There has been much discussion at LinkingParents.com in regards to the shock, discouragement, and even anger we are feeling at the lack of breastfeeding support in Edmonton's hospitals. A fellow LP'er and (dare I say) lactivist, describes it best in a letter to Dr. Jack Newman, one of Canada's leading breastfeeding gurus, voicing her concerns.
Dear Dr. Newman,
Since I had my baby 8 months ago, I have had the opportunity to hear stories from many mothers about their experiences in the hospital after they have had their babies and about the breast feeding help they received from hospital staff. I am quite saddened by many of the experiences as they illustrate the lack of knowledge that exists in maternity wards regarding breast feeding. For example, one mother had a 10 lbs 2 oz baby and was told that she could not breast feed because her baby was too big. I've heard stories of baby's being given bottles without permission from the parents. Just last week this happened to a friend as she had left her baby in the hospital nursery and had a quick shower only to come back and find that a nurse had given her baby a bottle even though the bassinet said "breast fed only". Some mothers are told that there isn't any staff to help them with breast feeding. Mothers are told that their babies must have formula or they'll get jaundiced. And nurses hand out nipple shields like they are the miracle solution to all breast feeding problems. Many of the mothers I've talked to have had a nurse suggest one to them, myself included. The lack of knowledge and education that continues to persist in maternity wards regarding breast feeding is huge and many mothers who set out to breast feed go home bottle feeding because of this.
I want to do something to change this but do not know where to begin. I know that I can continue to offer support to new moms who are trying to breast feed but I would like to do more than just this. I would like to see changes happening, starting with the hospitals and what goes on there. I've thought of compiling a huge list of the stories I have heard that illustrate the anti-breast feeding practices that go on in hospitals because I do wonder if the hospitals realize just what is happening on a regular basis. I've thought of contacting the media as well because I wonder if that'd be interested in a story regarding this, but don't know if that would get me anywhere. I've thought of writing to my MLA but also wonder how far that would get me.
I write to you because you have made such an impact and made such progress with spreading awareness of breast feeding and helping mothers succeed at it. I would like to know if you are able to point me in the right direction or tell me how I can make a difference. I feel that I cannot sit and listen to all these depressing stories but that I must do something to make a change. How can I make a difference? Where is a good place to start?
I know you are busy and I thank you for taking the time to read my e-mail and respond.
And his reply:
Dear Ms. S,
I would encourage the mothers to write to the hospitals as a start. Help them with the letters if they are too busy to write. Send copies to the CEO, the chief of pediatrics and to the vice president in charge of nursing and the head nurse in postpartum. In most provinces, the college of nurses considers the giving of supplements without informed consent as professional misconduct. If the mothers are upset, they should complain to the college, formally, in writing (but they won't).
Yes, write your MLA (what province are you in?). And the minister of health. And the opposition health critic(s). Contact the media, you never know when you will get a sympathetic journalist.
See below my name what I'm trying to get mothers in Ontario to do, but there is not much hope in Ontario. The minister of health just stonewalls.
We now have an instructional DVD for breastfeeding. For a preview and more information, see http://www.drjacknewman.com/. This website also contains other information about breastfeeding as well as video clips showing breastfeeding techniques such as how to latch a baby on, how to know a baby is drinking from the breast, how to use compression, amongst others.
See also my book, Dr. Jack Newman's Guide to Breastfeeding (HarperCollins, 2nd revision 2005) as it's called in Canada, or The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers as it's called in the US (new edition just published in November 2006).
I now also have a new book out, published by Hale Publishing, called The Latch and other keys to Successful Breastfeeding. Ordering information is available at http://www.ibreastfeeding.com/
Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC
We no longer receive government funding for our clinic and are in real danger of having to close. If you value this service, please consider a donation to the Canadian Breastfeeding Foundation (registered charity) and earmark the donation for the Newman Breastfeeding Clinic and Institute. You can donate through their website http://www.canadianbreastfeedingfoundation.org/
If you live in Ontario, please write to the Minister of Health in Ontario, Mr George Smitherman when you get a chance. He says women are getting good breastfeeding help in Ontario. If you don't agree let him know:
firstname.lastname@example.org; CCU@moh.gov.on.ca; George.Smitherman@ontario.ca. Copy all three of these and past into the To: line.
For good measure, send the same letter separately to the deputy minister of health, Ron Sapsford, Ron.email@example.com; Ron.Sapsford@ontario.ca and to the minister of health promotion Jim.firstname.lastname@example.org
And sometimes, if you send it to opposition parties, more might get done. It is always better to send the same email separately to each person.
Leader of the conservative party of Ontario, John Tory, email@example.com the health critic Elizabeth Witmer firstname.lastname@example.org and Shelly Martel of the NDP (She is not the leader of the party, but she has been very helpful on this issue) email@example.com.
If you wish, I would appreciate if you send a copy to me as well firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is definately a worthwhile project. And I love the idea of gathering stories together to inform the hospitals on what really goes on. Keep an eye on the BLISS blog: I may put out the official call for stories soon.