Breastfeeding and Philippine Hospitals

"A nurse helping my 1 day old son nurse while I was in the ICU following his birth. At this point I was a quadriplegic and could only feel his soft hair and skin when he was placed by my neck to cuddle. Breastfeeding is the reason he was allowed to stay with me in the hospital for 5 months while I lived on the physical rehabilitation unit learning how to walk again (complications from when he was born). It's amazing how much baby stuff you can fit in a hospital room. We are still breastfeeding strong at 16 months! If this is not a success story I don't know what is. :D"

This picture was posted by one of my favorite online sellers, Lei of Caleb's Closet Ecostore, on her FB page. While I do not envy this mommy's particular circumstance, I do admit that I envy the support that she received from the hospital where she gave birth. Had this happened in the Philippines, I would bet that this little boy would have never tasted even one single sip of his mother's milk. This post prompted me to share my experiences with asserting my rights as a breastfeeding mother after giving birth to J and as I prepare for Little C's birth.

Towards the end of my pregnancy with J, I heard of the Unang Yakap program while attending a talk facilitated  by L.A.T.C.H. in Medical City. They showed us a video of the breast crawl, and maybe it was just hormones, but watching the way the baby in the video instinctively moved to his mother's breast just moved me to tears and I was determined to have the same experience for myself and J. I immediately discussed it with my OB, who assured me that the hospital (Capitol Medical Center) fully supports the Unang Yakap program and that they let the babies do the breast crawl right after birth. Needless to say, that made me very happy.

Fast forward a few weeks, and there I was in the delivery room. To be fair, they followed most of the guidelines stipulated by the Unang Yakap program. J was laid down on my chest directly after delivery by the OB reliever (my regular OB had to leave the country on an emergency) and he was dried thoroughly, his head covered by a cap. His cord was clamped accordingly and we waited for him to crawl to my breast and latch. 

Unfortunately, he was only given a few precious minutes to spend on my chest while my OB was stitching me up. The guidelines for essential newborn care say that the baby should stay with the mom for a least 90 minutes to initiate early breastfeeding. I doubt that I even got 15 minutes with my son. Far sooner than I would have liked, he was taken away from me and I was whisked away to the recovery room, where I fidgeted impatiently to be taken up to my room so that I could see J and feed him. 

While I made it clear that I wanted J roomed in with me so that I could breastfeed, I was told that since I had given birth late at night, I would be allowed to see J the next morning, at 6 a.m. when the nursery opens. I woke up early the next day and demanded to see my child, and if I remember correctly, had I not threatened to walk down to the nursery on my own, I probably wouldn't have seen him until much later. 

We were provided with a wheelchair and Big C and I went down to the nursery. To our disappointment, daddies aren't allowed in the breastfeeding area. I think I felt even worse than Big C did, since I considered that our little family's very first time to be all together. I still feel robbed at the thought that Big C wasn't there to see J nurse for the first time. 

Inside the breastfeeding room, I was told to sit and wait while the nurse brought J out. At this point, I would like to say that on the whole, I found the nurses at Capitol very polite, kind and caring, but when I asked the nurse if J was latched on properly, she gave me a very vague answer that was not helpful at all. Since J fell asleep after that first nursing session, I just assumed that we did okay and went back to my room to wait for J to be roomed in with me. FYI: I gave birth at 9:02 pm on November 5, 2010. J was only brought to my room the next day around lunch time.

That first night was a nightmare. J wouldn't stop crying the whole night and would only quiet down when I put him to my breast to nurse. In the middle of the night, in a panic, I called a pedia resident to come see if J was nursing properly. She watched him nurse and said, "O ayan, sumisipsip naman e. Malakas naman sumipsip, so siguro may nakukuha." But he still wouldn't be comforted and only finally fell asleep when I laid him down next to me on the bed, at close to 6am. (At that time, I thought it was because he was so exhausted and hungry that he finally fell asleep, but in hindsight, it might have been the comfort of being next to me that soothed him. My mistake might have been insisting on placing him in the isolette every time he quieted down and it was possible that he kept waking up because he was looking for me.)

The next morning, after much pressure from my mom, which played on my uncertainties and fears as a first time mom, I agreed to give my baby formula. When the reliever OB visited me, she commended me for finally giving my baby formula. I don't think I'll ever forget her words. She said to me, "You know, I'm all for breastfeeding, but sometimes you have to give them formula na. Baka wala pang milk na lumalabas. Tingnan mo yang anak mo, nanghihina na kasi gutom." The pedia didn't help. She prescribed formula instead of assuring me that not all breastfeeding relationships went smoothly and encouraging me to keep at it. She basically said that if I was insistent on breastfeeding, I could have J latch and just give him formula after so that he could sleep.

Much as I don't like to blame things on other people, the experience of my first night with J, combined with pressure from my mom, plus the admonishment from my OB and lack of support from my pedia drastically sabotaged my attempts to breastfeed.

This time around, with Little C, I brought up the importance of the first latch again with my OB (the regular one this time. She'll be here when I deliver, I checked!). I asked her if Little C could stay longer with me this time, maybe even at least 30 minutes just so he could latch properly. She repeated that the hospital supports the Unang Yakap program but that it is against hospital policy to allow babies in the recovery area. If I wanted, I could sign a waiver that says I am to be taken to my room immediately after delivery so I can room in. But she emphasized that hemorrhages often occur in the first two hours after delivery, which is why moms are left in the recovery room. If I choose to go to my room, I wouldn't be monitored as closely. The best that she can promise me is to make arrangements with the pediatrician to ensure that Little C would be cleared as early as possible for rooming in. 

I brought this up with some other breastfeeding moms and I was advised to remind the hospital that I could take legal action against them. I was told that by impeding my efforts to breastfeed and by not providing a supportive atmosphere (from the doctors and nurses especially), the hospital was in violation of the Milk Code and the Rooming-in and Breastfeeding Act, and that their status as a breastfeeding/mother-and-child friendly hospital will be in question. While I do want to have the whole experience with Little C, I am a little unsure about this course of action and I feel a little uncomfortable entrusting my life and my son's to a hospital that I essentially threatened. 

So to our mommy readers, were you able to reap the benefits of the Unang Yakap program when you gave birth? What was your experience like? And what would you do in my situation? I'm giving birth to Little C in three months and I still don't know what to do. Let's see what my fellow mommies have to say!


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