January 13, 2011 2:52 pm

Booby Traps

Best for Babes is calling for women to share their “Booby Traps” – stories of being set up to fail at breastfeeding. They will present these stories to the Surgeon General and the media to try to illustrate the setbacks and hurdles women face when they want to breastfeed.

Here are mine:

C-section and delayed breastfeeding

I was medically induced due to pre-eclampsia and ended up with an emergency c-section. I had awful edema (swelling) and compromised liver and kidney functions, and was put on magnesium sulfate and did not get an opportunity to breastfeed my baby for several hours after he was born.

Scare tactics from a brusque LC

The last Lactation Consultant I saw in the hospital was downright awful and used scare tactics to make me doubt my own ability to feed my child. I knew babies lost weight after delivery, and I also knew that their elimination habits are somewhat unpredictable very early on. The LC tried to scare me (into making milk? not sure what her objective was) regarding his weight loss, which was well within the normal range, and since I was pumped full of fluids during and after labor, his initial weight may have been artificially high. She also tried to scare me regarding his lack of dirty diapers after an initial few (also pretty normal).

I was only discharged from the hospital after I agreed to take the baby in for a weight check the next day. We were both healthy, recovering, and he was breastfeeding reasonably fine. I repeat: I was told I would have to spend another (expensive! unnecessary!) night in the hospital so they could monitor his DIAPER OUTPUT, or I could go home and then commit to keeping an LC appointment the next day to weigh him. No contest – I went home.

The LC I saw the next day seemed confused why I was there, since he was clearly gaining tons of weight and eating fine. Which I knew already, but was bullied into not trusting my body.

Nipple shields and other accessories

Wesley was not keen on opening his mouth very wide to nurse, which made nursing very painful. I was advised to use a shield to help him latch. I was not told that it might damage my supply (it didn’t, fortunately) and I was not told how to wean him off it, or even that I SHOULD wean him off it.

Consequently, I had to figure out for myself how to wean him off the shield, and just as we were almost down to not needing it, he received his 2 month vaccinations and refused to eat without the shield and we were back to square one. He still uses it today (at 9.5 months old), as I’ve been unsuccessful in attempting to wean off the shield since then – he simply doesn’t recognize my boob as food unless the shield is present.

I was also sent home with formula, empty plastic bottles (presumably for pumping, but they are Similac branded), a syringe and tube system for feeding, sugar water, and a Medela Special Needs Feeder (like a giant syringe with a nipple on the end). For what purpose? I have no idea. I found it incredibly wasteful. A special needs feeder? HE WAS BREASTFEEDING FINE. I am not sure what kind of special needs she thought he might develop whereupon I might need to use that, but sending me home with all that junk irks me, even now.

Being sent home with formula

This one in particular really infuriates me. The LC (the crap one, from point #1) clearly observed my baby successfully breastfeeding and receiving milk. Why pack my bag full of “just in case” formula as I’m leaving?

To make matters worse, it was the super-expensive Nutramigen kind, which means that if I did choose to supplement, I would have used that brand and been hesitant to switch unless my baby obviously didn’t tolerate it. If I’d done that, I’d be out FAR more money than if I had been sent home with the one of the normal varieties. Or none at all, which should have been the case.

On the other hand, I am incredibly fortunate for several reasons:

  • My mom is a Labor & Delivery nurse, and successfully breastfed three babies. She showed me how to use my pump. Daniel’s mom successfully breastfed four babies. Daniel was incredibly supportive and helpful, especially in the early days of figuring it all out. My family, extended family, and in-laws are very breastfeeding supportive.
  • My workplace has been very good at accommodating my pumping needs. They installed window blinds in a conference room so I could use it to pump, and do not make a fuss about my pumping breaks.
  • I respond well to the pump. A friend of mine is only able to pump if her baby is nursing on the opposite breast – she doesn’t experience the let-down reflex otherwise and is unable to pump any milk. I’ve never had a problem with let-down for the pump and I know how lucky that is.
  • I was good about trusting my instincts and not letting the crazy hysteric LC get to me. I think many other people in those situations would have given in and just used the formula to get her off their backs. Daniel still occasionally brings up how insane she was.

