5 Ways My Hospital Birth Sabotaged Breastfeeding: Part 1 –
I gave birth to my first child in a hospital because I didn’t know any better. At the time, I didn’t realize giving birth in such a medical environment was so very far off from my philosophy of childbirth. I didn’t know there were other options. I had only known people who gave birth in hospitals. I didn’t realize the environment of fear and tension was the cause of pain in childbirth and not the birth itself.
I didn’t realize the unnecessary medical interventions they would put me through would put my body and my baby at risk. I didn’t realize it would be a nightmare. It wasn’t until the birth of my second child, who weighed in at 10 lbs. 14 oz., that I realized the pain isn’t necessary. The tearing isn’t necessary. The not being allowed to eat while in labor isn’t necessary, but most of all the fear isn’t necessary.
You can read the full story of my first childbirth experience in Why I Had the Rest of My Kids with a Midwife: Birth Story of My Oldest.
Among all the other parts I didn’t know about because I had never given birth before were the many ways the hospital where I had my first would do its best to sabotage breastfeeding at every turn. Fortunately, I am not an easy giver-upper, and even more fortunately, my mom comes from a family of six sisters who all breastfed lots and lots of babies.
So even though I faced many obstacles created by common practices at that hospital, I did manage to successfully breastfeed my oldest, after a very rocky start, well into her toddler years. I did so in spite of the hospital, definitely not because of it, and I really don’t think that should be the case. And yes, I said “the toddler years” because extended breastfeeding has many health benefits. If you are an extended breastfeeding mom or are considering extended breastfeeding, you might enjoy Navigating Parenthood’s humorous post 20 Things to Never Text Extended Breastfeeding Moms.
I do want to note that I know not all hospitals are unfriendly to breastfeeding. Some are much better than others. Almost all hospitals will say they are friendly to breastfeeding. The first hospital claimed to be friendly to breastfeeding, but it definitely was not, so beware of those false claims. Your best bet at finding out if a hospital really is conducive to breastfeeding would be to ask a crunchy breastfeeding mom who gave birth there within the last few years.
Find a mom who is hardcore about breastfeeding, who breastfed exclusively and is likely still breastfeeding a toddler. Nothing wrong with the less-than-militant breastfeeders or formula feeders. I’m just telling you who will give you the truest answer on whether hospital practices are actually breastfeeding friendly.
Although I did switch to a midwife (one of the best decisions of my life) for the birth of my second, I still had to give birth to him at a hospital because my insurance at that time would not approve alternatives. Thankfully, the small community hospital in our county did not sabotage breastfeeding, so seriously, if it’s important to you, ask around before choosing a hospital, and especially ask a lot of different moms who have recently given birth before choosing a provider, whether it be a midwife or a doctor.
My birth and initial breastfeeding experience with my son were a world of difference because of what I learned from my first birth and my personal research in between births.
Hindsight is 20/20, and it’s only looking back and being able to compare to my future births that I can even see the many ways the first hospital sabotaged breastfeeding. At the time, I had no clue. I was just going along with whatever the “experts” wanted me to do. Looking back, it’s apparent the hospital sabotaged breastfeeding in at least five key ways.
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** I am not a medical professional. Nothing I state should be considered medical advice. I am only sharing what I have learned from my own personal experiences and my own research. You should never trust me or anyone else on the internet to inform you about health-related matters. Do your own research! Seek medical advice from a provider you trust, but still DO YOUR OWN RESEARCH on everything. Be informed! Be awake!
1.) The fear and tension and general stressfulness of the extremely medical birthing environment meant my baby was completely upset and crying when she was born.
They handed me the baby right away, and they let me try to nurse her for a few minutes, but she was stressed out because her birth was a rushed and frantic event where they forced me to push to the count of ten and moved her through the birth canal more quickly than my body would have pushed her at its own slower pace. She was crying. She was upset. She would not calm down and nurse.
