The FFF Community Guide for Responding to Formula Critics, Pushy Hospital Staff, and Other Nosy and/or Rude Characters

“How do I stand up for myself in the hospital if I don’t want to breastfeed?”

 

“I want to feel confident about my choice… but what can I say to people who question it?”

I get asked both of these questions at least twice a month. Aside from the fact that it frustrates me to no end that parents are still feeling judged and belittled for their feeding methods, I also am not the best at short, pithy responses. (Long-winded is an understatement for how I typically communicate.) So I often post these quandaries on the FFF Facebook page, to get the input of the brilliant parents who populate it. Their answers range from practical to profound; cheeky to cheerful. As usual, my audience is way smarter than I am.

I’ve compiled these responses into a living, ever-present “database” of pocket responses for these common bottle-feeding conversations. I’m also happy to add to it, so feel free to contribute your own suggestions in the comments. I hope this helps you all stay confident, proud, and fearless in your decisions. Because you have no reason not to be.

– The FFF

*****

 

In the hospital….

“The way I recently shut down one of the midwives at the hospital a day after a delivered who asked why there was formula next to me, who also reminded me I needed to keep baby to the breast in order to produce: ‘Thank you, I’m well aware and I’ve made my decision.’”

“Say, ‘I’m fully aware of the benefits of breast feeding but it’s not for me. Thank you for respecting my decision on what is best for my baby and I.’”

“I would make it known to the hospital staff as soon as you check in (they asked me shortly after). If they inquire why or say you should meet with a lactation consultant, don’t feel like you need to give an explanation. Just stay firm and ask for formula. They have plenty available so they should just accept your decision!”

“Make sure everyone in your birthing room is on board, and only allow people in that support your decision. Make sure that you have it in writing that you do not wish to have lactation consultants come to your room, and that you do not wish to breastfeed. If you are challenged, immediately request to speak to the charge or head floor nurse. The support system you surround yourself with is going to be key. Additionally, I’d look into the hospital where you are planning to deliver. If they are ‘baby friendly’ they tend to promote BF over FF, so just a heads up. Hopefully no one will challenge you, but just be prepared and know that this is a safe space for you. Finally, FFF/ISY support groups are forming around the country. There may be a resource for you right there!”

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“I was VERY assertive about it with my second child, and explained that we had made a sound, reasoned decision that was best for us. We also requested a bottle of formula while I was in labor so I could give the first bottle, which was very special to me. We also had a sign in my room in the maternity ward. Now, it’s harder to be so assertive with your first, because everyone thinks you’ll get religion about it at the last minute. I would absolutely avoid over-explaining. People will try to cut down all your reasons no matter how good they are. Just find a mantra and repeat it as nauseam. Example: ‘We’ve decided already, but thanks for your concern.’”

“I would be the type of person that would need to rehearse my ‘explanation’, if you will. So, my suggestion would be once you come up with a short idea of what you want to say, preach it girl! To yourself, to your spouse, your loved ones, and friends. Ask them to do the same. Utilize your loved ones and friends in the hospital as well. Give them the same idea of what you plan on saying, so if the time comes and you’re exhausted and don’t have the ability to fight in one moment or more, they can back you up. I had a hard time with pushy nurses when I was trying to breastfeed at first. Eventually I got the courage to simply say ‘thank you for your help, but you need to leave….NOW’ If I am blessed with another baby I may be going directly to formula. If I do that I will be saying ‘I have done my research, and I have searched my heart. I thank you for the support, but I do not need your help. I am the mother of this child. I know what’s best. Please leave now.’”

“I think it might pay to remember that in a lot of hospitals they have a breastfeeding policy that they have to abide by. The hospitals probably don’t consider how confronting that is for Mums who don’t want to go there…”

“I had my OB write on my antenatal card: ‘Not to breastfeed’. It didn’t stop some midwives still trying to persuade me but it also raised awareness among others to already respect my decision. This was for my 2nd child who went straight onto formula from birth. I also just told family and friends (and nosy strangers!) that it didn’t work out for my 1st child and hence it was the best decision for our family.”

“Tell them when they are birthing your baby and paying for said baby, they will get a say. Tell them that minding their own business is best for them if they would like to stay in your life.”

“I would just let them know upfront that you’ve considered your options, you are well informed and have decided that formula feeding is the best option for you & baby. If they say maybe just try it or offer a lactation consultant or start banging on about ‘breast is best’, just remind them it’s not necessary – as you are already well informed on the topic and it’s not open for discussion. Your body, your baby, your choice.”

“I’d say you have researched your options and formula feeding is a better fit for your family.”

“I wrote in my birth plan ‘We will not be breastfeeding. Thank you for respecting this very personal and informed decision’. No one ever pressured me at all. One nursed came in after a shift change and asked innocently. I kindly said ‘It is written in our birth plan that we will not be nursing’ She was completely ok with it and didn’t say anything else.”

“Make your intention known in your birth plan and tell all doctors and nurses ahead of time (or as you arrive while you still have your wits about you). Let them know if you are interested after birth YOU will bring it up, and to make sure a small bottle of formula (1oz or so) is available for immediately after the birth.”

“I was really stressed about this but I had my doctor put it in my chart and made it clear when I showed up at the hospital not to ask me about it. “

 

For strangers, in-laws, bosses, neighbors, that snotty mom in your playgroup, and everyone else who has no business asking…

“Don’t even bother with an explanation. Shut them down. I breast fed, expressed and formula fed and whenever a busy body asked me about how she was fed I’d just say ‘she’s feeding great, thanks! How are you keeping?’”

“I just used to say, ‘With all due respect i have made the choice that best suits our family’s needs and I don’t wish to discuss it further.’”

“’Are you wearing a tampon? What color is your poop? What is your pooping routine? Oh? You don’t like questions/comments about your personal body? Neither do I.’”

“Don’t answer them. If they ask tell them that question and topic is off limits.”

“I told people my son was well fed and healthy. If they felt that was unimportant, then it was their priorities that were skewed, not mine.”

“If someone wants to be rude enough to try and force you to bf, then you can be rude enough to tell them to stop in a manner that will actually make them stop.”

“Remember – ‘No.’ is a complete sentence.”

“Just like baby’s name- keep it private until the baby comes. Not worth having to explain your decision nor hearing anyone’s ‘opinion’”

“I would say that you don’t talk about their breasts, so please don’t talk about yours.”

“I’d go for an eye roll, a withering stare and an exasperating sigh.”

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“Tell them, ‘No. I am an adult and I make decisions for my body and my baby, period. That’s the last you’ll say about it.’”

“‘I don’t/didn’t tell you how to parent your child, you don’t get to tell me how to parent mine.’ That may be a last straw comment. It shuts my MIL down pretty quickly.”

“I choose how to use my breasts, not you.”

“Probably just easiest to nod and say thanks for the input, but I don’t want to discuss it! It’s just about impossible to change people’s minds and beliefs. Your midwife should support your decision either way, especially once you have told her that that is your decision and you wish to hear no more about. It’s a bit like people telling you that you have to give birth a particular way – whether or not you want to. “

“When people ask what you plan to do, say ‘I plan to feed my baby.’ Done.”

