Today I ran into an acquaintance who had recently given birth. She was waiting for her son to get off the school bus, and my kids had stopped to watch a bulldozer while walking home from gan. I wished her mazal tov and we chatted for a moment about schools. After a bit she asked whether a lot of mothers call me, and I replied that they do. She said that this time breastfeeding went smoothly for her; she had no engorgement or pain (to be honest I don’t remember details of her previous experiences but she didn’t quiz me!).
Now that she had raised the subject, it turns out that she did have one other question: “What do you think about bottles in the hospital?” I responded that they should be avoided if possible.
A little background before I continue: In most Israeli hospitals, babies are nursed in their mothers’ rooms during the day, but stay in the nursery at night. Mothers who want to breastfeed must ask the nurses to wake them up. Now mothers should not have to make a special request in order to breastfeed exclusively. Instead, hospitals should need to get a signed statement from parents granting permission to give newborns formula. I can dream, can’t I?
In the meantime the schoolbus came, and the mother asked her child to wait while she told me the story: She had given instructions to wake her when the baby cried at night. After waiting anxiously half the night, she finally went to the nursery where she found a half-drunk bottle of formula in the baby’s bassinette. This mother had tried so hard to do the right thing, and protect her baby, but in the end her efforts were undermined. She felt helpless and cheated by the hospital staff and the system.
After sympathizing with her, I suggested she write a letter to the hospital with a copy to the Ministry of Health. We breastfeeding advocates can rant all we want but until the hospital’s customers complain, nothing will change. Letters of appreciation help too.
(For more information see Marsha Walker, “Just One Bottle.”)