Breastfeeding Reflections: My Hospital Experience

When we were expecting, I knew I wanted to breastfeed our baby. We thought it was the most economical way without spending money on formula and we became informed about the many benefits of breastmilk. I also wanted to breastfeed our baby because I wanted to experience the special bond moms and babies have.

After hearing from my family members and friends’ experiences about breastfeeding, roughly 90% of them mentioned how difficult it was and how breastfeeding wasn’t successful. The naive person in me thought, “well I’m taking childbirth and breastfeeding courses, how hard can it be”? I assumed that breastfeeding came natural and instinctual. After all, that’s how I perceived it once I attended virtual breastfeeding courses that we attended.

One of the main things I took away from the breastfeeding courses was to put baby skin-to-skin. Not just during the “golden hour” after baby is born but for the first 1,000 of uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact and togetherness. My husband, Alex and I hired a doula who provided us with childbirth courses and helped us create a birth plan. In the birth plan, we had stated to have the baby skin-to-skin for the first hour after giving birth and that I was planning to exclusively breastfeed.

Unfortunately, we did not continue to use our doula for the birthing process as we weren’t sure if the hospital was going to allow an additional person due to COVID-19. This was honestly my biggest regret as I wish we would’ve had a sounding board and advocate during the delivery and postpartum process.

When D was born, he latched right away and was so content to have him “naturally” latch. The nurses praised how well he latched. I was thinking that this was going to be an easy and natural process. I ensured to keep D skin-to-skin as much as I could during the entire time we were at the labor and delivery room.

This goal of mine changed once we arrived at the mother-baby unit, the nursing staff kept interrupting our continued skin-to-skin. Eventually, he was swaddled and put in the bassinet while letting “mommy rest.” It might’ve been the exhaustion after a 26 hour labor, but it didn’t occur to me to ask or request for D to be on my chest for the majority of the time at the hospital. It may have also been the fact that I was so new to this and I didn’t know what kind of questions to ask. While I knew deep down inside me that I had to keep him skin-to-skin, I allowed the nursing staff to keep him in his bassinet.

I fed D every time the pediatric nursing staff would check on him, which was every hour and a half or so. Although he did get on the breast, his latch would slip off and the feeding session was short. I asked for a lactation consultant to check on his latch and our feeding to ensure that he was getting colostrum transferred. Once the lactation consultant arrived, she simply asked if I was familiar with the different breastfeeding positions and after telling her if his latch was well, she simply repositioned him without really answering my questions. She then provided unsolicited information that I did not ask for, such as feeding him every 2 hours and to keep track of wet and dirty diapers. Although I knew this information, she was not helpful and thought that she didn’t answer my questions nor did she allowed space for me to ask questions.

On the last day at the hospital, I asked for another lactation consultant. My gut told me that the previous one was not effective and didn’t answer our questions. When the second LC stopped by, I asked if D’s latch was well and if she could tell if he was taking in the colostrum. She also repositioned him and grabbed my breast to latch him. While I appreciate the intention, I feel that she was only there to correct his latch rather than to educate me on how to correct his latch. The LC then demonstrated a visual guide of the steps in getting a good latch. Once again, she did not allow space for me to expand more on my thoughts nor did I find the opportunity to ask questions.

I left the hospital feeling empty handed and felt that I was not given the adequate support in my first breastfeeding experience. I appreciate that my preference in exclusively breastfeeding was respected and formula was not imposed. However, I had a feeling that D’s latch and feeding behavior was not right and was afraid that I would not have the immediate support for an educated or trained resource once we left the hospital.

Our hospital experience was a whirlwind and an intimidating one. I wish Alex and I had the wisdom to know what to seek and/or ask. However, we were both so new to this. I was in a vulnerable state as a first-time mom and as much training, webinars, and classes attended, I didn’t know how to articulate myself nor did I persisted to get the attention I wanted. As much as we were preparing for the big day in welcoming our baby, we simply didn’t know what to expect.

This isn’t to shame medical professionals, but as I reflect on my first experience breastfeeding, I wish I would have been given the space to express myself. I feel that there was a missed opportunity to get the necessary support and information as a new, breastfeeding mom. I wish I would have advocated for myself, but I also wished that I would’ve received the attention needed. Ultimately, I was bound to experience the consequences of my breastfeeding journey in the coming days.

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