“I will try breastfeeding, when you try minding your own business, and seeing as that won’t happen for you, breastfeeding won’t happen for me.”

“Thank you for your concern, but I’ve made up my mind. Hey! How about that Sports team/weather/new movie [insert subject change of choice]”

“I held firm to my decision and made it clear to people that the benefits of bottle feeding are essential for me and far outweigh any breastfeeding benefits. Be firm, stand your ground and educate yourself on both sides.”

“I understand where you’re coming from, and I appreciate you giving me advice, but for now, I am going to try and do what’s best for both of us, and right now, that doesn’t include breastfeeding.”

“‘I’ve never had so many people inquire about my breasts before,’ usually shuts them right up.”

“One word answers. Have you considered breast feeding? No. But have you read the research? Yes. Hard to argue with one word answers.”

“I just smiled and gave them a blank stare…it really is none of their business. They would get all awkward and I would just keep smiling…!”

“When people asked me this I would smile and say, “Because.” And then change the subject.”

Guest Post and Giveaway – Work. Pump. Repeat.

A few years ago, I inter-met (get it? Meaning “met on the internet” – just made that up) this amazing blogger named Jessica Shortall. She was talking about combining breastfeeding and work in a funny, open, realistic and smart way – something I found refreshing in this typically depressing little corner of the Web. I’ve followed her work since, and am so excited to announce that today, her book Work.Pump. Repeat has been released into the world. This is the first and only breastfeeding book I’ve ever recommended on this page, and while it may seem odd for me to be promoting something exclusively for lactating women, I feel that strongly about her contribution to the infant feeding canon. I have a lot of readers who combo-feed or decide to breastfeed subsequent children, and I am thrilled to have a solid book to suggest to them; something that will celebrate their individuality and right to choose, while simultaneously giving them practical tips on combining breast and bottle and going back to work while breastfeeding.

Jessica and I have joined forces to offer the FFF audience a kickass giveaway, for those of you who are still pumping, planning on pumping, or might want to support a pumping friend (a great way to spread the #ISupportYou message). I wanted to do this for three reasons:

1. To show that infant feeding websites can, do and should support every woman’s individual journey. Just because you frequent FFF doesn’t mean you don’t support your breastfeeding best friend, or that you aren’t also pumping or combo feeding, or that you don’t plan on giving breastfeeding a go the second or third time around.

 

2. Because I think it means something that these brands were willing to work with me and this site, since some other brands (cough) were afraid to align themselves with someone who primarily supports parents using formula.

 

3. Because it’s a fun way to promote Jessica’s book, and I would do anything to help her out. Just read her post below, and you’ll see why I feel this way.

Check out the info about the giveaway at the end of this post.

So, without further blabbing, here’s some words written specifically for the FFF audience by a woman I am incredibly proud to call a friend, a woman who truly supports ALL mothers in their feeding journeys, and manages to support breastfeeding without ever disparaging alternative feeding methods.

***

On Failure and Goals

by Jessica Shortall

Work. Pump. Repeat. (available now) is the first breastfeeding book to get beyond the noise of the Mommy Wars and into practical advice, emotional support, and some seriously dark humor. Jessica Shortall shares the nitty-gritty basics of surviving the working world as a breastfeeding mom, offering a road map for negotiating the pumping schedule with colleagues, navigating business travel, and problem-solving when forced to pump in less-than-desirable locales. Drawing on the war stories, hacks, and humor of working moms, and on her own stories from her demanding job and travel in developing countries, she gives women moral support for dealing with the stress and guilt that come with juggling working and breastfeeding. As she tells the reader in her witty, inspiring manifesto, “Your worth as a mother is not measured in ounces.”

The other day, I was looking for something specific in the manuscript of my book, so I opened the Word document I had submitted to my publisher, and did a “ctrl+F” keyword search for the word “failure.”

I wasn’t really expecting the search to return 231 results.

It does make sense, though, because trying to be a triple-threat breastfeeder, working person, and new mother in a world that wants you to be perfect at all three, is FULL OF FEELINGS.

But still…I don’t know how we got to this place. My gut tells me that this breastfeeding/failure thing is a relatively new phenomenon. I mean, I can totally picture any woman, at any time in human history, completely breaking down in the first hours or days postpartum, when her nipples are bleeding and the baby is howling. That’s probably pretty universal in terms of an almost unnameably horrific set of feelings. But this thing, this setting of breastfeeding goals as a thing women are asked to do and to publicly affirm, via “I breastfed for ____ months” Facebook badges? I have to believe this is relatively new territory.

The biggest problem with this cultural phenomenon is that tightly defining what “success” looks like is, de facto, also defining “failure” for us, whether we like it or not. So, 231 instances of the word “failure” in my book, from my mouth and the mouths of the hundreds of working mothers I interviewed? When you consider that 83% said that working caused them to breastfeed for shorter than they had hoped? Yeah, I guess that makes sense.

In this journey of writing a book that helps women breastfeed while working, I have discovered one interesting thing: I’m kind of alone in WHY I’m doing it. (Note: I’m totally NOT alone in that I feel like I’m stitching together the stories and laughter and tears and holy-shit-that-was-awkward moments of gazillions of working women. YOU people make me feel not-alone.) I’ve learned that many breastfeeding advocates and educators – including some of the great and lovely ones – define their baseline goal as getting more breastmilk into more babies. So if that’s the goal, then for any individual woman, success is defined pretty tightly – and therefore, anything outside of that success sort of sensibly feels like failure.

I get their goal, and I respect their intentions. I’m just coming at this from a totally different place. I define my ultimate goal in this space as helping women and their babies figure out what ‘thriving’ looks like for them. Two roads diverged. And here’s who I think that matters to:

– the waitress who really doesn’t have a choice when she is faced with losing tables, and therefore un-lose-able income, by taking pumping breaks

– the lawyer who suffers from crippling postpartum anxiety related to how much (or how little) milk she is producing at work

– the heavy-business-traveler who just can’t…just CAN’T, like, down to her SOUL…withstand even the IDEA of bringing that #%$^ pump onto one more airplane

– the stay-at-home-mom with her own damn reasons that I haven’t even thought of

– and even, yep, the woman who produces more than enough breastmilk, day in and day out, at work, enough even to donate some, for a year or more. This woman, too, doesn’t deserve to be defined as a success only by her milk, and I truly believe that she doesn’t want to see her sisters, her friends, and her co-workers put to shame.

 

Every time we draw bright lines around success, we create a huge swath of experience that is, by default, being defined as failure. Breastfeeding for X length of time is ONE part of ONE version of thriving, for some, but certainly not for all. I refuse to discount families who are using their capable hearts, heads, and bodies to figure out their own version of happiness, healthiness, and success. The goal is thriving families, and I can’t wait to see your version.

