Q: My daughter is having her first baby very soon and wants to breastfeed & with my wholehearted support and encouragement (I nursed all my children). I have been printing out many articles from Breastfeed.com to share with her and help educate her on ALL the benefits. I am concerned, however, over the stories I hear about new mothers (and babies) who may have a bit of trouble getting started within the first couple of days in the hospital. I am very troubled at the way many nurses (of all people) are so anxious to stuff a bottle in the baby’s mouth. It happened with my sister-in-law. And just last week, my daughter’s friend gave birth, and because the baby had a problem getting started, the nurse, claiming he needed to eat, made her feel guilty enough to give her new baby a bottle. She has been giving him a bottle ever since. I have been advising my daughter to take control and make sure the hospital staff knows she intends to breastfeed. What else can she do to ensure this scene doesn’t happen if she and the baby get off to a rough start?
A: Parents have the right to feed their babies as they wish. It is important for parents to talk to their pediatricians or health care providers before the baby is born and make their requests known. Ask that no bottles, supplements or pacifiers be given to the baby. Make your wishes part of your birth plan, and ask the pediatrician to write it as an order in the baby’s records. Then make a little card that says “No Bottles! No Pacifiers!” to place in the baby’s crib. In rare instances, supplement may need to be given if the baby has very low blood sugar and if the mother is unable to obtain a small amount of colostrum for the baby, and/or the baby cannot latch on and nurse for whatever reason. However, it is very possible to give the small amount with a dropper, cup or small syringe to avoid confusion. Some hospitals have banked human milk to give to breastfeeding babies in this situation, rather than formula.
There is no excuse for staff in hospital nurseries to go against the orders of the physician. If nurses or other staff do this, they should be reported and an incident report written up. Then the matter can be investigated and should not be allowed to continue. On the other hand, if you have received excellent care, please write to the hospital and let them know how happy you have been with the care received for you and your baby, and how happy you are that they listened and complied with your wishes.
Rooming in is always a good idea for healthy babies. By keeping Baby close, parents can supervise what is happening. Don’t expect to ask the nurses not to feed your baby if you are going to also ask for the baby to stay in the nursery all night to let you sleep. It is unfair to your baby and to the staff to expect them to rock your hungry baby all night. Until all hospitals become Baby Friendly, incidents like this will continue to happen. If Baby must go out of the room for a procedure, bath or test, parents can request to go with them.
When my last baby was born, she never went to the nursery that day. She went from the delivery room to my room and stayed until morning. When it was time to give her a bath, my husband went with her and stayed with her.
All care can be given in the room for a well baby at mother’s request. Even PKU tests and Hepatitis B shots. New studies have shown that if procedures are done while a baby is nursing, the pain reactions shown by the baby are minimal.
Communication is the key. If you have a choice in hospitals, choose the one that encourages rooming in and family-centered care. Be sure they have a written breastfeeding policy that nurses are required to follow. Breastfeeding is just too important to leave to chance.
By Ann Calandro
BSN, RNC, IBCLC Lactation Consultant