BY ELISE MCMAHON, GUEST WRITER
’Shared Responsibility’, what does that look like … in action? So much of nursing falls squarely on the nursing partner’s shoulders.
And the suggestions for how we can get much needed rest usually consists of pumping and letting someone else feed, or supplementing with formula so that it’s not so much work.
But if you actually ask one of those super parents who do pump, it’s not less work. Full stop. It’s just not.
When we got my little one home from hospital, my husband watched on as I fed and fed, especially during that witching hour, which for ours was more like 2-3 hours straight feeding in the evening. He felt helpless watching on and not knowing what to do to support me. And then something clicked. He got into action taking responsibility for the things that weren’t nursing.
He: 1. Made dinner and then sat next to me, cutting it up and feeding me mouthful by mouthful as I fed our little one through the evening. 2. Made snacks (bliss balls, lactation cookies, and hummus) before he travelled for work to keep me nourished and supported. 3. Woke up and changed littles nappy when she woke, and then handed her back to me so that I could feed her back to sleep. 4. Got up after the morning feed, popped her in the carrier, and took her for a long walk while I got some much needed extra sleep and rest 5. Accepted that I didn’t need permission to stop breastfeeding, and suggesting that if it’s hard I should give up was not honouring my goals or ‘being supportive’, it was ‘trying to fix’ something that was hard but not broken. (this one took some conversations and some time) Those moments helped me through some really intense times with our little one and 100 percent allowed me to set up a successful nursing relationship. Hospitals
My little one was whisked away to special care the moment she was born. I was not allowed to see her for hours as they made sure I was okay and got her settled in.
We were told the visiting hours at the door and I legitimately thought I wasn’t allowed to visit my daughter, except to feed at the allotted time. She was on oxygen when she was born and I was told she wasn’t allowed to breastfeed until she was removed from oxygen. I went downstairs and woke up every 30 minutes to try to express colostrum.
I was tired stressed and not getting far. The nurse tried to help by shaking my boob ... I still laugh at that bit.
After many many follow ups I was told I was allowed to go and feed my little girl. I got in there, and fed her, feeling like a rock star and then had to put her back. I was told to come back every 3 hours to feed her. She didn’t want to wake that often so they told me all the tricks to wake her and keep her awake. When I came back in to feed her the nurses mentioned that she was becoming dehydrated.
I noticed she was sweating every time I visited (they had a 9.6lb (4.35kg) baby in a humidicrib with the heater on). They listened and moved her to an open crib. They listened to me. In my 4 years of parenting since I have come to understand just how rare and beautiful that moment was. The next 24 hours consisted of me trying to wake my little one to feed.
I was so stressed I was crying in the nursing room (not a great recipe for lactation).
The lactation consultant just happened to be there, so she came over and told me to stop trying to wake her. She said ‘just take your t-shirt off, put her to your chest, and she’ll wake when she’s hungry’ (note: my little one was healthy and big, and not at risk of hypoglycaemia) and it was like being given permission to just mother my daughter. I cried with relief. I still remember that moment as the moment being a parent really all began for me.
She fed through the dehydration and my particular brand of kindly worded harassment saw us discharged later that day. We got home, I got some sleep finally and woke with footballs attached to my chest…. So it begins….
MCHC/government support for new parents
Did you know that if your baby has antibiotics in hospital it puts you at risk of nipple thrush and them at risk of mouth thrush? No? me neither. I learned this from Pinky McKay last month…. Last month. I’ve been breastfeeding for 4 years. Did you know that post natal anxiety and depression isn’t just crying all the time or feeling disconnected from your baby, and that actually it is far more complicated and nuanced? No? me neither. My experience at the MCHC was one of being ignored, and not really spoken to. I told them my stitches had blown out a week after the birth, and they told me to come back at 6 weeks for my mother’s follow up appointment. I didn’t come back, I felt ignored and minimised. Shared responsibility looks like resourcing the MCHC with maternal healthcare professionals who are educated in post natal anxiety and depression and are available when mothers need follow up appointments for their post natal health.
The Hong Kong government has communicated it’s intention to support nursing parents to nurse longer. One way to support the nursing relationship, is to provide the kind of help new nursing parents need to stay physically healthy. Medical Professionals
Do you know how many things I have heard blamed on breastfeeding?:
· Post natal depression and anxiety
· Maternal exhaustion
· Paternal relationship with the baby
· Eating issues/weaning to solids issues
· Weight gain issues after 1 year
· Tooth decay
The list goes on and this is not just my experience…. Sharing responsibility includes medical professionals educating themselves on heath issues related to nursing, ensuring they’re reading the research before they share an opinion, and if they don’t know an answer saying ‘I don’t know, I’ll look into that and get back to you’. So many of my most frustrating interactions with medical professionals have included them passing off their cognitive bias as expertise instead of doing the research and coming back with an informed opinion. I luckily enjoy reading scientific journals, so was able to argue backed up by research, but I shouldn’t have needed to. No one, who is trusted as a medical professional, should be passing off biased opinions as informed facts. As you can see, we do still have a long way to go in our efforts as a society to take shared responsibility for supporting the nursing relationship, but also there’s so much hope.
I successfully breastfed after birth trauma, through a severe lip tie, multiple bouts of thrush, post natal depression, biting and twiddling and nursing aversion because beside the experiences I had being minimised, ignored, and given incorrect information. I was able to gain amazing support from educated and amazing volunteers and my peers via social media.