***

Fearless Formula Feeder + Work. Pump. Repeat. are pleased to offer you

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Hey, pumping and combo-feeding moms! Don’t go back to work alone: bring this bad-ass survival kit with you! Work. Pump. Repeat. and the Fearless Formula Feeder are teaming up with some of the best-loved breastfeeding brands to offer an amazing prize pack of the survival gear any working-and-breastfeeding mom will need. Worth more than $500, this giveaway will let you stop worrying about gear and get back to snuggling with your baby and binge-watching TV until it’s time to head back to work.

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FFF Friday: “Why did no one tell me about this?”

The history of infant feeding is fascinating to me, mostly because it’s such a prime example of human innovation. In today’s Western society, we tend to romanticize the days of yore, favoring ancient practices in the approach to nutrition, medicine, and especially birth and parenting. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, if this is what you prefer – but I think the downside is that we start resenting modern conveniences and progress. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a total Luddite about many things (I will never trade in my dogeared, musty-smelling paperbacks for a Kindle; I think Facebook is the downfall of humanity) but I also freaking love my DVR, read Popular Science and geek out, and think medical advancements are the coolest thing since sliced bread. I love that we can cure diseases, prevent others, and take away the pain from childbirth for those who desire this.

So I really, really love Emily’s story, because it speaks to all of this, and then some. Because nature isn’t always right. Humans aren’t always right. In fact, both of them are wrong a lot of the time. But when they can work in tandem and correct each other’s mistakes, that’s a beautiful thing. 

 Happy Friday, fearless ones,

The FFF

***

Emily’s Story

My husband is a biologist, and he’s interested in evolutionary biology. Through him, I’ve also developed an interest in this, though I’m not at all a science person so my understanding is limited.

When I learned about insufficient glandular tissue (and that I had IGT), I didn’t understand. If our bodies were made for breastfeeding (as nurses, lactation consultants, et al. kept telling me), how is it that IGT is a thing? Why it is that the gene for IGT didn’t die out when our bodies didn’t do what they were meant to do and we couldn’t feed our babies?

I thought about this as I was pregnant with my second child. With my first, we had tried breastfeeding. He had a great latch and a strong suck for all the good it did him. I just couldn’t produce enough milk. I hadn’t even heard of IGT back then. Neither had the myriad nurses, lactation consultants, doctors, or La Leche League leaders, presumably. Or if they did, they never told me about it. LLL leaders were happy with telling me that I wasn’t dedicated to breastfeeding and that I was wrong when I said he wasn’t producing dirty diapers. I just couldn’t tell they were wet, she said, because I used disposable diapers rather than cloth. (To be fair, some of the LLL leaders were much nicer and encouraging.) Lactation consultants must have seen me as a cash cow and tried to sell me products and services that weren’t even calculated to help my supply issue. I’ve come to think of them as predatory.quotescover-JPG-14

And so, thinking that breast is best, my routine with my first was breastfeed, give breast milk that I had pumped earlier, supplement with formula, and pump while he sleeps. When that was all done, he was up again. I think a lot of readers are familiar with this pattern. I was even on some medication from my midwife to try to increase my supply, but all it did was make me sleepy. Eventually, I stopped. I realized that an awake mommy who could play with her baby was more important than breast milk.

During my second pregnancy, I learned about IGT, in particular that I might have IGT. Instead of feeling relieved or justified (so that’s why I couldn’t breastfeed!), I felt lied to and betrayed. Of all the people I spoke to when my first baby was born, all the medical professionals and self-professed breastfeeding experts who tried to make me feel bad, give me medication, or sell me useless and expensive equipment, why did no one tell me about this? They all said that our bodies were meant to do this, that we have been doing this for thousands of years. They never said that maybe my body wasn’t meant to do this. And if, as they said, this is what mommies are designed to do and I can’t do it, are they implying that I shouldn’t be a mommy?

Survival of the fittest doesn’t mean survival of the physically strongest. It means the one who is most able to adapt to her surroundings will pass on her genes. People say that women have been breastfeeding for thousands of years, but they neglect to mention that we have also been using wet nurses, animal milk, and baby bottles for that long. The gene for IGT didn’t die out because humans are creative, intelligent, and caring enough to feed their babies when their bodies don’t work the way other people think they should.

Never do I feel more human than I do when I give my baby formula. Bottle feeding my babies reminds me of humans’ problem solving ability that allowed us to evolve into who we are today, and probably did more for the species than mammary glands ever did. And we’re all part of this intelligent species, whether we bottle or breastfeed.

***

Feel like sharing your story? Email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Special Feature: Excerpt from the new book, “Becoming Mother”

I am so thrilled to bring you a free preview of Sharon Tjaden-Glass’s new book, Becoming Mother: A Journey of Identity, which came out just today. Becoming Mother is “a reflective memoir that spans from pregnancy through the end of the first year postpartum. It follows the author as she resists, denies, copes with, and ultimately embraces her identity as a mother.” I love how Tjaden-Glass blends introspection with reflection on larger social issues, and I especially enjoyed her chapter on feeding her daughter, which you’ll find below. If you’d like to read more, the book is available on Amazon (Print and Kindle), or you can visit her website. 

– The FFF

***

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Why did my inability to breastfeed cause me so much devastation? Was it perhaps because I still felt so connected to Felicity? Certainly, this presented a paradox: How could our needs be in such conflict while we were still so attached? She needed food, and I couldn’t provide it. It seemed impossible.

But there was another, deeper layer to my devastation—the devastation of a wounded identity, one that was still a newborn itself. That fresh identity as a competent mother—hero of my own story, defender of my newborn baby—was now at risk. I was becoming some breed of mother who didn’t neatly fall into one category or another. How could I have had an unmedicated childbirth and now be formula feeding my baby? What kind of mother was that?

Mothers like me didn’t seem to exist in mommy blogs or on-line forums. Mothers who gave birth without medication always breastfed their babies! They endured the pain so their babies would be alert after birth and latch with no problems. If they could stand the pain of childbirth, the pain of nursing cramps and chomped nipples and mastitis would be child’s play.

This is what I thought.

But again, these thoughts emerge from living in a society that emphasizes choice. When our concerns are not simply feeding our children, we can refocus our concerns on how we are feeding them. And when those feeding choices are presented on a continuum of “good, better, and best”, it’s fairly easy to jump to the conclusion of “good, better, and best mother.”

Even after I reassured myself that I was a competent mother, I knew the stereotypes that follow mothers who formula feed today. Our identities are not solely composed of what we think about ourselves. They also include—whether we like it or not—what others think about us. We may not care what some people think about our parenting, but we want those whom we respect to see us at least as good parents, if not great parents. And so this was a major psychological blow at a time when I was already bottoming out because of the fluctuations in my postpartum hormones.

So when I was unable to breastfeed, I had to reconcile many truths. I had to surrender my commitment to breastfeed. I had to accept that my baby wouldn’t be eating what everyone was calling “the best.” I had to reconcile what this decision said about my new identity as a mother. And I had to accept a very definite separation from my baby at a time when I wasn’t ready to let go.

Until I decided to wean Felicity, I had relied on evidence-based research to make decisions about labor, birth, and feeding. And while all of this knowledge helped me to avoid an unnecessary labor induction, it was not the definitive authority that I had imagined it to be during pregnancy. Because I lacked confidence in my own instincts as a woman and a mother, I placed all of my trust in this research, believing that it would provide me the best counsel about how to solve any problem that I could encounter as a new mother.

