(The following story is fictional. Should you see yourself in the Queen then kudos to you!)
Once upon a time (as recent as a moment ago), there was a Queen who gave birth to a Princess. What made her a Queen was that her partner called her one, and what made their daughter a Princess was because they thought her so. Aside from the nicknames, the Queen and the Princess were not unlike any other woman or baby girl.
Shortly after the Princess was born the Queen tried to breastfeed her but the Princess wouldn’t latch. The Queen was disappointed but knew she would try again later. The baby slept for a couple hours and then she tried to nurse her again. Again the Princess wouldn’t latch.
“Isn’t she nursing yet?” inquired a nurse coming into the room. “She looks hungry. I can get her a bottle of formula.”
“Oh, no!” replied the Queen. “She’s fine.”
The nurse looked at the Queen with concern. I’m going to come back in one hour and if that baby hasn’t nursed she’s getting a bottle. You don’t want her to starve do you?” And with that the nurse left.
Rattled, but not to be disuaded the Queen tried to nurse the Princess again. Still no luck. Now the Princess was screaming and all the rocking and cuddling and shushing didn’t work. The Queen asked her partner to take the baby for a short walk so she could collect her thoughts and figure out what to do. The Queen had had two other children. All of them had been breastfed. The Queen had attended numerous La Leche League meetings and was passionate about breastfeeding. She knew there must be a way to nourish her daughter without resorting to formula. Then she remembered. She decided to hand express some colostrum into a spoon. Satisfied with the teaspoon she made, she fed it to the Princess when she returned. The Princess took the spoon, swallowed the colostrum and went back to sleep.
A new mom in the bed over, who hadn’t seen what had happened but who had overheard the commotion with the nurse and crying baby, leaned over and whispered to the Queen, “My baby didn’t latch either so I let the nurses give him some formula. One bottle can’t hurt, is my opinion. Then the baby sleeps and you get some well deserved rest too.”
The woman next to her piped in “My baby latched but my milk hasn’t come in yet. I told the nurses I was concerned by how much he sleeps so they recommended I give him a bottle too. Aren’t you worried your baby might be getting hungry?” The two women looked at each other with a kind of solidarity sympathy.
Ah, the comraderie in ignorance, thought the Queen, who had been hoping to avoid this kind of confrontation. She took a deep breath and said to the first woman, “My baby is only a few hours old. Her stomach is the size of a chick pea. How did your son fare when you gave him the bottle?”
The woman looked confused by this reply. “Uh,” she stammered. “He threw most of it up, but he did get a little down. Why?”
“He threw it up because a day old baby can’t fit that amount of formula in his stomach,” said the Queen pointing to the empty bottle on the side table. “and tomorrow, she continued, his stomach will only gave grown to the size of a grape. So that’s how much milk he will need tomorrow. There’s the perfect amount of colostrum in your breasts to satisfy his hunger.” She smiled weakly at the woman. “I didn’t mean to put you off. I just hate how uninformed so many maternity nurses are. And I’m sorry to tell you this but one bottle of formula does make a difference. It introduces a strain of bacteria to his intestines that would otherwise not be there and it can affect his immune system.”
The woman looked horrified. “What should I do?” she asked.
“Tell them to help you with your latch,” offered the Queen, “or ask to speak to the hospital’s lactation consultant. Or just relax and let the baby latch when he’s ready. That’s what I’m trying to do. This one is my third. They do catch on eventually. They have to eat right? And before formula came along babies breastfed. I can’t imagine many babies died from from failure to latch correctly in the first few days.” She turned to the second woman. “How old is your son?” she inquired.
“He’s just over three days old.”
“You don’t need to be worried that your milk hasn’t come in yet. It will. It always does. Some women’s milk just takes a little longer to come in than others, but it’s still normal to wait up to five days. And he’s getting all he needs from your colostrum too. His tummy is only the size of a walnut so he still doesn’t need too much. I guarantee it! Oh look, here comes my little Princess!”
The Princess was awake and peaceful now. The Queen had disapated most of her stress from the earlier incident with the nurse by talking with her neighbours and felt quite relaxed. “Put her on my belly,” she instructed her partner.
The baby lay on her chest with her little head turned to one side. Her lips turned into a little birdie beak and she began to root. Back and forth her head turned searching for food until at last she sensed what she wanted. She moved towards it her mouth open wide, and finally, with a smack of her lips she latched and began to suck. Her partner looked down on the Queen and the Princess with amazement and joy. A nurse who had been watching quietly from behind the curtain sucked in her breath. “Well, I never!” she stated. They all watched in wonder as the Princess nursed for a few minutes on each side and then fell asleep in milked-out bliss.
“Well, I guess I can cancel the formula,” said the nurse, turning to go. “For now.”
“My Princess won’t be needing any formula,” said the Queen. “This baby was born healthy, with a healthy weight to a healthy mom. She is breastfeeding now and I will continue to do so. She doesn’t need formula to fill her up because her stomach is the size of a chick pea. Tomorrow it will be the size of a grape and the next day the size of a walnut!” She took a breath and went on.”Furthermore, although I do hope you already know this, my breasts make colostrum to provide antibodies to my baby, not to serve the nutritive equivalent of a five course meal! My baby needs to sleep and adjust to the world, she does not need to be force fed formula. By giving these babies formula you’re interfering in their breastfeeding relationships with their mothers. You’re “f-ing” with these mom’s perfectly fine milk supply levels and setting them up to fail. As well you’re taking away from these precious babies their chance to receive nature’s finest immunity building substance known to people-kind! Tell me you already know all this and you’re just being forced by your manager or formula companies to give these babies bottles and I’ll stop yelling at you and go yell at someone else instead!”
The nurse was pale. “Uh,” she stammered. “Uhhhh…” and then without another word she turned and flew out of the room.
“Okay, settle down sweetie,” whispered the partner, “You’re going to wake the baby.”
There was clapping from behind the curtain. The Queen started to cry.
“What’s wrong?” asked her partner in alarm. “Are you okay?”
“I’m just so glad she latched,” said the Queen, as her shoulders heaved and she wiped away her tears.