Two things came up in the past day regarding the so-called “Baby-Friendly” initiatives in hospitals, and while I am so beyond childbearing, I can’t help but be pissed off by them.
The first was a friend posting an article about the move towards eliminating well-baby nurseries from local hospitals. This is to promote (read: force) rooming-in, which in turn is supposed to help breastfeeding rates. In short, there IS no nursery to which to send your (healthy) baby. Period. Your baby stays with you. End of discussion. If you get a “nice” nurse who “breaks the rules”, she’ll maybe take your baby to the nurses station for a little while.
On the post, her friends were all “why would you ever send your baby to a nursery. Baby NEEDS to be with mom!” and “wah, poor women who need a break an hour after giving birth”.
I maybe snapped a little.
I couldn’t care for N after he was born. Flat-out not my choice, could not happen. I had just had major surgery, which is reason enough. But then because I had placenta acreta (borderline increta – I don’t know how I even still have a uterus), it was a complicated surgery, with some post-partum hemorrhage to boot. There were two kids at home to be taken care of too, so there was no one to stay with me overnight. Without a well-baby nursery, what would have happened?
Well, I wouldn’t have gotten those few hours of rest that allowed my body to start recovering. I would have had to listen to my baby cry while I waited for a nurse to come, because I couldn’t get out of bed until about 18 hours after he was born.
The nurses knew I could not. The nurses took him to the nursery each night after my husband left. They gave me those 3 nights of rest so that when I got home I COULD do it. They treated me like I mattered too. They treated us as a pair, looking out for our mutual health and safety – I was not left alone with him *at all* until I proved I was strong enough to care for him.
Without a nursery, the most a helpful nurse can do is take them to the non-secure nurses station, where they may be exposed to all manner of germs. How is that a good solution?
Yes, rooming in is great when it’s what the parents want to do. But can we all recognize that childbirth is a widely variable situation? It’s a physical trauma. Some women have been awake over 24 hours. Some are on pain killers. Some just had surgery. Everyone is going to react differently.
If a woman was at home, with a husband or mother or friend, she can be sent off to sleep and shower while someone else kept an eye on the baby. Why in a hospital if you ask for someone else to keep an eye on your child for a couple of hours are you branded a bad mother now?
Oh right, because the end-all and be-all is now breastfeeding, and if you don’t room in, you might not respond to every whimper with your boob. Which, breastfeeding is great and all but ..
Then comes the other incident. My cousin just had a baby. Breastfeeding is going poorly. She has post-partum depression going on already, but the L&D and maternity nurses as well as the lactation consultants made her PROMISE not to give up on breastfeeding. So she feels guilty for thinking about stopping. Guilty for supplementing, even though the child’s doctor says he needs more than she can provide. Like a failure because if she just worked hard enough ..
Why do we do this to women? What end is this serving? She had risk factors for breastfeeding not working going INTO it, why ever feed her the information that it’s normal and natural and everyone can do it if they try hard enough?
Why is it so hard to have an honest fucking discussion? “Look, if you want to try, we will support you in every way we can. But it may not work – sometimes it doesn’t, and you have XYZ signs that it may not. You may need to reframe your goals to partial feeding, or you may decide at some point to go fully to formula. Whatever your goals are, we are here to help you.” Is that too hard to say? Or just not meeting some agenda?
We had a nice talk, which by some camps is bound to be construed as anti-breastfeeding. But it’s not. It’s just saying you know, you matter too. Parenting – life, really – is about deciding which battles to fight, because you can’t fight them all. Keep it in perspective and know that there is no shame or guilt in recognizing your personal limits. Make sure what you’re doing is worth it to you.
I hope she heard me, because god knows someone needed to say it.
Why does “baby friendly” seem to mean mom unfriendly?