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Birth Plan Basics: What Should I Wear in the Hospital?

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I am frequently asked about the patient gowns that women are given to wear in labor.  Mothers want to know if they should and/or have to use them.

Comfort is important.

Many moms worry more about how their feet will look or shaving their legs before labor begins than what they will wear in labor.  It is good to feel comfortable in labor.  If getting a pedicure before delivery puts a mother at ease, then she should get one! The clothes a laboring woman is wears during the hours of labor and birth may have a bigger impact on her comfort than the color of her toenails.

What are you allowed to wear in the hospital?

You do have a choice!  I have labored mothers in everything from being absolutely naked. to being covered hear to toe. You are not required to wear a hospital gown.  You can wear whatever makes you feel comfortable.  There are some restrictions in the operating room.  If you are having a scheduled cesarean section or end up there after laboring, you will need to wear the hospital gown.  Hospital gowns are preferred in these situations due to infection risks and the types of monitoring equipment used in the surgery.  If you still would like to wear something else to surgery discuss your options with your nurse or doctor.

Pros and Cons of the hospital gown

Pros:

There is a fresh one waiting whenever needed.

You don’t have to worry about getting blood, poop or vomit out of it later.

Some are designed for breastfeeding or monitoring ease.

Cons:

They are made to accommodate a large variety of sizes and usually do not fit well.

Modesty can be an issue, especially while walking in the halls.

Hospital gowns can make you feel like a sick patient and less empowered.

What are my clothing options?

Occasionally I have labored a mother whom was only comfortable completely naked.  These were all patients that were laboring unmedicated. I provided modesty when she requested it with sheets. Tank tops or breastfeeding tanks are popular.  Sweat pants, shorts or yoga pants are easy to slip off for cervical checks and are comfortable for labor.  Skirts are comfortable, modest and do not need to be taken off for pushing.  There are specialty lines for labor clothes for example: http://www.prettypushers.comThe specialty clothing is designed to accommodate monitoring equipment and maximize utility and comfort.  If you do not want to pay the specialty price, there are plenty of other options.  In my most comfortable delivery I wore a breastfeeding tank and a maxi skirt with a wide, elastic waist band.  The ultrasound and toco monitors fit in the band so that I did not need to wear the monitor belts.  I moved around very comfortably and always felt modest.  When it was time to push it was easy to pull the skirt up and out of the way of the delivery.  I did not plan on wearing the skirt again, but I was happy to find that the evidence of delivery washed out easily.  I wore that skirt multiple times in my postpartum months.

Postpartum Tips

If you choose to wear the hospital gown for labor and delivery you can still wear your own clothes after delivery.  It is good idea to bring 2-3 pairs of comfortable, stretchy clothes with you for your postpartum stay and the drive home.  The hospital’s maternity underwear are disposable and great for giant pads.  Some moms prefer to bring in their own underwear or brief type panties.  Hospitals will often provide slip resistant socks for their patients.  You can bring in your own socks or slippers if you wish.  Breastfeeding moms will spend a lot of time with the baby skin to skin during the first few days.  Nursing bras are not vital for the hospital unless you feel uncomfortable without a bra.  You may want to wait to buy nursing bras until after your first week at home since your bra size will likely change.

 

The bottom line.  

Its your bottom and you can cover it however you wish!

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Sharing Breastmilk: Outdated or New Solution?

 

Wet nursing, or a woman nursingSkin to Skin another woman’s baby, has always been a part of the human experience. Although this practice has fallen out of fashion for most of the world, it still occurs. In the United States, mothers who feed other women’s babies are most likely doing it through breastmilk donation. There are several milk donation organizations that coordinate the screening, collections, treatment, and distribution of the breastmilk to NICUs (neonatal intensive care units) and newborns throughout the country.

I have heard situations where a neighbor will donate breastmilk to a mother who is struggling or unable to breastfeed. I have seen a community rally around a grieving father and donate breastmilk to a motherless newborn. I thought these situations were rare. I did not understand the vast resources that exist today for breastmilk donation outside of the hospital.

I met Kathleen Little at a breastfeeding support group. She had done everything that a breastfeeding mom is counseled to do to stimulate and establish a good milk supply. Despite her efforts her milk never progressed past the colostrum phase or Lactogenesis I. Kathleen learned through consulting an IBCLC (a board certified lactation consultant) and her physician that she has tubular breasts. Women with this condition have varied success breastfeeding due to having less glandular tissue in their breasts than is normally needed to exclusively breastfeed. Disheartened and spiraling into postpartum depression Kathleen reached out to other breastfeeding mothers for help. Her son was eight days old and wasn’t getting enough to eat. This mom wanted desperately for her baby to have the benefits of breastmilk even if it wasn’t from her breast. One mother put her in contact with a birth center that had a history of giving moms donor milk. Her baby started on donated breastmilk right away and continues to be healthy and thrive. Kathleen knew the donated breastmilk wouldn’t last long so she began searching for alternatives. She discovered organizations that guided her screening of donor mothers and helped her feel comfortable choosing this feeding method for the long term.

