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Thursday, April 15, 2010

"Peaceful Revolution: Motherhood and the $13 Billion Guilt"

Melissa gives us the hard truth and a reality check about birth in American (and don't be fooled- in Canada too).  She writes about two births- 
Having a baby in the ideal, family-friendly United States
Having a baby in the real United States

Reading the first half gave me a happy glow.  Reading the second half reduced me to tears.  Tears because I KNOW that this is the birth experience that most women in the US and Canada are having.  Tears for the babies that have been born into a cold world that bundles them up in harsh cloth, under glaring lights  and yanks them away from their other self, their lifeline, their whole world.

Is it a wonder that so few mothers breastfeed their babies for at least the first 6 months? The impact of birth plays a huge role in how a breastfeeding relationship is started and continues- for both baby and mother. 

Melissa Bartick

Melissa Bartick

Posted: April 14, 2010 12:15 AM

Peaceful Revolution: Motherhood and the $13 Billion Guilt

"....Birth number 1: Having a baby in the ideal, family-friendly United States:

You give birth with the help of a birth doula. She helps you avoid a c-section or vacuum assisted birth, which is why your hospital hired her. Your baby is wiped off, then put directly onto your chest, skin to skin, with his head between your breasts. The nurse puts a blanket around you both, and then your partner cuts the cord. The nurse evaluates his initial transition to life outside the womb as he rests on your chest. As you lay semi-reclining, happy and exhausted, your baby uses his arms and legs to crawl over to your breast and he starts nursing. You and your partner are left undisturbed for an hour to enjoy your new baby, who has now imprinted the proper breastfeeding behaviors thanks to this initial breastfeeding. You are then transported to your post-partum room with your baby on your chest. The nurse returns and weighs, measures, and examines your baby right there in your room. You are with him as she gives him his vitamin K shot and antibiotic eye ointment. Your baby is handed back to you, and again placed on your chest skin to skin. He stays in your room with you until you go home. From your prenatal class, you knew in advance to ask most of your visitors wait until you go home, so that you can get some rest, and you turn the ringer off your phone, so that no phone calls will wake you. Before you leave the hospital, your baby's routine heel-stick blood test is done while he is nursing, and you are amazed to see he doesn't cry at all. You are discharged with clear instructions around breastfeeding, and phone numbers to call if you need help. You are not given samples and "gifts" from a formula company...... Birth number 2: Having a baby in the real United States: Your give birth to a healthy baby, and you've never heard of a birth doula. The umbilical cord is clamped and cut before anyone can say, "It's a boy!" Immediately, your baby is whisked across the room to the warmer where Apgar scores are assigned, he's given a shot of Vitamin K, and antibiotic eye ointment is slathered in his eyes, clouding his vision. He's placed on a cold scale and weighed and measured. He is examined by his nurse, who takes him to a different room to do her evaluation. He is bathed, washing off his mother's scent. At last, he's professionally swaddled into a nice tight parcel and handed to you to hold, cradled sideways in your arms. He's not skin to skin, and he can't move his arms and legs to crawl to the breast. Before you know it, an hour has passed since his birth, and since he's missed the window of "alert time" after birth, he slips into a deep sleep without having spontaneously breastfeed. You attempt to interest him in the breast, but he is really too tired to try very hard. Because he's wrapped up and has been given a bath, he can't use his sense of touch and smell to crawl his way over to find your breast. You don't know enough to unwrap him and feed him immediately after birth, because your prenatal class didn't stress the importance of skin to skin contact during the first 3 days of life. That was all discussed in a separate breastfeeding class and you didn't really have time or money to take two classes. Just as you're getting to know your new bundle of joy, the staff decides to check his temperature and his blood sugar. His glucose level is 45 -- normal for a newborn, but low for an adult. His temperature is a little low, too -- all that time in the bath, the cold scale, the swaddling, and the time away from his mom's body heat has led to hypothermia. Hypothermia and hypoglycemia can be signs of a serious infection, so immediately he is taken from your arms down to the nursery, where he gets what's known as a sepsis evaluation. Lying under a warmer down the hall from you, he gets his blood drawn, and then is left in his bassinet in the nursery to be observed for a few hours so you can't spend time with him as you recover from giving birth. He gets a 2 ounce bottle of formula, most of which he vomits, since the stomach of a five-hour-old baby is no bigger than a teaspoon, the perfect size to digest the colostrum your breast secretes for him in the first few days. Finally, your baby's brought back to you, swaddled in a nice package. He's more alert, but never imprinted breastfeeding very well, and he's very stressed from all the day's events. He might be full from the formula he's given, and doesn't breastfeed well. He tries later in the day. The nurses try to help you, but it feels like they all give you different advice, much of it conflicting. Little do you know, their advice is based on their personal experiences rather than any scientific evidence because they haven't had much training in breastfeeding. You don't know what to believe. Finally, your baby goes to the nursery for the night "so you can sleep," and he is brought in for you to feed him. He doesn't like it in the nursery, so he cries, and you don't get much sleep either. You have some pain when he latches on, and you're told that's normal. You're so excited about his birth that you talk to everyone by phone, and lots of people come to visit. They pass him around. Maybe someone wants to give him a bottle, and you figure, ok, why not. He's chewing on his fist, but no one ever told you that means he's hungry, so you give him a hospital-issued pacifier to suck on instead of his hand. You don't know that giving formula and pacifiers in the hospital will undermine your efforts to breastfeed. It's surprising the nursing staff doesn't inform you of this, and you didn't learn it in your prenatal class. You're too embarrassed to feed him with everyone there. Finally, your guests leave, but by this time, your baby's frantic, and nursing doesn't go well as a result. Overnight, as he stays in the nursery, he gets weighed, and he's lost more weight than he should have. The doctor says it's because your milk isn't in yet, and recommends more bottles. He still sucks happily on a pacifier and sleeps in the nursery despite his alarming weight loss, and no one suggests that you nurse him more often, room in with him, get rid of the pacifier, or see a lactation consultant, all of which would help put him back on track with breastfeeding. An hour before you're due to go home, the lactation consultant comes in briefly to check on you, but because her department is so understaffed, she couldn't see you earlier when you needed it most, and she has little time to spend addressing your problems. On your way out, a nurse hands you a marketing bag from a brand-name formula company, complete with free samples of formula and information on breastfeeding that makes it sound a little hard and scary. She tells you if you have any questions, to just call your pediatrician. The first night at home, things don't go well. It's the middle of the night, and your baby won't stop crying when you try to breastfeed. You wonder if you should just give up. You reach for that ready-made bottle and his crying mercifully stops. The problem is solved, at least for now....."
 HERE to read the entire article