I guess the whole idea of being in the ward is for the staff to observe and assist and make sure that mums and babies are okay and ready them for going home. I'm not going to bore everyone with stuff already known. What I do want to relay is my girlfriends experience with breastfeeding and the breastfeeding police. Like most mums, she wanted to get it right. You know; the bonding thing, coping, doing everything right, being the perfect mother. Red rimmed eyes told a different story.
After a little prompting she told me that she was having big problems breastfeeding; she felt pressure and guilt from the staff who advised, instructed and persisted on her doing the best thing for the baby. Now my girlfriend didn't particularly need to be told this, already knowing and wanting to do it. Despite her best attempts though, it just wasn't working. The harder she tried, the more uptight she became. Guilt, pressure and hormones all combined to make this a disaster. Even the visit to the chemist by me to buy a tommee tippee (spelled right?) nipple protector didn't solve the problem. The only thing achieved there was my embarassment when a sweet young thing asked "can I help you?".
Struth and crikey I thought to myself. Being a rank amateur in the breastfeeding game, I was still able to see a problem but didn't know how I could help. Of course being a guy I said the 'b' word as an alternative. My girlfriend, who had really slipped into patient mode, was not against this. She had already talked to the staff about it. This was discouraged in no uncertain terms. She continued to follow the advice of staff who had been handling her boobs like a separate piece of machinery in the quest to "do the best thing". She had been sneaking into the kitchen area fridge, taking a little bottle of formula made up for new borns (in case of something..), hiding it in her nightie somewhere, jungle crawling back to her bed and feeding our baby on the sly because he was not getting enough food. She pumped as well, no good.
Allowing for her being overtired and exaggerating, and me being a blockhead in these matters, I thought I would wait around and see what the staff were like in the area of alternatives. My girlfriend made it clear to me that she wanted to bottle feed and would say so. I wondered why not a combo; after all, a plastic nipple protector was worse than a bottle tip. Bottle and boob sounded the go to me.
The next visit by the breastfeeding police was awaited with trepidation. My girlfriend reverted to patient mode though and dumped it on me. At last I could be useful. It didn't go smoothly. No harsh words or anything like that, just this look. I felt the glare and started to sweat. My armpits felt itchy and my forehead felt damp. I almost withered under the look, the ward went quiet, even the birds outside were silent; everthing frozen in this moment of time. I felt like Ray (from Everyone loves Raymond show) getting the look from Debra. The moment passed though and it was settled, for now. The boob and bottle combo was a go-er. My girlfriend relaxed a little and she wasn't given the hard sell anymore.
Life is rarely like the movies and things don't always go to plan. In this case, breastfeeding became very secondary to the bottle. My point for this account is to highlight expectations against what can really happen.
This is not an exercise in staff bashing either. Overall, the staff at hospital were excellent. We called the breastfeeding advisors (nurses) the breastfeeding police because they were too authoritarian and inflexible in their approach. Quietly some other nurses agreed.
Lessons learned at this point were; try not to go into complete patient mode and be prepared for alternative choices. And for all those mums lucky to have no trouble breastfeeding; spare a thought for those who want to, but can't.