby comes out pink and crying, I bring extra baby blankets to the side of mom's bed and monitor the baby while mom holds baby on her chest. I let mom hold baby at least 5 minutes. It's really not that long! But... unfortunately... most other newborn nurses want the baby on the warmer before the baby is even one minute old. One of the L&D nurses told me that a baby nurse actually starts tapping her foot if the baby lingers "too long" with the mom. This just disgusts me.

Another bad practice that I am trying to reverse is the length of time the baby is on the warmer away from the mom. Some of the older nurses do all of their charting at the same time as their hands-on care, which practically doubles the time the baby is on the warmer. I've seen some nurses selfishly keep the babies on the warmer until 35 or 40 minutes of age. That's a heck of a long time, considering the baby goes up to the nursery at 2 hours of age for the first bath (another habit that I hope to change one day!). I always try to get the baby back to the mom by 13-15 minutes of age (and that's after the mom holds the baby the first 5-6 minutes). This way, I can keep the baby with the mom as much as I can while also doing all the tasks that my unit expects me to do. I try to be as quick and efficient as I can!

I also always try to give the mom a "sneak peek" of their baby after a cesarean. I remember with my c/s, I didn't see my baby for at least 25 minutes after birth. I saw his picture on our camera and his footprint before I actually saw him. That was a loooong time to wait. I figure that footprints, bands, and meds can wait until baby has been seen, touched, and kissed by his mama!!! As soon as baby is "stable," I will wrap him in a blanket and take him to mom for a minute or two before I bring him back to the warmer to do all my "stuff". Even though it seems like such a simple thing, I believe that this really goes a long way for post-c/s bonding!!!!

So, anyway, back to the main point of this post. Over the last few weeks, I've gotten into several great discussions in L&D about natural childbirth, breastfeeding, skin-to-skin, and bonding. I've been able to pick out a few fantastic L&D nurses who really are on the same page. I've had some really beautiful births with them. I'm glad that I really stand out as being "gentle-birth-friendly." After spending four years in the newborn nursery, where the majority of nurses have never breastfed and no one seemed to understand my desire to VBAC ("why don't you just have another C/S?" ::sigh::), it's good to know that there are some other nurses who "get it." They understand the birth is such a valuable and important experience for the mother. It's a time she'll never get back. We have to protect that time and treat it as sacred and special.

There are so many practices that I would still love to change in our hospital, but I'm glad my "baby-steps" have not gone unnoticed, and I hope that they catch on! The moms who graciously let us into their birthing space deserve that much from us!!!


I read a lot of birthy things. Lots of birth stories, lots of books, lots of articles. I love Ina May. I love Jennifer Block. Peggy Vincent. Marsden Wagner. My facebook news feed is always full of mom and baby related articles. Rixa Freeze and Barbara Herrera feel like old friends sometimes because I read everything they write. And my own personal and professional experiences with pregnancy and birth have shaped me into quite the natural childbirth advocate and attachment parent.

I used Hypnobabies and loved it. I had my "Bubble of Peace" around me and truly believed that birth is beautiful, healthy, safe. I still do believe it is inherently safe for most women. I've already decided that if we have any more kiddos, I'm definitely birthing at home.

However.... every now and then... something happens to keep you grounded.

A mom comes to the hospital at 10 cm dilated, ready to deliver. She wanted a natural and unmedicated birth, and had labored at home all day. When she finally arrived- fully and bulging- she was in so much pain that she could hardly move. Bag of waters breaks- clear fluid- and head began to crown. Baby's head born. Baby is white. Neonatology paged STAT. Baby born... gush of blood. Blood. More blood. Baby is limp. PPV on the warmer. Neo comes and intubates. No time to put ID bands on or give baby meds or do footprints. Baby is immediately transported to NICU where baby is transfused. It takes 7 people to stabilize this full term newborn.

It's scary situations like these that make you go home and hug your kids close and say to yourself: "I am SO SO SO lucky."

There was really not much warning for this abruption. Sometimes things happen in birth... and I'm just so glad for the quick thinking of the staff that night. It could have been much worse. :(

Of course, for 99% of the population, laboring at home would be a good idea. I stayed home with my VBAC baby until I was 9.5 cm. It's a fantastic way to reduce unnecessary intervention. As much as I believe in birth and in its "normalcy," it is still a complex and not completely understood physiological process and there is no way to control or predict how things will turn out.

It's because of stories like these that I always say a little prayer on the way to every birth I attend. "Jesus, PLEASE help this baby come out safely and transition smoothly! Protect and preserve this little life."


Breastfeeding Myths

Just read this fantastic article that debunks common breastfeeding myths!

I hear a lot of excuses and concerns at work from breastfeeding mothers and their families. It's pretty hilarious how many times I hear: "How do I know if the baby's getting enough?" Oh, if only I had a dollar for every time I answered that question!!!

I actually had a teen mom's mother (baby's grandmother) say in the delivery room "that's why I hate breastfeeding... It's not like the breast is clear with measurements on the side of it to tell you how much your baby is eating! You could be starving the kid and not even know!" UGH!!! I was so upset inside when I heard that. I had just helped the mom get her newborn latched (she was doing beautifully!) and I gave my usual little breastfeeding introduction spiel about proper latch, milk transfer, frequency, duration, supply and demand, etc... Mom and baby were just so natural together. And then BAM! The grandmother had to completely bash breastfeeding.

Many moms don't get the support they need. I can't tell you how often a mom says "well, my grandparents came to visit, and I didn't want them to see my boob, so I didn't feed the baby in 6 hours." Or, "my uncle's coming, so, can you give me a bottle of formula for this feeding? I don't feel comfortable nursing in front of him."

So frustrating... Your baby comes FIRST! Tell your visitors to wait to visit! Why is everyone coming to the hospital anyway? Can't they wait a few days til you're home??

And what's with everyone wanting to pump right away? Why do moms all think they have to supplement with formula or water? Who is telling them these lies?

::sigh:: Really... breastfeeding is not nearly as complicated as everyone thinks!!!