Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Things I Wish I Knew Before I Had My First Baby.

My first birth experience was very traumatizing. I had no idea what my rights were, or that I even had any. "Hospital policy" was quoted at me left, right and center whenever I asked "why?" or "I want my baby back.". I often felt like I was being patted on the head. So I gritted my teeth and counted the hours until I had my freedom back. My second birth I knew my rights,as I had a wonderful midwife who answered all my informed choice questions as well as a supportive doula that I shared my fears with. I had a better breastfeeding education than my nurses. My baby slept skin to skin with my arms propped up with pillows. My son was latched on all night. I was able to doze for 8 hours. Much longer than with my first baby, who can sleep when their baby is screaming across the hall and the nurses won't bring him/her to you? When the nurse noticed that I was only writing down which side I breastfed on last not the length of time, she chided me. "That's to make sure your baby is getting enough to drink," at which point I told her that "there is no current research that supports that the duration of time on the breast can determine the amount of breastmilk ingested. In fact, the timing of feedings is considered to be counter-productive to breastfeeding success according to the World Health Organization. But it is a wonderful tool to help me remember which breast I fed with last. " She answered "It won't hurt to just write it down." Then left in a huff. When I knew my rights and was able to firmly assert them, my hospital stay was almost pleasant, except that they let my meds wear off and I had to walk to my car 3 days post c-sect with no pain meds in my system. Also, I was able to have my mother stay in the hospital with me, so there was never a reason for them to "help" with the baby, or take it away for a long period of time. Thanks mom. So here is a list of the things I wish I knew before having my first baby.

1.That hospital policy does not override a mother's legal right to informed choice.
Mother: "I don't want an iv" nurse "well it's hospital policy, just in case there's an emergency."
You still have a right to refuse. According to Canadian Medical Association's code of ethics and the Canadian Nursing Association's code of ethics. A patient has the right to refuse any medical test/procedures without further pressure from the health-care provider. In fact, a nurse who is just following the doctors orders and carries out a procedure after the patient has refused said procedure, is just as legally liable as the doctor who gave the order despite the patient's refusal.

2. Cesarean sections are not the "easy way out". They are risky, painful for weeks (sometimes years) afterward and leave you helpless to do simple but necessary motherly tasks.

3. According to the WHO hospitals with c-section rates higher than 15% actually have higher maternal mortality rates and higher incidences of re-hospitalization. In other words, this
life saving procedure when done in excess is a life-endangering procedure. The average c-sect rate in Canada is 25%. So feel free to ask questions when a cesarean is suggested. Your life may depend on it. There are many hospitals in Europe that have less than 15% c-section rate and much lower maternal and infant mortality rates than Canada.

4. It is not a requirement to have a formal breastfeeding education to be a L&D nurse or a doctor, though, the health-care providers who do not have a formal education (18 hours is the minimum recommended by the World Health Organization) will still offer advise. Nurse "Oh well, the baby's not getting enough liquid because your 'real milk' hasn't come in yet." or "write down each feeding and the length to show your baby's getting enough milk" Scientific research has debunked both of these misconceptions, but I still heard them coming out of healthcare providers mouths.

5. The Doctors responsible for creating the policies for formula supplementation usually have no formal breastfeeding education. So, if it is suggested that your baby be supplemented with formula, ask that a healthcare professional with at least an 18 hour breastfeeding education be consulted first. If possible, ask to speak with an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, they are the gold standard in breastfeeding information and current breastfeeding research. Once again, you have the right to make an informed choice for your baby. It is not considered an informed choice if the caregiver does not have accurate or up to date information. You wouldn't consult Orthopedic Surgeon for advise on treating glaucoma, you'd see an eye specialist. It should not be any different for breastfeeding.

6. When I got home I would need a lot of breastfeeding support. I had no idea how much patience and confidence I would need to learn to breastfeed, and in turn, my baby to learn as well. Thank goodness for midwives, postpartum doulas and public health nurse Lactation Consultants. Find yourself at least one of these to help with the first 3 weeks of breastfeeding.

7. A new baby will want to eat between once every three hours to once an hour. This is not a sign that the baby isn't getting enough. This is very important to the production of breastmilk.

8. Breastfeeding, though very rewarding, is exhausting.

9. Sometimes babies just cry and all you can do is comfort them the best you can, they are adapting to a whole new world. Don't take it personally.