My Hospital Postpartum Experience

This is a continuation of my previous post called My Hospital Birthing Experience. For the whole story of the birth of my twins, I recommend reading the previous post first.

Healthcare Hooligans

To Swaddle or Not

SwaddleAfter the delivery, while Jenn and I were recovering, nurse Ratched came in to show us how to swaddle our babies and explained that it would help them to sleep. We visited with family and then after a short time were taken to the maternity ward where we were told that they don’t swaddle at that hospital. Exhausted, we explained that we had just been shown how to swaddle by another nurse and that we were now going to get some sleep. Our new maternity ward nurse awkwardly grumbled something about nurse Ratched and left.

Breast Feeding Nazis

The hospital that we delivered our children at has a “breastfeeding friendly” policy, which in retrospect seems like a poor name for their policy. Jenn and I had always been fully on board with breastfeeding our kids and needed no convincing. Every nurse that walked in was astounded to find her tandem nursing both kids within hours of their birth. However, they were hungry hungry kiddos. Jenn’s milk production wasn’t what it needed to be for two mouths, and so I started making visits to the nursing station to get some formula to help supplement Jenn’s milk. Each time I went I was given what amounted to a stern talking to about how we shouldn’t be using formula, and that you need to increase the demand for milk for the production to go up. Yes, sure, but you see we have two and they are hungry, so give us the formula.

After visiting with the lactation consultant and our original “cool” OB/GYN and explaining how long Jenn was breast feeding every day and how the kids didn’t seem to be getting enough, they 100% agreed with us that the kids needed more, and they told the nurses to lay off and give us formula when we asked. Relieved at the conversation with the “professionals” Jenn and I spent some time enjoying our new family members, which meant that I waited too long and went to get formula from the nurses after a shift change and apparently they left no notes, so again we were given the runaround when asking for formula. They even suggested that we shouldn’t be asking for formula because, since they were giving us such small amounts, they had to throw away most of the bottle of formula they were giving us after a short period of time. Really??? Hey I have an idea, how about you give us a whole bottle?

Jenn was an absolute hero when it came to breastfeeding our kids, and put in a ridiculous amount of time and effort to get her milk production up. The result of the hospital policy, however, was to make me feel like 1) an ignorant parent 2) an incompetent parent and 3) a beggar any time that I asked for formula. What’s worse than that was Jenn was made to feel inadequate as a mother. Ironically, when we finally went home with our kids we found some orange coloured crystals in our son’s diaper and so we called the nurse’s hotline and learned that was a sign that he was dehydrated. Hmmm, how would that happen, oh yeah by not being given the formula he needed in the hospital.

Parting Parental Competency Check

We were only in the hospital for 3 days, but honestly I was so frustrated by the experience that on the final day I was ready to bolt out of there. Hold on though, before you go there is one last hoop for you to jump through. Brought to you by the health care professionals that brought you:

  1. Assisted delivery without discussing the course of action to take in the event of a breech delivery
  2. Breech delivery
  3. Swaddling contradictions
  4. Implied parental incompetence which resulted in #5
  5. Withholding formula to the point of dehydration

So, as our parting gift, we had to demonstrate that we knew how to properly buckle our kids into a car seat. I actually think this is a good idea, but the irony of being evaluated on my ability to perform this task by these people was really frustrating to me.

Needless to say, I didn’t really enjoy my birth or postpartum experiences, but I felt significantly better and comfortable in my role as a parent once we got home. I would absolutely love to hear stories from others about how they feel about their birth (dads included) so feel free to make use of the comment section below.

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9 thoughts on “My Hospital Postpartum Experience

  1. This is going to sound breastfeeding nazi-ish, but since milk typically isn’t in for days, and newborns have such tiny stomachs and are designed to only get teeny bits of colostrum, what made you guys feel like the babies needed more? It’s normal to not have milk at all for as many as 5 days after birth – were they very fussy or just wanted to be on the breast the entire time? Just curious (I don’t think a little formula is going to kill anyone, but most women who are anxious about not having enough actually are doing just fine)

    As for birth experiences – mine was a typical US birth – wish in hindsight I hadn’t opted for an intervention, they convinced me to have my waters broken to speed up labor. Instead, it just caused more pain, and I wasn’t allowed to move around or get comfortable once they’d done it. Then baby ended up in distress and we narrowly missed having a c-section. Was upset with it, but was so tired and worn down and in such intense pain it was hard to stick to plan at the time. Post-birth was mostly good. We roomed-in, it was breastfeeding friendly, I had three visits from an LC to help get me started, baby was quiet and sleepy, and we got out of there faster than anticipated. All in all really wish that I’d had more wherewithal to stick to my guns and not get the early interventions, I think we’d have been a lot better off if I hadn’t had my water broken manually.