In fact, Davis-Floyd (2003) explored this tendency of American mothers to grant more authority to scientific knowledge than their own intuitive and bodily knowledge. She asserts that this tendency arises from American cultural beliefs that possessing, “scientific knowledge about medical birth” gives mothers power and control in a culture where, “knowledge… is respected… (and) enables one to be a competent player of our cultural game” (p. 31). Not only does her cultural observation explain my intense desire to read and research during pregnancy, but it helps me understand my own distrust in my body’s signals.

But if I had been able to listen to my body and trust my instincts more, I would have probably stopped breastfeeding around eight days postpartum. It was at this time that I knew my milk supply was not going to increase. My daughter was already eating mostly formula despite my constant pumping and nursing. I had done all of the interventions that I could try and the outcome was the same—one to two ounces of breast milk per day. At this point, I had to start denying what was happening to me in order to keep going. Every time I nursed her, I reminded myself that breastfeeding was best and that I was doing the right thing. I refused to let myself focus on the fact that she could only draw half an ounce of breast milk during a feeding. Instead, I allowed statistics and the results of scientific studies to overshadow my own personal experience.

 

But it wasn’t just research that fueled my self-denial.

It was also my own pride.

 

I shared in today’s breastfeeding enthusiasm to the point of sacrificing my own health. I had read about the dangers of infant formula. I didn’t want processed food going into my baby’s body. Unlike women of my mother’s and grandmother’s generations, I live in a time when breastfeeding is now heralded as the best decision that mothers can make for the health of their babies. It supports their immune systems. Breast milk is more easily digested, so babies have fewer cases of constipation and diarrhea. It makes them smarter? It decreases their chances of developing obesity? Okay, those findings seemed like a stretch, but I was willing to believe them—since I was going to breastfeed.

 

But ultimately, it was my own pride that kept me nursing and pumping until I literally had nothing left to give.

 

I didn’t want to be criticized. But I also didn’t want to be wrong.

 

I realize now that in those early months of her life, whenever nursing came up as a topic, I found myself trying to convince people that I didn’t choose to formula feed. Instead, I was forced to formula feed. I thought about all the assumptions that someone might have about me if they thought that I had chosen to formula feed. Assumptions that I had gathered from the hospital’s breastfeeding class, from popular breastfeeding books, and from on-line forums about breastfeeding. Through the postpartum fog, I could almost hear their thoughts.

 

Maybe you should have pumped more. Nipple shields slow the stream of milk. You should have taken more herbal supplements or tried this medication that I took. If you slept more, your milk would have come in. Are you sure her latch was good?

 

For the first few months of Felicity’s life, nearly every conversation with another mother started with the presumptive “So how’s the nursing going?” or the kinder “Are you nursing?” I never started these feeding conversations, but they came up in every conversation with a visitor who came to our home in those early months.

 

“I’m not breastfeeding anymore,” I would say.

 

The long pause. The nod. The silence, as if waiting for more.

 

Every time, I tried to figure out how to get out of the conversation without breaking into tears. I found myself answering questions that they hadn’t even asked. I launched into explanations of how hard I tried, how often I nursed her, and the types of interventions we used. The two weeks of devastating insomnia, the miniscule yield from pumping sessions, her weight loss, my descent into hell.

 

And then I would end with, “But really, medically there’s a problem with me. My milk never really came in. Really, I didn’t have any engorgement. I have thyroid issues, so that’s probably what caused it.”

 

But no matter how convincing I thought I was, I was embarrassed to even talk about the issue because of an oft-repeated statistic about how nearly every healthy woman can produce enough milk for her baby. Only one to five percent of women are not able to produce enough milk for their babies, I had read over and over again in breastfeeding literature.

 

And that was how I was asking others to view me—as a person as uncommon as someone who grows scales instead of skin.

 

Me. The person who believed in the power of her own body. Who had just given birth without medication. Who believed that if she just listened to her body, that it would do what it needed to do.

 

Me. The person who was convinced that all problems with breastfeeding could be solved with knowledgeable interventions and perseverance.

 

Me. The person who was disciplined and persistent enough to kickbox and portion-control her way to a size six.

 

Me. That person.

 

Suddenly, it seemed that all of those qualities that I had spent a lifetime practicing were not true anymore. That freshly crafted identity as a strong, capable mother was now unraveling fast.

 

So underneath my explanations for why I wasn’t breastfeeding, my tone was desperate. It screamed: Please, please, everyone! Please just believe that I’m a medical anomaly, defective on the inside. I’m not stupid, or uninformed, or lazy, or selfish. I’m just broken, everyone. That’s why I’m formula feeding, not because I chose it!

 

When we made the switch, I prepared myself for the worst. A sick baby. A colicky baby. Diarrhea. Constipation. Blood in the stool. But none of that happened.

 

What did happen was much more positive. Formula feeding helped me expand my understanding of what it means to be a mother. Before I stopped nursing Felicity, almost all of my interactions with her revolved around marathon feedings and pumping sessions. My sole role was nourishment. There was no room in my mind to be anything else to her. When I wasn’t nursing, I just wanted to be alone. I just wanted to sleep. I just wanted to feel better. But I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t feel better. Near the end of my time breastfeeding her, I would tear up at the sound of her hungry cry and think, Not again. I can’t. But then, I would get up and do it.

 

But once the pumping sessions and the marathon feedings were gone, once the sleep returned in increments of two hours, I started to look at her. Just look and look at her. Listen to her. Talk to her. Play with her. Here was this person whom I felt that I already knew, and yet I still had everything to learn about—what her voice would sound like some day, what activities she would like to do, and how it would feel for her to hug me. For the first time, I started to look into the future a bit and get excited about helping her pack her bag for her first day of kindergarten or helping her learn to tie her shoes. I was finally able to imagine what kind of mother I wanted to be.

 

And then I started to wonder, Why does it matter how I feed her? And why is this topic open for public discussion?

 

And finally: So what if I did choose to feed her formula? Does that make me a bad mother? Don’t we value choice in our culture anymore?

 

All those breastfeeding books had presented formula as a choice for mothers who weren’t dedicated to the sacrifices and challenges of breastfeeding. Was I dedicated? Did I care about the health of my child?

 

Why, yes, I did. So that meant that I would breastfeed.

 

The decision to breastfeed wasn’t framed around the starting point of what was healthiest for me. Instead, the decision was framed around what was healthiest for my baby. And breastfeeding can be incredibly healthy for many mothers. But breastfeeding literature never mentions that it can be unhealthy—either physically or emotionally—for others. So the message is clear. I should be more concerned about what is healthiest for my baby because I’m a mother now. And mothers sacrifice. Everything, if need be.

 

And I did.

 

But when the herculean attempts to eat enough, pump enough, and nurse enough had worn me down into a sliver of a human being—no longer able to make rational decisions, no longer able to feed myself, no longer able to walk to the bathroom without assistance, no longer able to recognize my own face in the mirror—I started to wonder, How much more do I really have to give before I’m dead?

