Wednesday, February 18, 2015

when this feels like a battle that may not be won

Five day old twins, latched and nursing for the first time.
-My milk isn't here yet.
-My baby isn't hungry yet.
-My baby is sleeping all the time.
-My baby doesn't want it.
-My milk is "bad".
-I am poor, I can't.
-I don't have milk.
-The baby doesn't suck.

These are the things we are told when we ask new mothers at the large maternity hospital if they have offered their one, two, three, or more day old baby the breast yet.  

Many, maybe most of those we visit each Wednesday, will tell us one of those things.

Skin on skin and breastfeeding in the first hours of life are not only proven to be the best option for babies, we also know it helps with early bonding.  

In materially poor places, bonding is a luxury. Obviously, bonding comes more naturally to those that have their basic needs met.  Poverty often steals from women their ability to deeply invest in their babies or to have hope that their baby will live.  Breastfeeding not only increases a baby's chance of living, it increases the mother's ability to hope, love, and bond.

For this reason, we don our scrubs, grab our gloves, climb into the ambulance every Wednesday and wind our way through the traffic and potholes to go visit the hospital.  We understand that our chances of truly encouraging breastfeeding in the short interactions we have with the patients is not super likely. 

Yes, we can show a mother how to latch her baby and we can talk about the importance of skin to skin and colostrum, but without a lot of ongoing encouragement, a few words and a short interaction may not be enough. 

We go again and again because we hope that the nurses and doctors are watching, listening, and buying into the song we sing and the lessons we're trying to share. 

At times it feels a little bit like dropping grains of sand in the Grand Canyon, and hoping to fill it up. We don't leave the hospital feeling the abyss any less gaping. 

Even so, as long as we are welcome to enter the government hospital and come to sing and visit ladies bed to bed, we plan to keep throwing tiny grains of sand. 

Agathe helping a second time Mama get her two day old baby latched for the first time.

BondingThe levels of oxytocin hormone in a pregnant woman's body play a role in how closely she will bond with her newborn. In animals, oxytocin, dubbed "the hormone of love and bonding," is involved in good parenting and maintaining close relationships. Dr. Ruth Feldman and colleagues at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel, studied the role of this hormone in humans and found oxytocin is important in the bonding that occurs between mothers and their infants. Psychological Science, November 2007.