If you haven’t read the first two blogs in this series, you may want to before delving into this blog. The story makes more sense as a whole. . .but is too long to tell in one blog. You can read the first part here and the second part here. To quickly summarize: We were in the hospital discussing our ‘options’ as we disagreed with the hospital’s treatment plan regarding our newborn daughter, Meghan.
Almost the End of the Story
Meghan was not nursing well, as by this time she had had numerous bottles and not a lot of time at the breast. As we went before Meghan’s assigned pediatrician to discuss our plan, (who was not her regular pediatrician) we were told the following:
*Parents are not allowed to take babies out of the hospital against medical advice.
*Our concerns were not warranted and I should not breastfeed around the clock.
*Should we choose to take the baby out of the hospital, the hospital would be forced to call the police and report our baby as kidnapped. It was also inferred that by leaving AMA (against medical advice), despite the fact that we were taking the baby to our own pediatrician and following a different course of action (as opposed to completely ignoring medical advice), one could press child abuse charges and our other children may also be removed from the home.
*Even before legal action was threatened other terms and phrases were thrown around like: “Be a good mother and let your child stay.” “Mothers who truly know what’s best for their babies always follow doctor’s orders.” “Don’t make rash, hormonal decisions.”
Frankly, I do regret letting her stay and wished we had obtained a lawyer or gone before a patient‘s advocate committee. It is well documented that there is a lot of substantial bonding that happens in the first few days and frankly, I think Meghan was deprived. I had to go see a lactation consultant to correct her nipple confusion and get her nursing properly not to mention the fact that research also documents a decline in immunological function when babies receive formula. (Again, another decision that was taken away from me.)
Hospitals Need to Get It Straight
I am certainly not advocating leaving the hospital against medical advice. I am saying that I believe it is the parents who have final authority regarding the care of their baby. If as an adult, I choose not to have a procedure done the law says that it cannot be done. Why then do hospital staff feel that it is their right to disregard parents’ instructions? I have talked to numerous people who have felt sabotaged in their breastfeeding efforts by hospital staff. There’s even a forum about it here! Hospital staff need to view their role as facilitator rather than dictator. Leave decisions up to parents–please!
The Real End of the Story
After Meghan’s pediatrician reviewed her hospital records and after a certified lactation consultant reviewed her records, we were encouraged to complain to the hospital board. We did. We wrote a letter, sited research backing our position and our pediatrician also signed it. We spoke with whoever would listen to our story including the head of pediatrics at the hospital, the ethics committee, and a patient advisory panel as well as the “lactation consultants” (who were really just nursing with an extra class or two in breastfeeding).
I am happy to say that the hospital changed their policies substantially as a result of our complaints and the complaints of others. I gave birth to our twins there and their approach has changed substantially. While they are not breastfeeding friendly in the way that some hospitals are, no one went against our wishes either. They adjusted their morning and evening schedule to accommodate the breastfeeding mothers on the floor. I even have to say that they worked especially hard to accomodate us since we had twins. The nursing supervisor who threatened to call the police was “transferred” as a result of our complaints an action that I can only call appropriate.
You as parents do have rights when you give birth to your baby. Check out my next blog in which I’ll explain what specifically you as a parent have the right to do should disagreements arise during your hospital stay.