Still, it was tiring and it hurt to feel the need to defend how I fed Felicity. Feeding is part of the public sphere, a topic suitable for conversation with others. Everyone could figure out how I fed her and, with that knowledge, a host of assumptions were already in place about why I fed her this way. Maybe I thought breastfeeding was repulsive. Maybe I lacked confidence that I could do it. Maybe I had fallen victim to the hospital procedures that often interfere with the breastfeeding relationship. Maybe I didn’t know all the medical studies about the benefits of breastfeeding. Or maybe I was misinformed and thought that breastfeeding would ruin my boobs. Or maybe I was just selfish and wanted someone else to feed her while I got some decent sleep.

How did I know about these assumptions? They belonged to me. They were my thoughts before I gave birth.

In fact, I can attest to the fact that as a first-time mother, I greatly appreciated the cultural divide over breastfeeding because it made my choice much easier. I read books about breastfeeding. Then, I looked within my own educated, upper-middle class, white community and I saw that breastfeeding was valued and widely practiced, and that—as far as I could tell—everyone had been successful at it. I wasn’t looking for a reason to be different from everyone else.

 

But perhaps the most convincing evidence for my decision to breastfeed was the testimony of the nurse who taught the hospital’s breastfeeding class. As I reflect on that class, I can now see how the nurse’s own personal experiences regarding breastfeeding shaped her response to that question about the possibility of not producing enough milk. From her position as a medical professional, she advised, “Feed your baby.” From her position as a lactation consultant, she stated that, “Ninety-five percent of women can breastfeed their babies.” From her position as an experienced breastfeeding mother, she claimed, “If you stick with it, it will get easier.”

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She had given me exactly what I wanted to hear—a positive view of breastfeeding, approved by both a medical professional (to meet my husband’s criteria for credibility) and a mother of four (to meet my criteria).

 

As a new mother, advice based on personal experience was often compelling to me, even if it varied so much from person to person. I simply listened to the voices whose advice matched what I wanted to hear and ignored or discounted the voices that I didn’t. I didn’t want to hear about women who had epidurals, or C-sections, or formula fed their babies. That wasn’t going to be me. They had made bad decisions that had put them in those positions, so I didn’t want to listen to their stories.

This way of viewing the world didn’t pose a problem until I found myself on the other side of the line that I had drawn. Instead of a breastfeeding mother, I was a formula feeding mother. And all those silent judgments that I had once pronounced in my thoughts—never once out loud—were now heaped upon me. I hadn’t even realized how harshly I had judged formula feeding mothers until I had become one. The pressure was more than I could bear. I was forced to mentally confront each stereotype that I had about formula feeding. I was not lazy. I was not selfish. I was not a quitter. I was not stupid or uninformed. I was not pro-corporate America.

It helped to talk with friends about how difficult breastfeeding had been for me and to read stories of women who had traveled this road before me. It took months of reflection to create a mental space where I could be confident in how I fed Felicity.

 

I remember the day that I realized that I had this confidence. Felicity was six months old and one of Doug’s cousins was visiting. She was a single woman in her mid-twenties. She had never met Felicity before. When I started mixing a bottle of formula, she asked if I had ever breastfed Felicity. It didn’t sound like an accusation. I doubt she realized how emotional that question could be for a new mother.

 

I said, “I did. For twelve days. And then we had to switch to formula. I wasn’t making enough milk, so that’s what we had to do.” She didn’t push the issue, and finally I didn’t feel compelled to explain myself further.

***

– Excerpted from Becoming Mother: A Journey of Identity by Sharon Tjaden-Glass (Lucky Frog Press, August 1, 2015). Reprinted with permission from the author. 

Forget “baby friendly” – why not “family friendly”?

More and more hospitals are adopting the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative, based on the 10 Steps To Successful Breastfeeding. For women who want to breastfeed, this can be fantastic news – especially in areas where breastfeeding is not the societal norm. It also is positive news for mothers who want to room-in with their babies.

The problem is, though, that these initiatives are billed as good news for everyone; something that is being done for the benefit of all babies and mothers. Framing them this way eliminates any chance of individualized healthcare, often putting the baby’s needs above the mothers, or some mothers’ needs above other mothers’ needs.

It doesn’t need to be this way.

Breastfeeding support is crucial. But so is maintaining personal autonomy. So is support for postpartum mental health. So is a mother’s physical health. So is support for adoptive families. So is support for fathers, so that they are rightly made to feel they have equal responsibility in this child-rearing game, from day one. Until then, parenting will remain an undeniably gendered activity.

I do not believe that Baby-Friendly has to mean mother-unfriendly. I think there are many wonderful things about the 10 Steps. But to put breastfeeding first, instead of on the same level as other aspects of infant care, is misguided.

I asked the women of the Fearless Formula Feeder Facebook community – one that spans over 50 countries, and over twelve thousand people from all walks of life- to answer a question: “What would a truly family-friendly hospital look like?” The responses are below, and I hope that care providers, nurses, politicians, and especially hospital administrators will read these. They range from general policy suggestions, to personal experiences of what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to maternity care.

Some of these suggestions are cost-prohibitive, of course, or may not apply in certain medical/insurance-based situations. But overall, these are simple requests. Respect. Autonomy. Kindness. A plea for care providers to truly do no harm.

I know we can get there. Many hospitals are already doing this, and doing it well. It can’t be about exclusive breastfeeding rates, and losing funding if you don’t have a specific number of babies leaving without receiving supplementation. It has to be about patient care. Long-term outcomes.

Do no harm. That’s all these mothers are asking.

 

_________________________

WHAT WORKS

 

“I experienced a truly baby and family friendly hospital. The nurses educated me and hubby each day on how to do things to care for our son. Including how to formula feed safely and correctly.”

 

“My experience was great. The nurses were so helpful and friendly and kind and always willing to help with my latch, etc. I had a hard time meeting with the LC because I was often in the NICU when she made her rounds. but they made sure I got to see her right before I checked out. I did not feel judged with my right off the bat combi-feeding and they were very open to having my husband come into the NICU and feed baby boy when I was too wiped out. I felt like they took care of me and the baby.”

 

“I gave birth at a ‘baby friendly hospital’ and I was extremely pleased with my experience. The hospital staff made the biggest difference for me. I was given options, and I was never once questioned on my choices nor did the staff feel compelled to “educate” on my decisions. I told a nurse I was struggling with breastfeeding. Her response was a simple and kind ‘Would you like some formula? Or to see a lactation consultant?’ One nurse noticed my son was extremely fussy, and asked if they would like me to take him to the nursery so I could get some rest. Being helpful yet respectful, that’s what a baby friendly hospital should be about. A little bit of tact goes a long way.” 

“The hospital that I delivered at… allowed two support people to stay 24 hours a day, and had fold-out chairs provided for them to sleep on. This allowed both my husband and mother to be present before, during and after birth. The number of guests is restricted, and all visitors must be pre-approved by mom. Nurses were amazing – supportive and knowledgeable. We also had access to a lactation consultant. Baby stays in the room with mom at all times, and you are given as much or as little support as you need. Once home, I was visited by the public health nurse, who checked in regarding both the baby’s health and my own, including my mental health.”

