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Sahira Long's picture

As I sat listening to Angie share the story of her birthing experience, I was saddened to realize how similar it was to my own, even though the hospitals were almost 1500 miles apart. As she described how she sent her son to the nursery to allow herself to get some rest, I wondered if anyone provided any information to Angie prenatally about the benefits of rooming-in since she was planning to breastfeed. I clearly recall that no one on the health care team mentioned those benefits to me during either of my pregnancies. I reasoned that they treated me differently than they would a patient who was not a physician because they assumed I knew more than the average patient. I still recall how I had to walk to reclaim my own son from the nursery each time the nurses came to take him out for a routine procedure that could have easily been done at my bedside. “We’ll bring him right back,” I was told…Three hours later, I would walk gingerly down the hall to get him after being told no one was able to bring him back when I called to ask if everything was okay.

When Angie expressed her dismay at being offered some “just in case” formula when she went home, it made me think of my own dismay at discovering a can of formula powder in the breastfeeding-mom diaper bag the nurse sent home with me. I clearly recall turning down some “just in case” formula when being discharged home. I was already a practicing pediatrician and had explained to the nurse that I knew where to purchase formula if there was a medical reason to give it. In different states, we both came to the conclusion based on our research that “just in case” formula would undermine our breastfeeding success, so why was it offered? Why wasn’t I offered a “just in case” breastfeeding support group or the number for a lactation specialist instead? It is clear to me that neither hospital was following evidence-based maternity care practices that support breastfeeding. I had already breastfed my first son successfully, so what could have been a serious blow to my confidence actually inspired me to work through the DC Breastfeeding Coalition to help change the system.

Both Angie and I were able to overcome these less than ideal birthing experiences to successfully breastfeed thanks to the support of our husbands and families. We both went home with financial resources that would enable us to get help needed to overcome any initial hurdles. We were fortunate to live in places that don’t qualify as First Food Deserts--a neighborhood where there really isn't any access to breastfeeding support. Unfortunately, that is not everyone’s story. With so many women leaving their birthing facility to enter communities where breastfeeding has not become the norm, it is critical that they are helped to get off to the best start possible. To me, that means implementing evidence-based maternity care practices during the pregnancy, labor and post-partum period and sending them home armed with information on where to get help should the need arise.

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