It was on December 13th at 2:30 in the morning. My water broke as I was sleeping. I woke my husband up and the panic set in. My son was a scheduled C-Section due to the fact he was breech and he was going to be a big baby according to all the scans. I was scheduled for the 18th, which was my birthday, but he decided to come early. My husband and I rushed to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tacoma, WA. This hospital was a “Baby-Friendly” hospital, which meant they push things like exclusive breastfeeding, no pacifiers, and no nurseries. I didn’t think much of these things at the time, as I was a first-time mom and hadn’t pondered on them much. On paper, this all sounded great, and I was excited to go there. I had a simple birth plan: no circumcision and I wanted my husband in the operating room. That was it really. I trusted the doctors and nurses there to help me out.
The doctors were amazing. I got into the triage area at about 3:00 am and the doctors were awesome about monitoring me and keeping me up-to-date. The anesthesiologist and my OB helped me feel so comfortable. The cesarean went so well, I was in complete shock. After we had our initial bonding as a first-time family, things began to head downhill. By this time, I had been asked about 3 times if I was going to breastfeed, and I was planning to, but I would be doing a lot of pumping since I run around for my job. I was hoping to learn how to use a pump. However, the hour of recovery before being moved to my room was the start of the insanity. I was pushed to try and get my son to breastfeed, even when I was still throwing up from the medicine. I wanted to so badly, but I was vomiting every 15 minutes. I eventually could last for about a half-hour before throwing up on myself again.
When I tried to breastfeed for the first time, my breasts were manhandled more than I had ever experienced in my life. I never consented to having so many nurses touch my breasts. I should have been sterner about not having so many people manipulating my breasts in order to breastfeed, but I was still out of it from the surgery.
To give some background at this point: My son was conceived using fertility treatments after many unsuccessful tries and he was born two weeks early. I was only an hour in recovery after major surgery and I had a swarm of nurses touching my breasts to top it all off. After trying for several more hours, my nipples became so cracked, they started to bleed. I had about 10 different nurses trying to get him to feed and they all commented on his good latch. Okay! Great! A good latch means he’s getting food, right? No. Unfortunately, I was so dry nothing was there for him and I had to wipe the blood off of his lips.
Fast forward to about 36 hours post-birth and my husband and I had no sleep at this time because our son was crying so much from being hungry. This hospital had no nursery and I was supposed to take care of him while recovering from major surgery. My husband helped as much as possible, but he obviously couldn’t help much with breastfeeding. I was at a critical point where the lack of sleep, pain from surgery and pain from cracked nipples was so bad, I broke down.
I begged for something for him, I begged for food because I knew he was so hungry and not getting anything from me. I begged for nipple relief. I am not sure why, but I still hadn’t had a proper lactation consultant stop by.
My nurse finally put in a request for a lactation consultant to see me. It was rather late at this time, and I begged the nurse to please help my baby and get him some formula. She looked at me as if I had committed the biggest sin. She kept making me try before finally (after two hours of begging) she had donor milk on hand. GREAT! Finally, he can get some food. This was now into the late night and my husband and I were so tired from him crying all night that we were done. He passed out. The nurse finally took pity on us and took him to the nurse’s station for about 2 hours. She was the silver lining, even after giving me such a hard time before.
Finally, they brought me a hospital grade pump and I was required to pump for 10 minutes every time he was hungry to try and get milk. A second nurse refused to give me donor milk when I asked for it. I had enough at this point and said we are not going to be feeding him any more blood from my still bleeding nipples. This time the lactation consultant came by and she was horrified. She was the first person to ask before touching my breasts and was gentle instead of being rough like the nurses had been. She gave me lanolin (which I had never heard of) and showed me some different holds to help him latch. We tried only twice before I tapped out due to the nipple pain. She finally got me a nipple shield and that helped a bit, but even she realized I had no colostrum coming out.
He only had 15 ml of donor milk since birth, and we are now on day two, mid-day. She agreed that he was in distress and then she got me pamphlets on supplementing with formula and how to do that while trying to breastfeed as well. I cried at this point, finally having one person to listen to my requests.
She told the nursing staff that my son would be getting donor milk and I would keep trying to pump as much as I could. The nurse that really was judging me the most refused to feed my son until I pumped. She told me that she would not give me the donor milk unless I pumped for 10 minutes. My desire to breastfeed was so tarnished by this point, I just simply couldn’t enjoy what should have been intimate moments with my newborn son. They had ruined it and made me feel awful for being a mom who couldn’t make enough colostrum. The remainder of the stay, I pumped and my son had donor milk, but only about 6 feedings of 15 ml each. However, the damage had been done in the first two days. He lost almost one pound from 7 pounds 5 oz to 6 pounds 6 oz [12.8% weight loss]. They were going to keep him another day until I told the pediatrician the whole story of what happened. He finally let us go home with a supplemental feeding plan that fed him as much as he wanted.
I filed a complaint with the hospital and they are investigating it. I am currently awaiting a response.
The ultimate irony now is that I am an over-supplier! I just needed some compassion and some help with supplemental nutrition and we could have thrived. But instead, my son ate blood and lost nearly a pound. He is currently two months old and is rocking 3-6 month size clothes as a perfectly chunky little guy. I supplemented with formula until about 2 weeks later when my full supply came in. I needed help and compassion from the hospital, not judgment and sleep deprivation. “Baby-Friendly” apparently means the mother’s needs and requests count for nothing. Oh, and he loves pacifiers and can switch from pumped milk to breast to formula just fine because nipple confusion is a complete myth.
HOW YOU CAN SUPPORT FED IS BEST
There are many ways you can support the mission of the Fed is Best Foundation. Please consider contributing in the following ways:
- Join the Fed Is Best Volunteer Group to help us reach Obstetric Health Providers to advocate for counseling of new mothers on the importance of safe infant feeding.
- Make a donation to the Fed is Best Foundation. We are using funds from donations to cover the cost of our website, our social media ads, our printing and mailing costs to reach health providers and hospitals. We do not accept donations from breast- or formula-feeding companies and 100% of your donations go toward these operational costs. All the work of the Foundation is achieved via the pro bono and volunteer work of its supporters.
- Share the stories and the message of the Fed is Best Foundation through word-of-mouth, by posting on your social media page and by sending our resources to expectant moms that you know. Share the Fed is Best campaign letter with everyone you know.
- Write a letter to your health providers and hospitals about the Fed is Best Foundation. Write them about feeding complications your child may have experienced.
- Print out our letter to obstetric providers and mail them to your local obstetricians, midwives, family practitioners who provide obstetric care and hospitals.
- Write your local elected officials about what is happening to newborn babies in hospitals and ask for legal protection of newborn babies from underfeeding and of mother’s rights to honest informed consent on the risks of insufficient feeding of breastfed babies.
- Send us your stories. Share with us your successes, your struggles and every thing in between. Every story saves another child from experiencing the same and teaches another mom how to safely feed her baby. Every voice contributes to change.
- Send us messages of support. We work every single day to make infant feeding safe and supportive of every mother and child. Your messages of support keep us all going.
- Join our private Fed Is Best Infant Feeding Support Group if you need help preparing how to safely breastfeed, combo feed, formula feed, pump or tube feeding your baby.
- If you are a licensed healthcare provider, we have a private and active Facebook group where we discuss ways to promote safe infant feeding for every baby. Please contact us directly.
Thank you so much from the Founders of the Fed is Best Foundation!