“I found both of my experiences to be family friendly. I had the privacy of a private room without extra costs, respect for my decisions, especially with feeding. They were ready to assist with breastfeeding, and when that wasn’t working out, had formula ready and waiting. They encouraged both options without judgment, and made me feel that baby having a full tummy regardless of the method was what was important.”

 

WHAT DOESN’T WORK

“After baby was born.. it was like I didn’t exsist.. even though I was having medical problems like clotting and depression.. I think there should be a team of nurses that still “make sure your ok.”…He’s got to go home with me.. and I am a hot mess. I had a high grade fever for 2 days…I told them I thought I was and they didn’t check till I was almost released and then I got a big IV of antibiotics.. not to mention, crying all night.”

“I made it very clear when my son was born that I wanted him breastfed, but supplemented as needed. No one gave me any idea how to do so, or saw fit to tell me what he needed, even when he lost 11% of his body weight.”

 

“I just generally felt like I had no idea what I was supposed to do. I was tired and confused and the only solution I had for anything was check the baby’s diaper, then attach him to the breast to see if that helped. It did, and my OB said it was fine when I saw her in the morning, but I spent all night going, “Oh god am I doing this wrong? It’s 2 AM and I have forgotten what sleep feelings like and I can’t find the light switches to turn out the lights.” And the thing is — I had overall a very positive birth experience! But I felt left alone a lot when I wish someone had been able to offer a bit more general guidance overall. And I don’t know that it’s really possible in current US medical settings, which generally assume your family can step in and be that role.”

“Allowing c-section moms to send their babies to the nursery for a few hours at a time. With baby #3, my hospital started a “rooming in” policy, which they claimed was to enhance bonding, but really it was b/c they are short staffed with budget cuts. My husband had to be home with our girls, so I was left on my own, the same day/night as a major surgery, to try and get in and out of bed, care for the baby, and try to pump. By the second or third night, one of the nurses saw how completely exhausted I was and offered to take the baby to the nursery so I could rest. I am still grateful for her kindness and foresight.”

 

“Family-friendly means being heard. My daughter refused to feed her first day. I kept saying something was wrong, nurses kept telling me it was normal. She was lethargic from blood type incompatibility jaundice. My boobs were handled by more people than I could count. They had me hand expressing for droplets. It was awful. They found the jaundice at her 24 hour tests and nobody explained it- just stuck her under lights and left us alone. Because I was a first time mom I wasn’t listened to, I was brushed aside.”

“The ability for support people to ‘tag out.’ When our kids were born, Dad got an ID bracelet in the delivery room. Awesome – it meant they knew which baby belonged to which grownup. Great idea. But once that band went on, it meant he was the ONLY person allowed to stay past 8pm (when visiting hours ended). So his choice was either stay to be able to help me, or go home and put the other kids to bed and retain some semblance of usual in their world. It would have been awesome if someone else had been able to come for a couple hours while he did bath and bedtime (even just until 10 or 11) and maybe caught a nap himself.”

“Kangaroo care. Yes, I understand the benefits. But for me, someone who is painfully modest, it was a bit alarming when a nurse ripped open my grown and exposed my body to a room full of students (no warning!) I would have rather swaddled my newborn and shared him with my husband, rather than lying there in the hospital bed for an hour (because it was required, I mean *suggested*) while listening to my new baby cry. They didn’t listen to me when I told them that he needed an immediate bottle for low blood sugar, though they knew I had gestational diabetes….Too many mothers are treated like second class citizens with no apparent needs. This must do wonders for those who will experience postpartum depression.”

“I was told during my birthing class that the hospital highly encouraged rooming in as mother and baby sleep better that way (not true in my case). Even walked us past the empty nursery to show us that most people don’t send the baby to the nursery, so I felt very guilty asking for them to take her for a few hours.  I only got 2 hours of sleep a day while in the hospital.”

“Avoiding passive aggressive comments regarding decisions parents have made (I just got a lot of “Well, at least she’s still getting breastmilk” comments from my hospital when I told them I’m pumping instead of breastfeeding her – and she’s in the NICU and can’t even breastfeed yet!). Being able to deviate from a policy when it’s deemed appropriate – I had to watch a video before being discharged about how to care for my newborn. My newborn has a heart defect and is in the NICU and is in fact NOT coming home with us. Having to watch a video about caring for the baby I’m not bringing home kinda sucked. It would have been nice if the nurse could just note that I didn’t watch the video cause it didn’t really apply to me. Plus it was a really outdated and stupid video in general.”

“A true baby friendly hospital experience would not involve nurses or doctors pressuring a new mom into breastfeeding. I spent the first 48 hours of my child’s life listening to nurses telling me that “breast is best” and crying because it wasn’t working for us. I felt like a huge disappointment to my baby. You are celebrating a new life! It should be a joyous time, not a depressing one.”

“I would love to see a hospital that gives a detailed tutorial on how to supplement and when. I had planned on exclusively nursing with my first but when that did not work out I was told to supplement. Well what does that actually mean? I didn’t know and I was so exhausted I didn’t even feel up to researching it so I ended up moving straight to formula. If I had had more help then perhaps I could have nursed longer.”

“I felt pressured to make breastfeeding work and then felt guilty when I requested to start supplementing with formula while in the hospital. They made me sign a form for documentation purposes saying I was educated in the benefits of breastfeeding and only 1 nurse out of my entire 3 night stay post c-section (and she just so happened to be the very last nurse I had prior to discharge) made me feel truly supported & told me it was ok to do whatever I chose and baby would be fine regardless. I think a truly baby/family friendly hospital would be supportive and accepting no matter what feeding method you choose.”

“I would have loved to get some sleep and not have nurses wake me up every two hours. That just gave me such a rough start to parenthood. We actually left the hospital early to get some sleep at home.”

 

“I would have liked more information on nursing and what that would look like over the first few weeks, as well as things like weight gain and how that was supposed to look. I read a lot about breastfeeding beforehand, and I also went to a breastfeeding class, and they all seemed to emphasize the number of diapers thing but not the normal weight gain range, so it took me a while to realize that my supply wasn’t sufficient. It wasn’t until my SIL, a nurse, told me that my kid should be gaining an ounce a day, not an ounce or two a week, that I realized we had a real problem, not just something that would go away if I nursed constantly. I don’t know how I missed that information when I was weighing her weekly at the public health unit to check on her weight gain, but I did. So more information on supplementing, and when it’s a good idea, and more support for that would have been helpful. Also, not having the doctor who delivered my daughter try to squish my nipple into her (the baby’s) mouth roughly in an attempt to show me how to latch would have been good.”

“(I wish they’d had) an explanation on why they’re encouraging you to do certain things. The reason being, I had preeclampsia so my daughter was born a couple weeks early. I was very sick and had a very hard induced labor. So I was extremely out of it even a day or two after she was born and staying in the nicu. The nurses brought a pump in the room and kept telling me I had to pump but I didn’t understand why I had to do it so soon. I understand it now but at the time I would’ve appreciated an explanation instead of just being given a pump and a deadline.”

