The care we received when I was pregnant and when Lenny was born from the midwives, nurses and doctors at Toronto East General Hospital was exceptional. They did their job. It wasn't an easy one, and in the end she was safe and healthy and really, that's all that matters. Except that's only partly true. Because in order for me to do my job and be a good mother to her, I was going to need a little help from them. The mother matters too. Unfortunately, everything that happened to me during my postpartum stay at the hospital would indicate that these health care professionals (with the exception of my wonderful midwives) thought of me as little more than a pair of walking boobs. Modern day health care practitioners in a "breastfeeding friendly" hospital are, in a lot of ways like a lecherous boss in a Benny Hill Sketch.
I'm pretty sure I heard this every time they wheeled in the breast pump.
When you have a c-section, which is major surgery that involves cutting through eight layers of muscle in your abdomen, it's going to hurt. When you're in that kind of pain, you're going to need some serious pain killers. I've got friends who have given birth via c-section in other Toronto hospitals who were given narcotics to help them through the pain. If they were being brave, the hospital would allow them to then downgrade to Tylenol 3. Since I was in a "breastfeeding friendly" establishment I was offered my choice of Regular Strength Tylenol or Regular Strength Tylenol. I should point out that Regular Strength Tylenol won't even help me when I've got a headache, so you can imagine how effective it was after major abdominal surgery. If I took anything stronger, I was told, there was a risk it would travel through my breast milk and poison the baby. That's right, stronger drugs would travel through my breast milk that wasn't coming in and poison my baby who refused to latch on. Just a thought, but if that really is the case, don't you think someone should mention it to all the other hospitals in town handing out the good stuff like it's Smarties?
They refuse to feed your baby any formula until they've tried breastfeeding for at least 24 hours. Lenny got nothing to eat until they realized she was straight up refusing to breastfeed on day two. At that point we had to feed her formula from a tiny plastic cup (the kind used to dispense pills) to avoid "nipple confusion". From that point on, every time we attempted to breastfeed, she tried to sip from my nipple like it was a cup. I had the song Ball of Confusion stuck in my head for weeks. "Nipple Confusion...that's what her world is to-day, hey, hey!!!"
Seeing this from my vantage point of my (really uncomfortable) hospital bed was little to no comfort.
Why is that baby on the left only a head? Whyyyyyyy?
Sometimes, the people who are supposed to be there to help you, will act like pre-programmed breastfeeding friendly robots.
Me: Is it OK that she just spit up like that?
Nurse: Skin to skin contact is really important.
Him: Am I swaddling her correctly?
Nurse: How's it going with the breastfeeding?
Doctor: If there's anything else I can do for you, please let me know.
Me: I need stronger pain killers.
Doctor: Would you like me to make an appointment with the Lactation Consultant?
The Lactation Consultant was about as helpful as a bag of wet socks.
When you go home and spend all kinds of time hooked up to the electronic breast pump, trying desperately to squeeze that precious colostrum out of your swollen breasts while watching Quantum of Solace, you will realize just how truly bizarre your new life is.
Everybody and his brother feel that it is acceptable in today's society to ask a new mother if she is breastfeeding. Strangers on the street, cashiers at the grocery store, a random woman next to me in the gyno's office (when I didn't have the baby with me)! Note to everybody: It's none of your god damn business.
If you are unable or unwilling to breastfeed, you will catch hell from your friendly neighbourhood lactivist. I've given this some serious thought. I've tried to put myself in their shoes. They are passionate about children and health and aren't they just trying to help? Yes, I've given it lots of thought and it is my personal opinion that they are narrow minded and full of shit. Be gone, breastfeeding nazi. No. Soup. For. You.
If your baby refuses to latch on but can still smell her food through your skin, being around you will frustrate her. The day you realize that you and your milky smelling breasts are making your baby cry you will ask her father to return the electronic breast pump to the drug store, buy a case of formula and never look back.
I knew this was the right decision, but I still couldn't watch as he took the breast pump out the front door. I felt so guilty and like such a failure, it was as if he was taking any chance I had of being a good mother right out the door with that breast pump. I only got through it by averting my eyes and singing a chorus of "Nipple Confusion" to my angry, hungry baby.
Formula feeding was always presented to me as a worst case scenario. But you know what? It has worked out great for us. Lenny is thriving. She has never been sick and we had no problem bonding without the aid of the breast, thankyouverymuch. I have had more freedom than a breastfeeding mom and her dad has had the opportunity to get more involved that he would have otherwise, especially in those difficult early days.
Formula feeding isn't the end of the world. And that's a fact.