"I waited and waited but they didn’t call me. . ."

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.”)


  1. Wow, I guess things are much better up north than in the merkaz. In both Nahariya and Tzfat, you have the option of full time rooming in. No need to worry about them coming to wake you during the night as you can keep the baby next to you – though reality is that most women don’t choose the option. (In fact, when I was in Nahariya, they were so thrilled that I was planning to room in because the nursery was overflowing)

  2. Always interesting how different hospitals can be. Of course I am in America, but the nurses at my hospital would wake me up every two-three hours and with my first I remember asking them if they could just give me a 1/2 hour more. The nurses answer: no. My next birth, they pretty much forced me to take the baby at night (which was not my preference because of my c-section). But, I guess I can’t complain. They certainly didn’t interfer with the nursing. 🙂

  3. I gave birth in Beilinson and gave EXPLICIT instructions not to bottle feed my baby. They ignored me the first evening (he was born at 4:30 pm), claiming that my gestational diabetes put him at risk for low blood sugar yada yada yada and he needed the formula to keep his sugars up, the cholostrum was not enough. After that, amazingly, some hidden instinct kicked in and (of course, with the help of natural childbirth adrenalin coursing through my veins) I found myself waking up at night, arriving at the nursery BEFORE they had a chance to shove a bottle in his mouth. I was so disappointed that there was no night-time rooming in, after my fablulous U.S. birthing experiences. This brought me back 19 years, when I had my first at that same hospital. In any event, even though I HAVE seen one bottle given to a week old infant destroy nursing, that was not my experience.

  4. mominisrael says

    Shoshana–my friend emailed me that Tel HAshomer now has rooming in at night, so things are much better here in the Merkaz. But I know someone who just gave birth in Jerusalem, and they separated her and her baby because there was no room in the rooming-in ward.
    SL–if you have a c/s it’s good to have someone stay with you at night–that was my backup plan for my last babies but fortunately I didn’t have a c/s.
    Tamiri==in my experience a good deal of the time the baby starts getting bottles because the nursing is already going badly and the bottle is just the final nail in the coffin. If the mother refuses the bottle, but doesn’t get good support for fixing the nursing, she will end up giving more later when the baby loses weight. They offer bottles as a quick fix because they can’t or won’t fix the breastfeeding (usually a matter of sitting with the mother and making sure the latch is good).
    If nursing is going well one bottle is unlikely to mess things up badly, but as you can see from the link it’s not optimal.


  1. […] Misbehaved schoolgirls? I don’t think so. It’s much more condescending to undermine a mother’s decision to breastfeed by giving bottles without her consent. This occurs daily in Israeli hospitals. […]