|Sydney nursing in the hospital|
If you are planning a natural birth or homebirth, I strongly encourage you to read this. As a member of our local ICAN, LLL, and Birth Network, I hear too many women say, "I never read about c-sections or breastfeeding or induction, because it wasn't going to happen to me!" Well, one of the best ways to prevent problems during and after birth is to be educated and informed so you can recognize the warning signs and advocate for yourself. Not only can this help you avoid unnecessary interventions but if the unthinkable happens and you wind up in an emergency situation, you'll know what to expect from breastfeeding. I had three things on my side regarding breastfeeding after c-section: a supportive partner, a lot of info on breastfeeding, and someone to call for moral support. All those things helped me fight to breastfeed in a formula friendly hospital, but this is what I wish I had known.
All that said, breastfeeding is an art. To many it takes practice and patience and to others it comes more naturally, but all breastfeeding moms evolve with the particular demands of their breastfeeding relationship. After two years of breastfeeding with little issues after preliminary problems, you can imagine how surprised I was to have to be hospitalized for mastitis after my daughter's birth. Breastfeeding and breastfeeding support doesn't fit into one neat category no matter who you are! So the best defense against breastfeeding problems is to go in with a game plan, know what to expect, and who to call.
First and foremost do not expect the hospital to be as invested in breastfeeding as you are. Doctors and nurses are not required to take any classes or complete any training on breastfeeding. Most hospitals have a Lactation Consultant (LC), but in my experience, they aren't always helpful. My first hospital birth the LC popped her head through the door, said things looked fine, and left. Things weren't fine. My son had a bad latch, but she didn't know that because she was never withing 10 feet of me. The second hospital's LC was nice and helpful and I didn't need her too much, which is good because she was only available during business hours and was stretched between all the other women on the floor.
My first hospital was a formula-friendly hospital, which means they pushed supplementation early and often. They brought me a fancy diaper gift bag full of formula, tried to sell me on how healthy organic formula was, and simply would not listen to me when I said it was normal that my milk wasn't in on day 2. Imagine how they treated me on day 4 when my milk wasn't in yet. The pestering turned to threatening. I was endangering my child who needed to eat. Some moms couldn't breastfeed and that was ok. Well, geez, with help like that...
Now listen up, this is important. At the time I believed there was a correlation between my induction, c-section, and the pitocin/fluids I was given and the fact that my son peed on everyone who touched him for the first few hours of his life. He came out peeing and he didn't stop. That's not particularly normal. Nor is it normal for a baby to look swollen. I know now that the excessive amounts of intravenous fluids I was given artificially inflated his birth weight. Henci Goer confirms this in The Thinking Woman's Guide to Better Childbirth. What does this mean for breastfeeding? Inflated birth weight (aka water weight) means as baby loses the swelling, his weight goes down. The sad thing is that nurses don't get this (well, one of mine at my second birth did), so alarms start going off. Baby is losing weight! Doom. Gloom. Unfortunately, this is when they start pushing you to supplement. They may be gentle or they may threaten. Both of my children were down about 10% of their birth weight by the last day in the hospital. Both of them were content, easily woken, and healthy kids. Neither screamed for food or acted unwell. So I fought supplementation. The first hospital threatened to not let me go home if I refused to feed my baby. Apparently sitting for hours with him nursing colostrum was not feeding him. So my husband finger fed him an ounce of formula and we left. It's the only formula he ever had. By the way I had to walk out of the hospital after major surgery, take a different elevator and catch up with my husband, son, and nurse, who had left carrying my baby without waiting for me or offering a wheelchair. E! True Hollywood Story, folks. Paints a picture, doesn't it?
|James shortly after birth|
So check with your doctor, consider if baby is seriously jaundice (most cases of jaundice are better treated with breastfeeding than supplementing) and trust your instinct. If baby is latching and happy, hold out for your milk to come in!
My milk came in on day 5 after my first induction/c-section, and day 4 with my second. I've since checked with countless other c-section moms, induced moms, and moms where there was interventions and they all gave 4-5 days as the average time frame. I also noted that the first 24 ours after my c-section with both births that my nipples did not want to easily respond to latch. The nurse after my first birth told me I had flat nipples, which isn't true, and the second time they asked if I did. I told them I did not and that this happened after my first birth as well. This surprised them, which surprised me. To me the correlation was obvious. My body was so relaxed from pain meds it wasn't responding properly. A lot of other mothers report that, despite what a doctor will tell you, pain meds and pitocin can inhibit a baby's natural rooting and sucking instinct. These are all issues that can be conquered with time and patience and since you know this now it will make it much less stressful for you to stick to your guns!
