Ever since I published my post on our health care system I have been thinking about what I did not say in that post. You see, I left something out. It is much more personal and I just was not ready to talk about it. In the context of what I was saying in that post it seemed to rant-y and off topic. It is also one of those topics that people get on their soap box about. I just didn’t feel comfortable diving in right away. But I think it needs to be said. I need to get it off my chest. Therapy, if you will. Here goes:
My other complaint about the health care system: Political stances taken by the health care authority and nurses towing the line, rather then being trained to provide situation specific advice. First, let me say that I didn’t meet a nurse who wasn’t an amazingly caring person just trying to do their best. The health care workers are not the problem- it is the health authority. The health care authority that really pushes breastfeeding, but doesn’t provide consistent support.
Actually, now that I think about it, they really push a lot of things. From where your baby should sleep to when they should start solids to which vaccines they should get (all of them). These are very debatable ‘hot’ topics in the parenting world. Personal decisions, as far as I am concerned. Things that parents decide based on a lot of thought, personal circumstances and ones own values and beliefs. Short of having your baby sleep outside in the snow or feeding your 1month old raw meat (both bad by the way), most decisions are shades of gray. And frankly none of the health authority’s business.
Their role should be to inform new parents of the options out there and then encourage them to consider all relevant information. I am okay with them saying “we generally recommend x.” I am not okay with them getting into a debate with an obviously well-informed parent, who has clearly done their research and considered all the options. I trust the opinion of my doctor (we are lucky to have a great doctor), not some nurse who has known me and by baby for all of two minutes. No two families are the same, so why should the health authority be pushing the same advice on all? But I digress…
Breastfeeding. There were a handful of different nurses that tried to help me in the hospital- most of them very new, with very little training. There was no lactation consultant at the hospital. I saw numerous nurses in clinics for the first couple weeks after we left the hospital, all of them with different advice. I finally saw a nurse certified as a lactation consultant. More different advice. Then, finally, I was sent to a doctor who specialized in lactation consulting.
At 8 weeks my babies tongue got clipped, something that should have been done in the hospital as far as I was concerned. (If you have never heard of a tongue tie and want to know what the heck I am talking about: http://bit.ly/8fuTNS) We were told when she was born that she was tongue tied and that it might impact breastfeeding. Everyone we asked after that hemmed and hawed, and said it didn’t look too bad. Despite the clip at 8 weeks, problems persisted. (Actually, truth be told, they did the tongue clip twice, because the doctor that did it the first time didn’t clip it enough.)
I got a lot of advice and I was told to keep trying. Keep trying. Even though anyone who would have really talked to me would have known that it just wasn’t working. I tried every vitamin/tea/galactogogue food possible. Don’t even ask me about pumping. It wasn’t until 3 1/2 months in and my baby not gaining much weight, when the specialized lactation doctor finally looked back at my chart and realized that I had a medical condition that predisposed me to having troubles with lactation. The ‘what is wrong with me’ insecurity finally had an answer. And then I let go and gave the baby a bottle. It was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made in my life. It still makes me tear up to think about it. I wonder what my first 4 months with my daughter would have been like if the health care system had supported me and my baby, rather then supporting their position that ‘breast is best.’ Yes, ‘breast is best’, but health care should be provided to individuals and every individual is different.
What did I learn? What would I do differently if I had it all again to do?
1) I would have gotten a midwife. Alberta Health started covering midwives 7 days after my daughter was born. I am told by people that have used a midwife that they were very helpful with breastfeeding. Hopefully they would know me well enough after helping me through pregnancy and delivery to give me better, consistent and more individualized advice.
2) I would have trusted myself more, let it go sooner, and not listened to so much advice. I would have realized that nurses are wonderful people, but they are trained with specific answers to specific questions. Ultimately, the mother knows best.