Breastfeeding Only?

For the course, a few of my classmates and I came across the topic of breastfeeding. We encounter breastfeeding issues quite often in our nursing units everyday. In the NICU, breastfeeding is an issue for mothers because they are separated from their newborns or premies. Breastfeeding becomes difficult because their babies are not present with them all the time. Many mothers have to resort to pumping, which requires many additional steps. They may not know the proper technique of pumping and proper storage of breast milk without appropriate teaching. Often times, these mothers are already stressed because their babies are in the NICU and the idea of not being able to breastfeed exclusively can be appalling.

I assumed a lot of mothers did not have proper education on the proper techniques of breastfeeding during their hospital stays (from Labor & Delivery to Mother-Baby unit). The benefits of breast milk may have been mentioned to them briefly in L&D, but not much education is provided. Staff is not adequately trained to teach mothers and there is not enough staff to do so. Not all hospitals have lactation consultants to fully help mothers with breastfeeding and breast pumping. I would recommend educating all nursing staff and physicians about the full benefits of breast milk. Nursing staff should be required to attend a breastfeeding course or take an online module that will educate them on breastfeeding and breast pumping techniques. Mothers should be educated fully starting from the L&D unit, and follow through to the Mother-Baby unit.

Image credits: Latch on NYC campaign

I have talked to several mothers regarding their breastfeeding experiences in the hospital. These mothers have already set their minds on breastfeeding, so not much education was provided during the L&D stage. Lactation consultants were not readily available (especially during the night shift) on the Mother-Baby unit for some mothers. As a result, these moms were not able to achieve a proper latch and breastfeeding was delayed. However, the lactation consultants were extremely helpful when they were available. Some of the nurses were not helpful because they only showed the mothers the proper techniques but they never followed-up to make sure they were able to achieve a good latch, the amount of milk they were producing, and/or how often they were breastfeeding or pumping. I also learned that many moms seek lactation consultants for several months after hospital discharge. The lactation consultants are expensive and usually not covered by medical insurance.

The mental status of mothers should also be considered. The mothers I spoke to felt social pressure to breastfeed exclusively. There is a social stigma associated with moms who do not breastfeed. They were seen as “bad moms” if formula is given to their babies because “breast is best”. A mother I spoke to experienced a lot of stress because of this stigma. She experienced extreme abdominal pain that lasted for several weeks after her cesarean section. Every time she breastfed, she will experience this pain. During her hospital stay, her baby had jaundice and was very dehydrated. As a result, she had to give the baby some formula because she could not produce enough breast milk to help the baby stay hydrated and get rid of the jaundice. The baby had to drink both formula and breast milk for several additional weeks because her abdominal pain played a huge roadblock to efficient breast milk production. She experienced a lot of stress that was mostly self-inflicted because of the social pressure and stigma surrounding breastfeeding. She was able to produce an efficient amount of breast milk eventually and her stress slowly subsided. However, she realized that breastfeeding is still the best, but the health of the mother and baby should be prioritized first. More observations and conversations are needed with more mothers for this project. I will also need to talk to mothers who only want to give their babies formula, low-income mothers, and possibly mothers from other cities.

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