Welcome to November's Carnival of Breastfeeding! This month's theme is breastfeeding experiences in the hospital. Be sure to check out the links to other contributors' posts at the bottom of this one.
I'm going to take a different angle on this topic. I want to focus on the importance of giving feedback to hospitals about our breastfeeding experiences.
Why? Recent data from the CDC shows that only 8.1 percent of hospitals follow practices known to increase exclusive breastfeeding rates. Mothers who deliver in hospitals that follow these practices are six times more likely to achieve their intention to exclusively breastfeed. Another study found mothers who delivered in hospitals that followed only one of these practices were 13 times less likely to be exclusively breastfeeding at six weeks.
I strongly believe that we need better, evidence-based support for breastfeeding in our hospitals. I also believe that practices can change, and that as mothers we have an important role to play in bringing about that change. Here are a few things I think you should know about hospitals:
1) Most hospitals act like businesses. You are their customers. Most of us have choices about where we have our babies, and hospitals know that. They want you to hire them to help you deliver your baby, and they should know if they are falling short in an area that is important to mothers. If they're doing a good job, they should know that, too.
2) Hospital staff are trying to do the right thing. None of them come to work with the intention of sabotaging your breastfeeding experience. They just sometimes don't know what the right thing is, or they don't have the skills to make it happen. Or maybe they lack the communication skill to convey it appropriately. All of that can be changed.
3) Most importantly, your feedback matters - a lot. Hospitals track patient satisfaction, and these measures are taken very seriously. A single letter from a mother can lead to a change in policies and retraining of staff. A letter with positive comments strengthens the convictions that people are doing the right thing.
Here are a few tips for providing your feedback to a hospital:
1) Explain who you are and why you're writing.
2) Tell your story, as clearly and factually as you can. Include statements you recall from different people involved, and specific things that contributed to the good or bad experience you had.
3) Explain what you think and/or feel about what happened.
4) Tell the hospital what you would like to happen next (a written reply, a reevaluation of a policy, etc.). You may want to reference evidence-based practices for support of breastfeeding, like the Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, or the Baby Friendly certification.
5) Be as respectful as you can, without sacrificing any relevant information.
6) Send your letter to the director of maternity/childbirth, the CEO, and (importantly) to risk management.
If you're feeling intimidated by the institution, or if you're worried about offending someone in a small community, remember that there is always a way of respectfully expressing your dissatisfaction without sacrificing the truth. Think it was too long ago to matter? It could be that nothing has changed since then, and you'll be helping other mothers avoid a bad experience. Or you may hear back that things have changed for the better. Either way, it's worth it.
Here are some other great posts from carnival contributors (updated throughout the day):