Booby Traps Series: “Everyone told me something different.”

This is the 18th in a series on Booby Traps, made possible by the generous support of Motherlove Herbal Company.

Once when I was working in a hospital breastfeeding clinic I met a sweet couple and their newborn.  They were looking frazzled, and were clearly nearing the end of their rope with breastfeeding.

They said what I’ve heard from so many parents about breastfeeding support: “When we were in the hospital, every nurse told us something different.  One nurse said to latch her this way, the next said to do it a different way.  One nurse said that pacifiers were bad, the next said they were fine.”

But what made me laugh (they did, too), was their follow up:  “So, we just do whatever the last person we talked to tells us to do.”

I’m glad that this couple had a sense of humor about it, but the reality is that inconsistent breastfeeding advice is no laughing manner.  It frustrates parents, creates more problems than it solves, and it saps the credibility away from breastfeeding support people. It can also make parents feel quite isolated.

Those of you who have experienced this confusion first hand may not be surprised to see CDC data show that only half of U.S. hospitals report that “nurses/birth attendants are assessed for competency in basic breastfeeding management and support at least once per year.”  Staff training is one of the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, which forms the core criteria for Baby Friendly Hospital certification.

Annual training might sound like overkill, but remember that nurses’ preservice training in breastfeeding support can vary a lot, from minimal to extensive, and that there is always staff turnover.  Staff training can also vary in format:  paid or unpaid, mandatory or optional, held for all shifts or just one or two.

I often wonder if another area of medical care were substituted for “breastfeeding support,” how much of this inconsistent care would be tolerated.  Don’t you?  Wouldn’t there be an uproar if every new shift a nurse came into surgery patients’ room said, “Oh, no, that’s not a proper IV.  That last nurse got it all wrong.  Let me fix that for you.”

You deserve consistent, evidence-based breastfeeding support.  We are moving in that direction, but for now many of us must contend with this frustrating Booby Trap.™

Did you get inconsistent advice about breastfeeding in the hospital?  How did it impact your breastfeeding experience?

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16 Comments | Last revised on 09/19/2011

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