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read an article today about a report showing how in-hospital breastfeeding rates in l.a. county hospitals are behind the statewide average. of particular interest to me was the fact that the hospital where i delivered paul had a 23.2% exclusive bfing rate. the statewide average is 40%.


it doesn't really surprise me. one, i don't think the nurses there had adequate breastfeeding education. two, i don't think they had enough staff to really be as supportive as they could have been.

i read in the article that other local hospitals scored even worse, so i shouldn't be too harsh -- but as a first-time mom who planned in advance to exclusively breastfeed for my son's first six months, i felt at times like it was a true test of will to stick to my plans and not bitch-slap some nurses into oblivion.

when i first mentioned the article to cam, he said that our hospital was great and really pro-breastfeeding, which they were, but when i clarified that this was about the post-delivery time, he totally agreed that, well, they were worse than useless.

we called in someone to see if it looked like i had a decent latch. she took one look and very kindly said yes, sure, then left. but i didn't, but i didn't realize it for a few days until i actually got to see a lactation consultant. i didn't want to hurt this nurse because she just didn't know, but it was a little irritating to realize days later that she wasn't as helpful as she thought she was.

one nurse was great, except for the fact that she once returned paul after some testing (hearing, i think) with the offhand comment that she had given him a bottle of formula because he seemed a bit hungry. um, thanks for making me feel inadequate -- and did i say you could give him formula?

the worst was a night nurse who seemed to take it as her god-given duty to force formula down his little throat. when he'd cry, she'd come running. she would accuse me of starving him. she'd grab him, wrap a little towel around his neck and pour formula into his mouth -- with a cup. she would pull a stack of medicine cups (like the kind that come with nyquil) out of her pocket and talk about her great skill with cup-feeding. we'd try it, reluctantly, and she'd hover, impatiently. feeding with a cup, she'd say, was better for babies (avoiding nipple confusion, i guess). we called her the cup nazi. i'd see her and i'd feel like crying. we managed to get through one night in the hospital without her assistance -- and she came to see us at the end of her shift, insulted that we hadn't called on her to feed paul.

when we checked out, they gave us a ton of formula. the expensive premixed stuff. and a big stack of cups.

how are new mothers supposed to feel confident about breastfeeding when you feel your efforts are being undervalued and sabotaged? why would you want to continue breastfeeding when you're exhausted, insecure and in pain and the supposedly pro-breastfeeding people there to help you are sending you such mixed messages? i can understand that perhaps they don't want to appear judgmental -- new moms who want to exclusively formula-feed shouldn't be made to feel small for their choices -- but once they learned i wanted to breastfeed, why didn't they support me in that? why feed my son formula when i'm not present? why bully me into feeding my son formula when i'm so obviously trying to get my milk to come in? why make me feel like i couldn't possibly know what it is i'm trying to do? the frustration... we were so ready to come home.

the thing is, though, that i think they were business as usual. they weren't trying to be mean or difficult. they weren't trying to intentionally make our post-delivery experience a negative one. they were just doing their jobs. keeping the crying down. keeping the babies fed. when one is feeling rational again, how can you blame them to just doing their jobs? but that in itself is a problem -- maybe their jobs need to be redefined. maybe they need more training. maybe the hospital administrators and staff need to step back and remember that what happens in these first few days can influence a lifetime.



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