Beware of Baby Friendly

Precious Baby is 2 weeks old.  He is alert, making eye contact, growing stronger, and sleeping well.  Sounds perfect, and he is, but there were several moments when such a wonderful outcome could have ended in disaster.  The rights that women like myself fought for in the 1980s have morphed into what is called the “Baby Friendly” movement, and I view it as dangerous for mothers and babies.  I first heard the term “Baby Friendly” when a friend of DD’s posted on facebook that pacifiers were forbidden in the newborn nursery at her hospital.

Forbidden?  Really?  Mothers at that hospital don’t have rights about how to comfort their crying baby?

When my mother and grandmother were born, babies were delivered at home with a doctor or midwife in attendance.  Women nursed their babies, because there weren’t other choices.  There were difficulties, of course.  My grandmother lost her first baby because the doctor arrived at the house drunk and tore her up pretty badly.  There weren’t treatments for things like ABO incompatibility, which are easily remedied today.

By the time I was born a few years after World War II, things had dramatically changed.  Pregnancy was treated like an illness.  Women went to the hospital to have babies, and from the moment they were admitted they lost all their rights.  My Dad was kicked out to a waiting room.  Enemas were required.  So much anesthesia was given that my mother didn’t remember my birth.  She just woke up with a baby in the nursery down the hall.  My mother wanted to breast feed me as her mother had breast fed her, but the doctor insisted that she supplement with formula.  Supplementing with formula in the first few days lowers milk production, and soon the doctor told my mother she didn’t have enough milk and she must stop breast feeding.  She told me how sad it made her and how she didn’t even try to nurse my sister.

In the 1980s, parallel to the health food movement, there was a movement for natural childbirth.  Women fought for the right to have their husband in the delivery room, to skip the enema, to have a voice in pain control, to be informed about episiotomies, to keep the babies in their rooms instead of sending them off to a nursery, and to forbid formula supplementation in the nursery.

My first child was born in a delivery room, but the hospital did allow fathers to be present.  I chose not to have any pain medication, but to have an episiotomy.  I could have SS with me in my room all day, but they took him to the nursery at night.  I never changed a diaper in the hospital, the nurses did that.  I told them emphatically that if he woke crying they were not to give him a bottle, but to bring him to me.  They did so…reluctantly I thought… but they did listen.

Four years later when my second child was born, things had improved so much.  DD was born in a birthing room.  My husband was encouraged to be part of the whole process.  He was the first to hold DD while the doctor finished with me.  She stayed in my room, and I got to change her diaper right from the start.  No one questioned my orders that she not get any formula at any time.

When DD’s first child was born in a small town in East Texas her experience was even better than mine.  The hospital had her fill out forms for a birth plan – included were questions about her desires for every aspect of the childbirth experience, and the plan became part of her hospital record.  There was a hide-a-bed where SIL slept, and they learned to care for their baby together.  The only thing they didn’t do was bathe BC.

After that wonderful experience, we were all surprised by the attitudes at the big city hospital where PB was born.  Baby friendly is filled with protocols, rigidly enforced by the hospital that take away many rights of the mother and father.

This blog has reached its limit.  I’ll post another installment in a couple of days.

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