Every time I lead a labor and delivery or baby basics session, I always go around the room asking, "What is worrying you?". I get a few responses over and over again. One is, "everything!" and I understand that. It's not a laughing matter that we have made childbirth and breastfeeding a major thesis project in our country. We need to take a breath and go back to the realization that we were made to procreate and give birth and nourish, to nurture our newborns.
But there is one worry that seems legitimate and that is the response to my question, "Are you going to breastfeed?" IT is always answered with, "I am going to try...". We seem to go into the process with expectations of failure because we know of so many women who have "tried" to breast feed and been unsuccessful. Is it that American women just can't make breast milk? I don't think so.
In honor of World Breastfeeding Month, the CDC has released new findings about the support women DO NOT get here in America. Eighty percent of hospitals in the US give formula to healthy newborns for NO reason. Fourteen percent of hospitals have a written protocol for teaching and encouraging breastfeeding. That leaves eighty-six percent with no model for staff to give breastfeeding instruction. Sixty- seven percent keep normal, healthy babies in nurseries, with only visiting privileges for parents. Which means only thirty-three percent offer rooming in and many less than that offer bedside assessments of newborns by physicians. And something which has become glaringly apparent at a major Atlanta hospital: seventy-five percent of hospitals DO NOT on discharge of their patients to home offer any follow-up. No phone calls, no follow-up visits, no referrals to lactation specialists in the community or hospital; not even mention of La Leche League ( lay breast feeders who offer assistance world- wide ).
In order to breastfeed successfully it is best to keep your baby on your chest even before the cord is cut and certainly in the first few hours after the baby is born. Skin to skin contact is best. Many newborns will smell your colostrum and make their way to the nipple. They are born to survive! Others need a little encouragement and that means you guide the nipple into the baby's mouth. If you haven't read or taken a class about specifically accomplishing that, ask a nurse, who may or may not have the knowledge or time to help you. YOU MUST REQUEST A LACTATION CONSULTANT IN THE HOSPITAL. As soon as possible and with very firm intention.
You must keep your baby at your bedside. That is called rooming- in, so when your baby fusses you can immediately stimulate him and offer the breast. If you don't know how, ASK FOR A LACTATION CONSULTANT. If a well- meaning baby nurse suggests that your baby needs a supplement of water or formula because he is hungry, please ask that she CALL YOUR LACTATION CONSULTANT or pediatrician before offering your baby anything other than your breast.
Find a pediatrician who has a LACTATION CONSULTANT on staff at their offices. One whose telephone number includes a paging service for after hour breastfeeding questions and problems. Find a pediatrician who is supportive of breastfeeding. Some are not. Find a pediatrician who offers bedside physicals while you are rooming in.
Join La Leche League. They are not all breastfeeding Nazis. They are women who have successfully breastfed or are doing so now and are available to answer questions, offer advice and encourage your success. The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding is their "bible" and it is a must- have resource guide. You can get it at bookstores and Amazon.com.
Make a commitment to give your breastfeeding six weeks, with support if necessary. Seek out a group of women from your prenatal exercise class or neighborhood who breastfeed. And invite a few over for a morning get- together. Have phone numbers handy. Get plenty of rest when you can, fluids, fluids, and more fluids and three hundred extra calories comprised of whole grains, colorful fruits and veggies and protein.Air dry your nipples to toughen them up. Start before your baby is born. That means just walk around home bare-breasted for thirty minutes a day. And then if you don't like breastfeeding, please ask your physician for formula of choice and feed your baby.