Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Standing up to medical professionals

A few weeks ago, Ella came down to human metapneumovirus and had a partially collapsed lung. She was hospitalized for 10 days and I spent the entire time there with her so I could nurse her, be there for her while she was sick and make sure she was held and comforted as much as she needed and wanted while she was so sick. About a week into our stay, I could tell that Ella was on the brink of a developmental milestone. I knew she was trying to laugh and I figured there might be one other thing. She was cluster feeding during the evening, as is normal with babies during growth spurts and milestones. Her nurse came in while she was nursing and probably about a half hour later, she came in again and we were nursing again on the other side. The nurse said to me, "Is she nursing AGAIN??" with complete dismay in her voice. I said, "Um, yes." Then she proceeds to tell me that she had HEARD that babies need to breastfeed less often and eat more at once or their stomach's won't grow. She told me I was nursing her TOO often and that she needed to feel hungry.

I'm pretty sure my brain instantly exploded. I was immediately on the defense and mama bear jumped out of my skin. 

I told the nurse, Ella nurses on demand, and nurses as much as she needs. Furthermore, she is not only comfort nursing because she's sick but she's also in the middle of a growth spurt and is nursing frequently because of that. 

So at this point, what should the nurse have done? It was pretty obvious that I was extremely irritated so you would think that she'd back off. Nope. No such luck. She actually argued with me. She had no proof of what she said, simply said that she had "heard" that was the case. Okay, we obviously know that that's untrue. Babies stomachs will grow and they should nurse on demand. We know this is fact. I don't know where she got this information. Furthermore, I don't know where she got off sharing information that was obviously completely false. Even if she didn't know it was false, I can't understand how she thought it was okay to share information with a nursing mom that she wasn't able to back up with facts. Saying she "heard" something is true ...? Again, with the brain explosion.

Having spent 74 days in the NICU, then another 10 days in the hospital with a respiratory virus, I've had experiences with every type of nurse there is. Old, young, black, white, female, male, ones with lactation training, ones without, traditional nurses, etc etc etc. I've had very few bad experiences and I truly believe that nurses are the backbone of healthcare. However, when I have had bad experiences, and I HAVE had a few, usually regarding breastfeeding (I had two run ins with nurses while Ella was in the NICU). Each time I've been as nice as I could but I've also been firm and stood up for myself. It's shockingly difficult to stand up to medical professionals but when it comes to something I'm as passionate about as breastfeeding and mix it in with my children...mama bear comes out.

We always like to believe that our nurses and doctors know best. I wish that were true but too often, we receive misinformation from them but especially breastfeeding. If you receive information about breastfeeding that makes you uncomfortable, or heck, if anyone tells you you have to supplement, or stop, question it. Contact a lactation consultant, a breastfeeding board, La Leche League. Do NOT be afraid to question medical professionals and stand up to make your voice heard if you feel it is necessary.


  1. Great post, Mama Christa. I, too, have had my share of nurses in the NICU, ER, and Pediatrician's office- the good, bad, and the awesome. There is tons of misinformation out there. Even if a health care professional IS an advocate of BF, they might have advice that isn't correct. If anything seems off to you, contact someone who specializes in lactation. Thank you for sharing that advice.

    Just a piece of personal experience - my strangest moment came when my DD was gaining weight slowly, and I was calling the pediatrician's office every week, updating them on her weight. I gave the nurse the info she needed, and then asked her to jot down that I had started pumping and skimming off my hind milk to supplement Abbey. There was a ten second silence on the other end - and then this: "um, WHAT kind of milk?"

    You would think that medical professionals would have at least the basic training in lactation, especially ones that work in a infant and child dominated field. But, no such luck. That's why it's incredibly important to be educated yourself and to stand up for what your baby needs from YOU :)

    Keep nursing, mama, and keep advocating for your baby and all babies!

  2. "WHAT kind of milk" oh my.... sad and funny. :(

  3. Ya. I would have laughed, if I wasn't so PO-ed that she didn't know anything about breastfeeding at all ;) I think it was the same nurse that tried to keep me from nursing Abbey through a vax.

  4. A subject close to my own heart! Have shared. Well done for doing a great job. xo

  5. You want to believe it's not true so much... but it is and it's truly shocking!

    I had a twin mum who had one baby admitted with suspected bronchiolitis. Mum was exclusively breastfeeding both girls (they were a couple of months old), the Consultant told her that she needed to give formula because then they could judge how much milk she was taking. Mum said she'd express. Consultant said there wouldn't be enough calories. Mum (I was on her speed dial) replied that there were more calories in breastmilk. Consultant said it needed to be fortified. Mum refused and asked for research based evidence. And do you know what that man said? (Blood still boiling) I don't NEED research evidence. I've been doing this for 20 years!

    And breathe...

  6. If a medical professional KNOWS something and has facts and a degree to back it up great. "I heard" is totally unprofessional. Who uses gossip as medical advice? That's just awful.

  7. During an illness, unless a baby or his/her mother is unconscious, nurse, nurse, nurse! There is no better 'food' for a baby ANY TIME! There is no better 'comfort' for a baby ANY TIME! There is no better stress reliever during a time of a baby's illness for mom and baby ANY TIME! Nurse, nurse, nurse!! If a baby is unconscious, 'pump' to keep milk flowing, and to feed to baby if milk gets low for some reason, or if you have to be away from baby for any reason for a short time, but keep that milk flowing, if you have to share it with another mother in a milk bank! Nurse, nurse, nurse! And those who are nurses, and have not had the training the needed in this area, let the 'mother bear' alone! She and her baby will manage this process nicely!

  8. This kind of thing absolutely terrifies me! Awful, just awful. But thanks for writing about it - I will def have a trusted lactation expert on speed dial as Mars said :)