    1. > This is going to sound breastfeeding nazi-ish

      You were right! It did sound that way.

      Why is it hard to take his word for it that the babies were hungry? He explained already that one of the babies was indeed dehydrated by the time they got home.

      > (I don’t think a little formula is going to kill anyone, but…

      I don’t think 100% formula is going to kill anyone, it’s necessary for some. Please stop being dramatic for effect.

      1. It’s of interest to me because there’s such horrible support for breastfeeding (even in bf-friendly hospitals, where things can come across as antagonistic), in general, and a lot of women experience guilt/anxiety/etc because they don’t understand what to expect. That’s all. Sorry it came across as dramatic, it really wasn’t intended that way. Oh well. (and fwiw, my baby did have signs of mild dehydration as well, my doctor’s opinion and our course of action was the opposite of what was suggested here. That there seems to be such discrepancy on what is normal and what to do is also of interest to me). I think if someone is going to put these experiences and such up for public comment, there’s going to be some discussion. BFing is one of those interesting things where everyone thinks you’re supposed to do it, that somehow you’re lacking if you don’t, but by the same turn support is really horrible, many doctors are horribly educated about it, and the variance even among lactation consultants is kind of mind boggling. So this topic is of interest to me, and I wish it was easier to talk about it without offending someone.

      2. I don’t think the phrasing was too harsh at all. This is a loaded topic and it’s hard to discuss if all the language has to be perfectly crafted every time. I interpreted these questions and this comment to be casual and coming from a place of curiousity and fostering discussion, which is fantastic. Unfortunately this is an incredibly polarized field. Everyone you speak to has a different opinion, and they are often passionate about it. I think it’s cool to be able to discuss it as openly as possible. I certainly wish, for example, people had been more open about how hard breastfeeding is before I was in it!

    2. Hey Carrotplease! This is Jenn (Mom to the twins!). Thanks for your comment, and for phrasing it in the way you did. Mark suggested I reply to your comment.

      There were many things that made us feel strongly that the kids needed more than I could give them. Both the kids were the same size in utero for most of the pregnancy. In the last month or so my son started to lag behind. At birth he was 1.5lbs smaller than his sister, and was very skinny. We think he wasn’t getting quite enough nutrition from his cord at the end of the pregnancy. So he came out ready for a buffet, that’s for sure! We were very keen on breastfeeding, and the babies were tandem nursing within hours of birth, with excellent latches. And they pretty much never wanted to be off, as I remember it. Both our lactation consultant and the OB said we were doing great & told us to go ahead with formula as the kids seemed desperate. Then, as Mark described, when we got home the signs of dehydration from my son were there & even the community nurses told us to give him 3x the volume that the hospital nurses were dispensing to us (we started giving him ~40ml instead of 10-15). That is when they really calmed down.
      Of course they always had a nursing session before a bottle. And I was on the pump right away as well, between feedings.
      I would say that we didn’t know what we were doing with breastfeeding, and certainly needed a lot of advice and support. Luckily we had a doula for postpartum who helped immensely over the following weeks. But the hospital staff took a judgmental approach, and failed to really offer any information. Instead of helpfully explaining things, we were simply told they were “breastfeeding friendly” when we inquired about formula. It was almost comical. So it generated a slightly more confrontational feeling on our part as well.
      I’m sure everyone meant the best of intentions, as did we.
      It is so hard in that environment to stick to your guns, as you say. Hope you’re not too hard on yourself about it. It’s so strange – you’re surrounded by highly trained and very educated professionals who are telling you what to do for the very health and life of your baby and yourself. It’s impossible to know whether your own ideas are better or not. My personal feeling is that midwives or doulas have very, very important roles for helping the parents navigate the hospital system if that’s where the birth is. They speak the language and can help speak for the parents or let them know when and where to speak up for themselves.

