“At the hospital they told me I have to…”
Why is it that I am still fielding questions beginning like this!
Whether it is an intervention in the lead up to birth, during birth or post birth, questions starting with this set off alarm bells.
The main problem is that we begin on the assumption that our care providers are focused on us. We assume they are providing us with full disclosure of ALL our options, and offering them based on our needs. We assume that they are our best source of support and information.
But this is a terrible assumption.
The questions that end this sentence are usually based around hospital policy aimed at efficiency and staff protection.
I would like to focus on one question in particular that highlights just how bad these assumptions can be.
“…give my baby formula every four hours because my milk did not come in on day two”.
I can not believe I still get this. It is not difficult for maternity workers to access breastfeeding information. The Baby friendly Hospital Initiative clearly states the necessary steps to support mothers in breastfeeding:
Step 1: Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
Step 2: Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement this policy.
Step 3: Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
Step 4: Place babies in skin-to-skin contact with their mothers immediately following birth for at least an hour and encourage mothers to recognise when their babies are ready to breastfeed, offering help if needed.
Step 5: Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation, even if they should be separated from their infants.
Step 6: Give newborn infants of breastfeeding mothers no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated.
Step 7: Practice rooming-in – allow mothers and infants to remain together – 24 hours a day.
Step 8: Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
Step 9: Give no artificial teats or dummies to breastfeeding infants.
Step 10: Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support and refer mothers on discharge from the hospital.
Despite this, mothers are still offered formula and outdated advice. Even if your hospital is baby friendly, the support you receive will depend on how much time the staff can dedicate to you, and their personal experience and skills.
It is UP TO YOU to ensure that you have the information and support you need.
The hospital based antenatal breastfeeding classes are rarely adequate. Just as it is important to seek birth support outside of the hospital, investing in breastfeeding education provides you with the basics on how breastfeeding works, how your birth might influence the first feeds and what you can do to maximise your chances of success. These classes arm you with evidence-based information and ongoing support.
Learning to breastfeed begins with birth preparation.
Replace Assumption with Knowledge: become the Expert.