There is a bit of a window to work in if you can. After my son's birth it was hours after he was born before I was given him to nurse. I was too out of it to ask and they waited until I was out of recovering. After we left the OR with my daughter, I was encouraged to nurse immediately. Before they bathed her or put her in a warmer. A nurse helped me onto my side and we nursed within the first hour of her birth. If you have a c-section insist they let you nurse before all those unnecessary procedures. If you have a vaginal birth, try right away. The first thing your baby is going to want to do is root for your breast. It's instinctive. If you can't nurse that quickly, you can still breastfeed, but try to aim to nurse in the first hour if you can.
Hospital birth and postpartum care also foolishly subscribes to the idea that you can schedule and chart everything. They are literally obsessed with wet and poopy diapers. They will make you write it all down and cluck over it. God forbid you forget to write one down. My husband and I admittedly mostly make it up because we always forget. We never lied, we just were never sure on the time or the amount or the color. Here's what's important for a breastfeeding mom to know. It's my opinion that nurses expect babies to poop or wet more because babies on formula poop and wet more. It is completely normal for breastfed babies to have far less wet diapers in the first few days after birth while milk is still coming in. It is not a good indication of whether or not baby is eating enough until milk has come in! La Leche League explains that breastfed babies will have only 1-2 wet diapers while they are receiving thick colostrum aka the superfood. Colostrum is so important that it really upsets me that more moms feel pressured to get their milk going. Babies needs colostrum! If you are feeling pressured and begin pumping to help start up your milk, make sure you give your baby all that colostrum through a Supplemental Nutrition System.
For the first twenty-four hours a nurse will likely come in every two hours to wake you up and tell your its time to breastfeed! This is supposed to be helpful. Personally it makes me stabby. I subscribe to the feed on demand philosophy. I let my baby feed as long as he/she wants and I bedshare. None of these things really fly at the hospital. First, they freak a little if you sleep with baby even propped up on your chest. Second, in my experience, even if you tell them your just nursed and baby is now sleeping contentedly, they want to see it! This is so frustrating because baby and mom need rest, but it is one of the hiccups in breastfeeding at a hospital. So if you are looking forward to getting some rest at the hospital before you head home, I wouldn't count on it. Try to be gentle with your nurse. I sort of threatened to strangle my first night nurse after my second c-section at 4 a.m. In my defense, I was hungry and sleep-deprived and we had called an hour before to let her know we had nursed and she could skip her visit. She didn't. They are doing what they think is best and until hospitals get with the program and require breastfeeding training, you are going to deal with this. Remember, you shouldn't schedule nursing. Listen to your baby and listen to yourself. Some breastfed babies get right down to business, nurse and are done. Others linger. My first would nurse for 45 minutes every two hours (1:00-1:45, 3:00-3:45). My daughter is content after ten minutes and just nurses whenever.
Avoid pacifiers and bottles as they can cause bad latch. If the hospital insists after making you labor for two days without real food and your baby is born with low blood sugar (how could that happen?!) that they have to give him or her glucose or formula, ask for it to be fed by syringe as quickly as possibly. At my first hospital, they gave bottle without informing me and when I sent my husband to tell them to stop, I was quickly treated as a difficult patient. At my second hospital, the nurse shot the glucose into her mouth as businesslike as possible. You want your baby's first feeding experience to be special moment for you both - don't let a bottle prevent that. For my second birth I took a sign that affixed to my baby's bassinet that reminded everyone (I'm a breastfed baby! Please no pacifiers or bottles!) The nurses there loved it. Although they did say that when she was in the nursery, they had to hold her if she got upset since they couldn't give her a binky, so someone was always holding her (score!!!!) They didn't mind too much, she's a cutie. If you are considering circumcision, and I hope you will leave your son intact, they will offer you a pacifier with sugar water to calm the baby. Unfortunately this doesn't do anything to alleviate the pain, it only stifles the cries. You should try to avoid artificial nipples until your supply is established and your baby is latching easily. I would suggest using a SNS if you need to supplement at all.
You may have a fantastic nursing experience. It might be easy for you, or it could be hard. The best thing you can do is be prepared! Have a game plan. Read a really good book or two on nursing. I suggest The Breastfeeding Book by Martha Sears. Consider hiring a doula to make sure you have support during and after birth. Go to a LLL meeting and get some phone numbers to call for help if you are struggling. Share your desire to breastfeed with your spouse/partner and share this info - a supportive partner is really helpful when things get stressful. You are not alone and there are women all over the world who want you to succeed, know you can, and will help you do it.