Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Breastfeeding Class

Last night I took the first one of my “childbirth education” classes sponsored through the hospital. I had been wondering if they’d even be worth it, since I kept hearing that most hospital classes were more about teaching you their standard practice & how to cooperate than education about birth and options [ie, not going to be natural birth "friendly" enough for my liking]. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised.

Not only was the class leader a L&D nurse there, as well as a doula, but she was very clear about giving different options and the reasoning behind it, and about explaining how some “routine” interventions could complicate breastfeeding but were not a reason to give up. The hospital has a support line and lactation consultants, and everyone was encouraged to call them first if there were any problems, rather than switching to a bottle or supplementing. She also pointed out how sometimes the baby would not be able to latch/suckle properly after certain medications, and encouraged mothers to try again after a couple hours, instead of assuming he couldn’t or didn’t want to breastfeed, and let us know that we could/needed to let them know we planned on breastfeeding in case of a cesarean, and they would have someone bring the baby to the recovery room and help out nursing the first few times, so he didn’t end up being given formula instead. There was also a mention of oxytocin/pitocin being chemically similar, and how nursing during the 3rd stage could be used instead of pitocin to help the placenta come out and the uterus go back to normal.

A lot of it was pretty basic for most people who’ve done their research, but it was still very refreshing to see a hospital that supportive of breastfeeding, and to see common myths/problems addressed outright. She made a point of letting everyone know, even if they intended to formula feed later on, that it was best to at least breastfeed at the beginning so the baby got the benefits of the colostrum, and covered a lot of the benefits of breastfeeding, even up to 3-4 years [was really surprised to see support for "extended" bf'ing]. She was also supportive of co-sleeping and explained it was safe, as long as the parent wasn’t using medications that made them drowsy or alcohol. I also liked that she made a point of explaining the purpose of foremilk, and why breastfeed babies don’t need to be given bottles of water, and how that or unnecessary supplementation with formula [including in the hospital] can screw up the breastfeeding process and cause the baby to not get enough milk & nutrition. She stressed the importance of nursing as soon as possible [she said hospital recommendation is within the first hour, but they try for the first 20-30 minutes], and nursing exclusively in the first 2 weeks and skipping bottles and pacifiers at least that long to avoid nipple confusion, and also explained how breast shields should only be used minimally and for a short time if needed, so the baby didn’t become reliant on them.

Afterward, I asked if she knew where to get a copy of the hospital’s L&D policies because  I wanted to see if there would be any problem with my birth plan, and she told me they were used to birth plans, pretty relaxed, and that the main thing was to go over it and have my OB sign it, in case I ended up with another doctor delivering. She also told me that a particular OB at my practice was the most natural birth friendly, and recommended having him be the one to sign off, because she had attended a unmedicated waterbirth in the hospital of one of his clients, and he was supportive and backed up her wishes in a few instances when the charge nurse was requesting more intervention. This is the doc I had planned to go over it with anyway, but I feel a lot better now hearing that from a nurse who’d attended one of his births.

All in all. I’m glad I went, and I feel a lot more comfortable with the hospital than I did before. I still have a few more weeks of classes, so I’ll be updating on those as well as other things.

One thing I thought I’d add is that it was great how many dads were there. I figured, of all the classes, this would be the one most men would skip, but probably 3/4 of the women had a male partner or support person with them, which says a lot about how far we’ve come on educating both sexes. One thing that I thought was cool was one of the very young mothers had her dad there as her support person, and mentioned that he would be her labor coach – it’s nice seeing that level of support for a teen mother, because I’ve seen so many who felt rejected by their parents when they needed them most.
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