Dear Labor & Delivery Nurse,
Thank you for supporting my birth doula client with me through transition, your words were supportive and kind. You honored my client and her innate ability to trust her body. You spoke softly and gently, you gave words of encouragement and affirmations. I could see how supported my client felt. It gave me a renewed faith in your hospital.
After about 20min of my client basking in the glow of her newborn, something changed in you. Your hospital was recently designated as Baby Friendly, which as both a doula and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, I applaud the systematic change that took! You and your hospital see the value of ensuring breastfeeding starts within the golden hour after birth. What I didn’t expect for you to do was suddenly and forcefully decide it was time for my client’s baby to latch. You came over and said, “it has been about 20min, I think we should get her to latch.” You raised the bed nearly upright and then you took my clients fresh pink and healthy newborn and began forcibly shoving her face to my client’s breast. Her baby then started fussing and was not happy, and you said “don’t worry, we’ll get her on.” I stood there, next to my client watching you and wondering what on earth was going on. After a minute or so I calmly suggested we try repositioning. I changed the angle of the bed to allow my client to lean back more, I then talked my client through moving her baby over a bit so when baby came to breast her airway would be nice and open. I guided my client, with my words, on how to move her opposite arm across her baby’s back to support her head and neck. I explained how to use her other hand to hold and support her breast. Then without a fuss, her baby latched on for the first time. I did not physically assist at all. It was beautiful and my client was glowing with pride. This only took a few minutes. I did not rush, I was not concerned.
After a minute or so of a beautiful latch, on IBCLC Day no less, my client’s husband thanked me to being there and helping be sure breastfeeding got off to a great start. Maybe you didn’t know how hard breastfeeding was for their first baby? Maybe you didn’t know how medicalized and disempowered my client felt postpartum with her first child, as she was diagnosed with postpartum preeclampsia within minutes after birth? Maybe you didn’t know how important this postpartum time was to her? I did. I knew she could do it. I knew she wanted to do it. I continued to believe in my client and her ability to mother and latch her baby on her own, just as I had known she could birth without pain medication.
Our actions are powerful and a women who is still in the beautiful mind space of the golden hour does not need to be forced, she can be guided and, more importantly, empowered. I encourage you to take all the wonderful knowledge you received in the course of your facility’s Baby Friendly designation, and find ways to continue to honor the journey of motherhood. Just because you know how to do something, doesn’t mean you should. Find those words of empowerment you gave in labor and apply them to the immediate postpartum. Take a moment to use your words to guide the mother through the first latch. It may take some practice, but that is okay. Empowering a mother to latch her baby for the first time on her own is hugely powerful! You will imprint on her that she can do it, and that she can do it without physical help! Observe and commentate on the latch. Explain what you see and let her know! If adjustments need to be made try to talk her through them first. I promise this does not take a lot of time. I know your time is rushed and you have so many things to do and other patients, but I am telling you, taking this extra moment will save you time and empower your patients. You want to be remembered for giving the gift of empowerment, not for being the one that did it for them.
An empowering doula and IBCLC