Look, CNN, just don't publish stories that annoy pregnant ladies. They might spend way too much time when they should be sleeping writing long and pointless rants they'll wonder why they bothered posting as soon as they hit post.
But hey, what else is going on here today? So: this story contains claims I have a lot of trouble believing. The headline itself is indicative of its outlook on responsibility: "Hospitals need to do more to encourage breastfeeding," handmaidens that they are of leviathan state (where breastfeeding is in esoteric vogue right now) rather than private businesses free to offer whatever services they choose. Sheesh.
As for the claims: "nearly 80% of hospitals were giving babies formula, water or sugar-water." I've had newborns in four different hospitals. As soon as I tell the nurses I'm breastfeeding, they slap a sticker on the baby's bucket that says I'M BREASTFED. What it means is, DON'T GIVE THIS BABY ANYTHING IN A BOTTLE. And they don't, because if they did I could (and would) go medieval on their hineys for violating my instructions.
I suspect that the real trouble is not hospitals sneaking formula into babies (in fact I have never seen a hospital do anything; they are quite inanimate), but mothers not saying, "I'm breastfeeding." What mothers say is, "We're going to try breastfeeding. Where's the pump?" They are uncertain that they'll be able to breastfeed, whether they really want to, and with regards to all the stupid things some anti-breastfeeding great aunt told them. Moreover, virtually no one breastfeeds using only their breasts any more. So suddenly, it's not an I'M BREASTFED baby. It's a DO WHATEVER YOU CAN TO GET SOME NUTRITIONAL SUBSTANCE INTO ME, IDEALLY BREASTMILK BUT REALLY WHATEVER WE CAN GET TO WORK OUT OK baby. And the dear nurses, bless their baby-loving, new mom-pitying hearts, do.
Another one: "Only one-third of hospitals allow mother and child to stay in the same room." I'm curious about the "allow" here. I don't doubt that at many hospitals, rooming in is not actively offered or encouraged. I have a hard time imagining it prohibited. At least one of our babies was born in nursery-normed hospital. When a nurse came in to wheel my baby off I just said, "Oh, she'll stay with us." And the nurse said, "Oh! Well . . . OK. Call us if you need a break." The hospital administration did not barrel into the room demanding that we give the nursery our baby. No one cared. Again, I wonder if this isn't a matter of mothers simply not knowing their options. Otherwise, I guess I'm just really lucky that out of four hospitals none of them "disallowed" rooming in when statistically 2.667 them should have.
Also regarding the "allow," if there's one thing I've learned from delivering in hospitals it's that, at least on the relatively minor questions I've had come up, hospital policy bows to fear of lawsuit. We've had nurses opt out of assisting in our room because of my weirdo demands like "Don't stick that pointy thing full of creepy juice in me." "That's hospital policy," they say. "Don't stick it in me," I say. "I'll have to go ask Dr. Important," they say importantly. A different nurse comes back, nothing gets stuck in me, and we all go on our way.
Let's see, what else? Oh yeah--want skin to skin contact with your baby immediately following birth? Say, "Hand over my baby." You can even be polite about it if you want because it turns out that being the person who gets to hand a brand newling over to its mom for the first time is a really awesome job that humans, including evil hospital doctors and nurses, like doing. (My only baby who didn't get immediate contact and nursing was the one who wasn't born in a hospital--freakin ha ha.) What if I need breastfeeding help after leaving the hospital? Well, there's a case to be made for the fact that I've, um, left the hospital. I don't expect Pizza Hut to keep supplying me with pizza after I've driven home. Etc.
Much of this "oh those horrible hospitals" report also strikes me as a bit optimistic with regard to mothers. The stories I hear from real live moms who called off breastfeeding usually go something like, "I was just so tired!" (this is before their 24-72 hour hospital discharge, not after three horrific weeks of trying to nurse at home) or "The baby liked the bottle better" (of course he did; he didn't have to work for it).
They honestly don't get it, and how could they? Few baby-free people in our comfortable society have any notion of how much a newborn needs. Asking one significantly injured person to deal with all those hitherto unknown needs is objectively sobering, and contextually insane. One hospital where I delivered DID actively encourage rooming in, and offered extensive breastfeeding services. The nursery was full, and the babies chowed down Enfamil without scarceness. When I availed myself of its breastfeeding assistance in the dark weeks that followed, it didn't help in the least, because breastfeeding problems are one of the main things that cannot be helped, but only endured.
I've got no shortage of objections to hospitals. The extremes of my delivery-related complaints and praises, though, are never for hospitals, but for a horrible doctor or a saintly nurse. Of far more relevance than the hospital are the individuals who happen to be on duty during one's stay. A hospital is not evil. It is too big and stupid to be evil. Its only motive is to attract my business again. The real potential for good or ill lies with the nurse in my room and the doctor or midwife I've hired. Bad ones ruin everything. Good ones make everything as good as possible.
I'd contend that whether or not a woman ends up breastfeeding is in most cases consistent with her previously held ideas about breastfeeding, and that in those cases where her intent is thwarted, it has a lot to do with a circumstance no hospital could have changed.