      1. It sounds like the desk nurses in your case were just. I don’t know the word, I can’t even come up with it. The whole “baby friendly/BF friendly” approach seems like such a good idea on paper but the execution seems so inconsistent. Like in your case I think that the proper approach would have been for the nurses to come investigate for signs of dehydration, whether it was within certain bounds, and go from there. Just sitting there giving you a hard time seems so… not-good-nurse-like. And it seems like the antithesis of how a baby-friendly/BF friendly setup *should* work. It shouldn’t just be about pushing breastfeeding but also supporting in a positive manner so people don’t leave feeling like they’ve been browbeaten by breast nazis.

        Then again, I’ve come across a lot of really horrible nurses over the last few years. To the point that during one stay, I was more educated about my care than several of them were. Including two that tried to give me incorrect medication (and one was an injection). Then when you stick up for yourself they start treating you like a “problem patient.” So not fun, especially in the maternity ward

  2. Hi all,

    To the father of the twins – congratulations on the birth of your beautiful babies!

    I’m writing because I’m a new postpartum nurse, and a new nurse in general. And, i don’t want to make any of my new parents feel the way that this father felt when he was in the hospital. What advice do you have for me, based on your experience, that can help me communicate with families and help them to feel more empowered and comfortable, based on whatever feeding decision they’ve chosen for their baby (ies)? Feedback from anyone would be appreciated. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Anonymous, thanks for the comment. I really wanted to get back to you earlier, but I have been at work and haven’t really had the time to put any thoughts together. First off, let me say that your question is a fantastic one, but unfortunately I don’t feel I have a single good answer for you. One thing that I have learned from my job, that I feel may help you at times when you are trying to figure out what the best thing to do to make you a “good” nurse, would be to try to slow the situation down.

      This could mean a number of things, but giving yourself time to think clearly about an issue is an important starting point. I felt as if I was getting knee jerk responses at the hospital, and that meant that my particular circumstances weren’t being considered. Getting the person to explain the details of their situation and giving them your attention is another way to slow things down, and for you to get relevant information. Of course, it’s pretty easy to understand how asking a person to explain their situation could go bad too, because this may not be the first time that they have done so, but the key here would be to assure them that you need to understand what is going on if you are going to help. You could go a step further by getting their assigned nurse to be part of the discussion too, so that they don’t have to worry about having to explain everything all over again. Also, if a solution to the problem at hand has been agreed upon, making notes would be great too. This way, there will be a continuity of care between nurses, so the patient won’t have to explain everything with every shift change.

      All though I feel like I am kind of all over the place with my response, interestingly I have noticed that every one of my suggestions is focused on establishing and maintaining good communication. So, there you have it, slow things down, be reasonable in your course of action, and communicate well. I’m not really sure if this helps you, but if you are really concerned enough to be asking me about what you should do to make yourself a better nurse, then I think your head is already in the right place! Thanks again for the question.

  3. I completely agree with Mark about the Breast Feeding Nazis (as that’s what we called them too!). I’m sure we were in the same hospital:)
    I had gestational diabetes with both my pregnancies (singleton, then twin), so I was worried that my babies would be hungry/have low blood sugar once born. The nurses/lactation consultants were awful! I have never felt so bad in my life for wanting to feed my baby something! (they even told us they wouldn’t be as smart without breast milk)

    For my first birth it was rough. I had the pump (nothing), but baby wouldn’t latch. They wouldn’t give me formula..I was so stressed out. Finally they mentioned I could get donor milk! Yay…thank you..finally. My baby was so much happier:) We used donor milk for 1 month before my milk finally came in. But no latch still. I pumped for 6 months exclusively for my baby. By then I had enough. Welcome formula! You’re not so bad at all!

    With the birth of our twins we got smarter. No nurses/LC in our room please. Leave us alone! No latching again (mouths too small they keep saying). So donor milk/formula from the start. Pumped for 4 months, formula to top off.

    All 3 kids have had donor milk, pumped milk, and formula and they have turned out just fine!

    I will never, EVER, tell a mother how she should feed her baby! (as long as she does)

    Thanks for writing this Mark:)

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