 

 

WHAT MIGHT WORK

“ I think a family-friendly hospital initiative service would entail 1) LC’s that provide support and education in both breast and safe formula feeding practices minus any rhetoric or ideology promoting one over the other, 2) allowing parents to either room-in with their new babies, or send them to a fully-staffed nursery in case they need some uninterrupted sleep during their hospital stay, 3) provide support and education to new fathers on what to expect, how to become involved in the early days, etc., 4) will provide genuine evidence-based care before, during, and after the birth, 5) supplying parents with resources regarding feeding concerns, emotional support, and physical care for the post-partum stage once the family is sent home.”

“Recognize that mom is also a recovering patient… especially if she’s had a traumatic birth. Babies require a healthy, happy mom to thrive so make sure mom is getting her pain meds on time, help with showering/self care, checks for infection etc….If a mom has decided she is NOT nursing (for whatever reason) don’t continue to send in LCs. It’s already a hard decision. Don’t make it harder for her. Women are smart. Trust that they’ve made the choice that’s right for them.”

“Treating mom like she’s just as important as the baby, especially after delivery (you deliver the baby and suddenly don’t matter at all anymore sometimes). That means factoring in what’s best FOR HER as well as for baby. Providing unbiased information and help for whatever mom (and the family) decides to do. Answering any questions in an unbiased way. Asking questions in an unbiased way (“How are you planning to feed?” rather than “Are you breastfeeding?”). Realizing that giving birth is really hard on your body and that there is a recovery process involved regardless of how you delivered (vaginally, c-section, epidural, natural, etc.) and treating mom like she is in recovery – not expecting her to 100% parent the newborn immediately if she doesn’t feel up to it. Treating moms as individuals – what’s best for one isn’t best for another.”

 

“Respecting the parents decision on how to feed their baby. No pressure or guilt, the priority should be that the baby is getting fed and thriving, no matter how that gets done.”

“It would involve postpartum nurses being qualified as a lactation consultants and/or having lactation consultants available all the time — including nights and weekends. Formula should absolutely be available if people want it but not if people don’t — respecting people’s choices goes both ways. I firmly believe that if I had had better BFing assistance from the beginning, my child would not have been fully on formula within 2 weeks of birth.  I did not appreciate the way an allegedly baby-friendly hospital was actually not particularly helpful with feeding.”

“Support for parents who want to REST, be that a nursery, less intrusions. Formula support as well as breastfeeding support. To be offered formula as an option even if you plan to breastfeed. Have all your care providers be on the same page (no conflicting information). For everything to not be so RUSHED. Help for first timers, be that showing you how to do something or offering guidance/reassurance.”

“A truly friendly baby hospital would start out by asking you what your plan or goals are without injecting their own opinions or tone. If you ask for advice, they would then tell you pros and cons, but again remain neutral. After all, how can a hospital be baby friendly if a mother feels ridiculed or intimidated when stating what she wants? A happy mother equals baby friendly.”

“I think it would allow more than two hours of sleep for a mother who has just given birth, and options for the mother rather than mandated rooming in or nursery. It would offer services such as a kind LC if desired, and if not, training in the use and preparation of formula. It would offer services to new moms such as explaining postpartum depression and when to see someone for it. it would offer rooming in for both parents…”

“Basically it comes down to respecting the family concept and allowing mom and baby to bond while recovering from the rigors of birth offering preference-based options. I think they should educate when a mom seems unsure and ask if they can help clarify with some information to make a decision on. Pushing breastfeeding as hard as they do comes across as hostile to those of us who have no option, and it’s rude. If care providers could have their third trimester patients fill out some preferences ahead of time it would save a lot of trouble. I would much prefer to be asked ahead of time what my plans for infant feeding were, and do I need any additional information on either option, and if I was firm in my decision – not to be preached to by the hospital staff, but rather receive instruction about the choice I made if I indicated such. “

“I avoid “baby friendly” hospitals because they end up being very hostile to women who cannot breastfeed like me, and even more hostile to women who choose not to breastfeed. They need to realize that this woman has just given birth. She needs rest, and she needs to bond with her baby regardless of method of feeding. If she’s a new mother she may need more instruction on caring for baby, but otherwise the constant vitals checks in the middle of the night make for a sleep deprived and exhausted mother upon leaving the hospital. Why can’t they just attach some monitors for the night and let us sleep rather than waking us up every couple of hours?? That has mind boggled me for the longest time.”

“Feeding specialists for both feeding choices. Nurseries where the baby can actually stay for a few hours so parents can rest. Services for mothers who need or want information on PPD.”

“Hospital workers that actually sit down to explain things to you, and give you options instead of scare tactics.”

“Respect and support for new parents. Regardless of their feeding or birth plan choices. Offer information and resources to help them make informed choices that best fit them and their family’s needs.”

“Ask the parents questions: what are their feeding goals? What do they have questions about? Are there areas where they feel like they need support? Take the lead from parents as to where to offer support. Provide unbiased information and support on infant feeding. Check in on mom and baby regularly, and more information provided on postpartum mood disorders and how to get help.”

“There’s so much information on breastfeeding. Yes, it is absolutely wonderful to educate new parents on proper feeding. So where’s the information on formula? There’s nothing (other than “feed him an ounce”). What does that do? Where’s the reading material….well, guilt free reading material. Have these hospitals considered women who have gone through breast cancer? Rape and molestation survivors? Mommies who suffer from depression and need certain medications? Hell, mommies who are in need of many different medications! Or- crazy thought- women who just choose formula? They need information too, for their babies’ sakes. There should be something with answers to frequently asked questions. Burping, dairy allergies, acid reflux, how much, when to increase your child’s formula, generic vs name brand, etc.”

“Respect the mother as both a grown up able to make decisions about her body and her care, and a patient in her own right. BFHI has a nasty tendency to view baby as the only patient and mom as the adjacent milk production unit. What does that mean in practice? A mothers informed choice to formula feed must be respected. Currently FF moms have to fight epic battles with staff to obtain formula and be spared intrusive and unwanted lectures about breastfeeding from every new staff member that enters the room.”

“Mandatory rooming in for all mothers must end. Not giving exhausted mothers any opportunity to sleep at night even if they ask for it is abusive, paternalistic and dangerous to both mom and baby. No sane person would order a day zero surgical patient to look after a baby regardless of the patient saying he can`t cope. Exactly that is standard BFHI procedure for cesarean moms. Things have come so far that maternity ward nurses no longer consider baby care part of their job description. This insanity needs to stop.”

“A truly baby friendly hospital would respect the wishes of the parents in regards to how they want to feed their baby. I went to a hospital where they are exclusively a breastfeeding hospital, they almost yelled at us when we brought formula in for our first son. Offer choices and information to all new parents, and have them decide.”

“Respecting the parents right to choose. Understanding that the parents\family of the new baby might have different beliefs\goals than the hospital\nurse\doctor. The way things are worded in literature from the hospital even if they claim to be supportive it’s really clear what the hospital really thinks.”

