Friday, March 5, 2010

The Office Baby is Breast-fed!! (aka, Melody rants about nursing)

So, there are very very things on TV that I get excited about. I do enjoy a good Murder Mystery every now and then, but holy cow-- I love the Office!!! So much so that I started getting my kids ready for bed at 6:30 last night just to ensure that everybody was deeply asleep by the magical 9 pm (didn't work... *sigh*). So you can understand how, as a huge Jim and Pam aficionado, I was on edge all day-- waiting for the episode in which their out-of-wedlock-conceived-baby is born. (Yes, I am a heathen. I know.) As a whole, I was kind of disappointed in the show; it was fine, I had a few chuckles. Didn't change my life or anything.

However, I do think that, for such a mainstream show, it was interesting how accurately it portrayed the breastfeeding/attachment parenting culture in US hospitals. In one scene, Pam is frustrated as she tries to get baby to latch on. A nurse comes in, and strongly encourages taking a little break and bringing the baby to the nursery. She insists, "It will be okay; I will just give her a bottle in the nursery." When Pam argues that she's read about nipple confusion, and doesn't want the baby to have a bottle, the nurse rolls her eyes and rebukes Pam. Throughout the episode, the nurse is constantly trying to take the baby to the nursery, and continually dismisses Pam's breastfeeding struggles with a snide, "It's FINE. Lots of babies are bottle-fed!"

Now, don't misunderstand me: this isn't a tirade against mothers who, for whatever reason, choose to bottle-fed their children. This is, however, a tirade against health care professionals who, on one hand, write literature extolling the benefits of breastfeeding, while shoving a bottle of formula down your baby's throat with the other hand. As expectant parents, we read all the books about the whys and hows of breastfeeding, but modern health care does not equip us with the resources we need to successfully breastfeed our children.

But it doesn't stop with our feeding choices. We aren't allowed to be the parent anymore. Many hospitals require a litany of tests, the vast majority of which cannot be held in your hospital room. Our babies, who have been nestled safely inside us for months upon months, are continually wrenched from our arms and wheeled in a plastic bassinet to a germ-y, bright hospital room in which they are subjected to a series of loud beeps and heel-pricks. Jaundiced newborn Cana had to be placed under the bili-lights for hours on end; because of a new "security" measure at the hospital, I wasn't even allowed to go to the nursery to sit beside her bassinet and sing to her. My MOTHER was, but I couldn't be with my baby. We had to fight tooth and nail to try to prevent doctor-on-duty from recommending that Cana receive formula, believed to be beneficial for jaundiced babies. Newborn Evie was wheeled back from a test in the nursery, clutching a plastic pink pacifier-- one that I had specifically asked that she NOT receive.

There is no refuting, regardless of how you choose to feed your child, that breastmilk is-- hands down-- the best possible thing that you can give your baby. There are no close seconds. The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes this. The World Health Organization recognizes this. Why then do hospitals so very thoughtfully send us home with diaper bags chocked with cans of formula and buy one, get one free coupons? Even the lactation consultant at the hospital mentioned something to me about "when I start supplementing with formula". Wait, what?! When did I EVER mention that that was in the plan? We are taught to trust our doctors-- we believe that our pediatrician's word is as good as gold. Yet, all too often, they give us advice regarding breastfeeding that is just plain bad! I feel so sad for women who badly want to nurse their children, and don't have a network of sisters and mamas and friends who will come along side them in this journey-- and talk them down when it just seems easier to warm up some formula. (It's not.)

I know this sounds like a bitter rant against modern medicine. It's not. There are a ton of doctors out there, a ton of nurses and midwives, who truly want to help facilitate breastfeeding. There is an initiative called "Baby Friendly Hospitals", which prevents formula companies from preying on exhausted new mothers; it instead sends mamas home with a tub of Lansinoh and some nursing pads. Sadly, this is the exception and not the norm.

The Office ended with a sweet victory as Pam gets fussy baby to latch on and nurse for the first time, in the middle of a busy parking lot. As is typical, TV depicts a drama that has a happy ending in a half an hour. Breastfeeding challenges may last way, way longer than that. But as I cuddle with my two year old, and my baby, and nurse them down for the night-- I can unequivocally say-- it is absolutely worth it.

---*ahem* steps off soapbox----