And before you try to convince me all babies cry when they’re born, I know that is false. I’ve given birth three other times, and when my body was allowed to labor at its own pace, not only was my labor pain-free, my babies were born calm. They were calm and ready to nurse.
The baby needs to nurse right away, not just for its own well-being, but also for the sake of the mother’s health. Nursing stimulates contractions that fully remove the afterbirth sooner and lower the risk of infection. There’s no need for the nurse to start punching your stomach if the baby starts nursing well right away. The nipple stimulation releases the hormone Oxytocin needed to create those contractions.
That Oxytocin released by nursing also slows the bleeding. This is why they give a woman Pitocin if they think she’s losing too much blood after the birth. Pitocin is the synthetic of Oxytocin. God created a woman’s body to release the hormones she needs to dispel the afterbirth and slow the bleeding when a baby starts nursing right away. God’s design is amazing and should not face interference.
Since we’re getting real here, you might as well know that Oxytocin is also the reason intercourse can be an effective means of inducing labor. Nipple stimulation and intimacy in general cause the release of oxytocin. The synthetic Pitocin is what they give mother’s in the IV to induce labor. That cervical ring they sometimes put on women before they’re going to induce is mostly pig semen. Yep. Sperm softens the cervix, and Oxytocin starts the contractions. God gave married couples a means to help induce labor when the body is ready to give birth. (Don’t worry. It won’t send a healthy pregnancy into premature labor. Natural Oxytocin is gentle, so it’s only really effective when your body is ready to give birth.)
Science tries to replicate the systems God put into place. When we try to synthetically replicate God’s design, there are often unwanted negative consequences though. Pitocin makes for a very hard and usually painful labor.
2.) Unnecessary interventions meant they took my baby away sooner than needed.
My baby was crying instead of nursing, and they didn’t leave her with me long enough to get settled at the breast. As discussed above, there are very good health-related reasons that a baby needs to nurse right away. For the health of the mother and baby, getting the baby settled at the breast really should be the first priority in a healthy delivery. There were no pressing emergency issues with this birth.
Normal, natural birth sets the stage for problem-free breastfeeding—what nature intended—while a complicated, intervention-intensive labor and birth set the stage for problems.
There was no reason to take my newborn away before she had settled into nursing. They just whisked her away because everyone at this hospital was in such a rush to move through each part of the birth, even though that is not at all in the best interest of the patients’ health.
They took her away sooner than I would have liked because they still had to sew me up from the unnecessary episiotomy. It wasn’t until the next pregnancy that I learned an episiotomy is not a necessity, and the negatives do not outweigh the positives. Trust me, the healing of an episiotomy is so much worse. Tearing is not a given. If your body is allowed to push at its own rate, and if you don’t really help the pushing, there’s a very good possibility of no tearing at all. If only I had known that then.
They really don’t need to take a baby away right after the birth to do Apgars and all that stuff either. They can assess the baby enough while it’s in the mother’s arms to know if there are any pressing issues. Letting the baby settle into nursing should be the first priority for a baby whose mother is planning to breastfeed.
Nursing is the only way a mother’s milk will come in, so the earlier nursing can be established, the better. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand relationship. The mother’s body creates the breastmilk based on the demand. The baby has to nurse the milk in. That’s the only way it comes in. Anything that interferes with the baby being allowed to nurse jeopardizes milk supply. Any hospital practice that gets in the way of a baby settling into nursing from the beginning puts the ability to breastfeed at risk.
For every mother, I hear say, “I wanted to breastfeed, but I couldn’t because my milk didn’t come in,” I can point you to specific hospital practices that likely jeopardized that mother’s milk supply. But when you’re a new mom, just trying to figure it all out, you don’t know any better, so you trust “the experts.”
If you want to find out the other three ways my hospital birth sabotaged breastfeeding, you can read about those in 5 Ways My Hospital Birth Sabotaged Breastfeeding – Part 2!
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My first baby is all grown up now. You may also enjoy the story of her wedding!