“A baby and family friendly hospital would make it a priority to understand what the goals and needs of each family are either before, during, or directly after birth. They would offer education, support, and guidance at ALL times. Trained nurses, doctors, and midwives should value the fact that not every baby, mother, or family is the same, with the same resources, support, and goals. Every mother should leave the hospital feeling like they were given the information, support, time to heal, and time to bond with their baby that they needed. It’s not about breast VS. formula. It’s not about natural VS. medicated. It should be about helping create healthy babies, healthy mothers, and healthy families in every sense of the word.”

“ASKING what your needs and goals are – NOT just slamming what is BEST in your face. Weighing OPTIONS with you (delivery, drugs, feeding, sleeping, etc) in a ‘we offer x, y, & z’ manner instead of ‘our policy is x’ without telling you everything. Covering ALL medical needs -making sure that maternal mental health is JUST as noted and prevalent as physical.”

“The word “mandated” is not part of its vocabulary. Nursery is an option after a difficult birth or c-section, no mandated lectures about breastfeeding, options for early discharge exist for those who feel great and are ready to leave, and the family remains the center of care. Finding out what the family wants/needs is the driver of nursing care and those choices are supported.”

“Allowing a mother to rest after hours of exhausting labor and delivery. You go through the biggest work out of your life, on little to no sleep. So, of course a nap would go a long way. And think of the huge hormonal drop a woman goes through once the baby is born! Hello baby blues!”

“More after care is required. Sending new Mum’s home with planned health worker visits to support breastfeeding or proper instruction on formula as well as looking at Mum’s mental health and Bub’s overall well being.”

“A place where you are listened to. Where fathers are always welcome. Where lactation consultants are available 24/7, and formula freely given upon request – no questions asked. Babies allowed to room in with mums, but a nursery available if requested if mums need sleep.”

“A hospital where the parents are asked what they have chosen instead of “educated” about what the hospital policy says is best. Also, an emphasis on mom’s self care during recovery would be beneficial to the whole family. And last but not least, consolidated room visits by hospital staff so that families have uninterrupted time to rest and bond together. This would mean that the Drs, nurses, administrative, housekeeping, kitchen, and any other staff coordinate their visits into a room within a specific time period. With my first baby I had visitors at every hour of night and day. One woman even refused to leave and demanded that my husband wake me up after he explained that I was sleeping for the first time in over 72 hours and asked her to return later. With my second baby, I kept track of the interruptions and the longest we had alone was 45 minutes. So to summarize that is three things: ask more questions and respect the parents’ answers (instead of trying to educate them until they comply with the hospital standards), help mom take care of her body post delivery, and let the whole family have adequate private time to rest together by limiting the number and duration of room visits.”

“Remember although you’ve dealt with 1000’s of mothers and babies this could be this mother’s 1st experience of all this. Be kind and treat each parent as you’d want to be treated, with kindness, respect and patience.”

“A place where parents can feel supported and receive non-judgemental/unbiased education about baby care including all feeding options. As health professionals we want women to feel empowered to have their own, unique birth experience and be in control of their bodies but after baby is born that seems to go away and we start preaching about what is “best” . To me, we would use the same thinking as we do during labor in a family/baby friendly hospital– have a “baby plan” similar to a birth plan; what are your goals, preferences and concerns as a parent? If you choose to bf, ff, cloth /disposable diaper, room in/ send baby to the nursery for a few hours, love/hate the idea of skin to skin etc we would tailor your plan of care to those preferences so you can get the best care, hospital stay, and education to prepare you for YOUR life at home with a new baby. Smaller nurse to patient ratios so you get that personal care and don’t feel rushed or pressured. Overall, a place where you can feel comfortable and supported without feeling judged so when you are discharged you feel confident and ready to take baby home.”

“Guilt free choices. Offer room in and a nursery, formula and lactation support. A pressure free environment focused on helping new families bond in a way that suits them best.”

A hospital that practices safety first and not based on surveys. A hospital that respects patient choice as long as safety is maintained. No more lying about not having formula, insane contracts to induce guilt and fear over using formula, following APA guidelines for the use of pacifiers, allow moms to sleep through the night unless they just don’t want to, a space for partners to sleep and care for the baby when mom needs rest. And..stop passing off propaganda flimsy “science” as truth just to boost breast at discharge numbers. The biggest thing? Put their money where their mouth is. If breast is so great that it is forced on every mom then offer out-patient follow-up on every delivery with free lactation support as well as newborn care. Call moms to ask about depression, engorgement, infant dehydration and jaundice…the list is long. Forcing people into buying breast is best then when they get home not giving one care if they are ok is just despicable.”

“Family friendly means baby friendly AND mother friendly. It means remembering that the mother is a patient in need of care and support even after the baby is born, and not just a vessel for birth. The mom doesn’t cease being a patient at the moment of delivery. This means that the needs of the mom are honored, from respecting her choice about feeding to giving her adequate medical care and support after delivery. This requires hospitals to do the very things they are currently moving away from: providing formula, cease hassling the mother if she states she does not want to breastfeed, and offer nursery hours to mothers who have undergone c sections or grueling labors and/or those who do not have family or friend in-hospital support. The fact that these simple fixes have been lost in a frantic effort to promote breastfeeding above all else should be a concern to us all.”

“Unbiased informed consent, then respect and support for the choices made after such informed consent. Seems like it should be so simple, but the “unbiased” part seems all but impossible.”

“A place that respects moms choices. A place that allows her to choose times to room in with her baby while giving her the guilt-free option to sleep all she wants and recover. A hospital that makes formula available without a waiver at the choosing of a mother. A hospital that informs a mother of the benefits as wells as the risks of exclusive breastfeeding before lactogenesis and prioritizes the feeding of newborn babies over exclusive breastfeeding. A place that encourages staying at least 72 hours because discharge at 48 hours increases risk of readmission but more importantly increases the risk to the child. A place that doesn’t wake you up every 4 hours for vital signs that you don’t need, time and effort than can better be used weighing your child that is fasting from colostrum-only feeding at least one more time a day. A place that respects the rights of a mother to feed her child however she wants and respects the rights of a crying baby to be fed.”

“Actual accurate information about how to supplement or combo-feed. There is more than one form of combination feeding that works, there are also combination-feeding models that don’t work so well. “

“A place where nothing is ever presented as the “right” way of doing something, but rather for every decision multiple options are presented, with info on the pros and cons of each choice to support informed decision making. Families should be supported in any informed decision they make. The presented pros and cons should be based on established medical research, and if none is available, parents should be told that it’s not yet clear what the exact pros and cons are.”

“Respect for the mother, respect for her choices, compassion and understanding with education if the mother requests it. A family/baby friendly hospital experience would make a new mother feel confident and heard, not made to feel like a failure before she even gets home with her baby. The push for breastfeeding causes significant distress for new mothers who do not want to do it, who can’t do it, and who do not know how. I would like to see all feeding options outlined and explained (without judgement) kind attentive staff to answer questions and concerns and honestly a chance to get a bit of sleep.”

 

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