Clearly, there are significant hurdles to successful breastfeeding for new mothers. I mean, look at my list! And I would consider myself a success story! Think of all the other things that can go wrong – unsupportive family, pediatrician, husband, hospital; misinformation regarding cluster feedings and how often day-old babies need to eat (and how much); nurses recommending formula to resolve jaundice; the list goes on.

Do you have any stories of Booby Traps? Best for Babes is looking to receive as many stories as possible.

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  • Katherine says:

    Did you ever get in touch with the LC’s department head? Or even write a letter to the Chief of Medicine?

    The horrifying thing is that this particular LC is still giving information to nursing mothers, some of which (like you said) might not trust their own instincts or be as well educated on the subject as yourself.

    Please, get in contact with that woman’s department head and file a formal complaint!

  • Meggan says:

    Katherine – No… primarily because I have no idea what her name was or anything remotely identifiable about her. I was so rattled by the experience (and tired, sore, etc.) that I didn’t think to ask or make a note of it.

    I agree though, she was a piece of work. The other lady I saw in the hospital was very nice, and the one I saw for the follow-up appt was WONDERFUL. I loved her. She put me right at ease, gave great pointers, and declared us good to go.

  • Jem says:

    I’m applying to become a mother supporter with the association of breastfeeding mothers at the mo’ and one of the things they ask is to write a ‘report’ including your breastfeeding experiences, problems etc – so I’ve started writing down my list (which is effectively my ‘booby traps’) and I’m already at 1500 or so words with no end in sight. I have shocked myself, really.

    It’s a sad state of bloody affairs that something that we have done for generations to survive as a species has become this “hard”.

  • Meggan says:

    I even thought of another after I posted this – several months ago, a co-worker of mine had just gotten done telling me about the formula recall (not sure if it happened over there; basically a bunch of formulas were recalled due to bug parts in the mix) (yes, BUGS) and when I mentioned I hated pumping, he was like, “Well, he’s 6 months old, right? So you could switch to formula…” and I was like, WHAT. You just got done telling me yours had BUGS in it that would cause your baby to experience GASTROINTESTINAL DISTRESS. I hate pumping, but I will stick with breastfeeding, thankyouverymuch. Ew.

  • Erin says:

    I’m definitely going to have to write something up about my experiences. I’ve been meaning to for ages but I always tend to forget once I get wordpress open. I think my biggest hurdle is pumping at work, I’m always so uncomfortable about doing it.

    I heard about that formula recall too! Totally freaked me out. Bug bits in babies, ugh.

  • Sarah says:

    I can relate! As you know, I had a c-section and was petrified that with every other intervention I was given at the hospital I was going to be unable to breastfeed my baby right away. Luckily the nurse in recovery was amazing, and agreed after checking my vitals, that Attia could be placed skin to skin so she could find my breast. We have had almost no problems nursing.

    But there was one “helpful” nurse who didn’t think Attia was latching properly, who almost literally ripped my breast out of my hospital gown and shoved Attia on it. I wasn’t sore from feeding up until that point. I think medical professionals would do well to remember that women have been nursing babies for thousands (if not millions) of years, and that eventually we figure things out – mother’s instinct and all.

  • Lacey says:

    You are amazing, Meggan! I’m so glad that there are women like you who are strong enough to stand up to the institution of birth and say, “This is MY baby and MY body.” Kudos!
    After hearing what other moms have experienced, I feel that I owe a huge part of my breastfeeding success to my midwives, who coached me so gently and encouraged me to trust my body and baby.
    I started nursing Harlow within minutes of his birth, and every “Is this OK?” and “Am I doing this right?” was met with a “You’re doing great!” and “Remember, he’s never done this before either. It’s going to take some time…”
    Even people I’ve known who had “good” lactation consultants have described how they grabbed their boob and shoved their nipple in the baby’s mouth (Sarah, OUCH!).
    My midwives only touched us if absolutely necessary and only with my permission. I don’t even remember them correcting a latch or anything. They just showed me the basics: the positions, breaking the suction, etc. They helped us figure it out for ourselves, and you know what? We did! I still don’t think Harlow latches on ‘properly’. But if it doesn’t hurt, and he’s gaining weight, so what???
    I swear, lactation consultants do what they do because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t have jobs! Hell, the same could be said for OB’s. Doctors, C-sections, formula, etc. are all are GREAT…… when they are needed. The vast majority of moms and babies would do just fine, even better, without them.