She states that one of the biggest obstacles was accepting the fact that she was unable to feed her baby exclusively from her own breast. An ongoing barrier is finding enough donors to supply her son. She supplements with formula when necessary. Kathleen shares, “…formula…isn’t evil, but it’s not what we prefer to have him eating yet.”

Her story amazed and touched me how important it was to her to feed her baby breastmilk. As a nurse red flags go up in my mind when someone tells me they got breastmilk off the internet. The possibility of infection, disease and improper handling overtook my medical brain. My first instinct was to reject her choice as an unnecessary danger to her baby. Kathleen was patient with my questions. She has done her research and referred me to websites that addressed all my concerns and some that I hadn’t thought about.

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Kathleen’s advice to mothers in a similar situation.

1. Don’t beat yourself up if you have low milk production. It’s not your fault. It will drive you crazy if you let it.

2. A baby needs a healthy happy mommy more than he/she needs to attach to a breast to eat.

3. If you reach out for donor milk, do not be afraid to ask the donor any and every question about health and diet or to ask for disease screenings (be willing to pay for this lab work). Full disclosure is the key.

4. You should never have to buy breastmilk from an individual. If you go through a milk bank that may be different. Do replace your donor’s bags!!!

4. Trust your mommy instincts. Only you know what will work best for you and your family.

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Read more about Kathleen’s journey in her own words.

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What Happened When I breastfed at a Texas High School Football Game…

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I have breastfed almost everywhere, doing almost everything. All together I have breastfed 65 months of my life. That is a lot of opportunity for nursing in public.
As a young mother, nursing my first baby, I was embarrassed and fumbling under large blankets most of the time. It was summer and my poor baby would be drenched with sweat under the modesty shield. My mother breastfed and was supportive, but beyond that I endured all the typical stares, questions and comments that breastfeeding mothers receive. I remember a shopping trip taking longer than I expected. I had to sit in an oven of a car, trying to latch my screaming, hot infant. I should have been sitting in the comfortably cool mall food court.

Something happened that changed how I breastfed my babies. I had more of them. When baby girl arrived, just after baby boy turned one, I had an epiphany about breastfeeding. I HAD to be more flexible! It was mandatory and everyone else would have to live with it. I would breastfeed when and where my baby was hungry, while keeping up with an active toddler.

This strategy worked well for me and in I fit right in with crunchy Oregon mamas. Then I moved to Texas. Women warned me that it is different in Texas, it’s an old boy system, no one breastfeeds there, and I wouldn’t be able to breastfeed in public. I avoided going out for as long as possible.   I am a band mom and I couldn’t miss my oldest son march with the band.   I steeled myself for the first high school football game. I sat in the bleachers, looking at the people around me.  I knew my baby was getting hungrier. I watched buxom blondes and brunettes walk by. Their breasts were barely contained in their school spirit tanks. I had a comeback all ready to go, for when the security guard came to tell me to leave. My comeback speech would be epic and would involve the aforementioned tank tops. Finally I gritted my teeth and slipped my little girl under my band mom T-shirt and she had her dinner.

That’s when it happened……absolutely nothing. Not one person commented or even managed a sideways glance. I was not able to spout off my clever retort.  I wasn’t made a fearless champion for breastfeeding, singled out for ridicule or praise.  I was just a mom watching my kid march with the band while feeding my hungry baby.

I have since breastfed everywhere in Texas, museums, parks, NASA, the DMV line, restaurants, hospitals, schools, and churches. I breastfed for the last time in our town’s Christmas Parade, sitting on a float in the freezing cold.

I didn’t know it would be the last time or my last baby. That’s just how it happened. It happened in Texas.

My advice to all you new and experienced mamas: Feed your babies where and when they are hungry! I wish I had been more comfortable the first go round. I wish I had not tortured myself and my baby because of society’s ideas about public breastfeeding. We have all heard the stories of boobie backlash. I challenge you to go ahead and brave it. You might get some negative comments, but in most states you have the legal right to breastfeed in public. Maybe someone will be watching you, a future mom or dad. Seeing you confidently breastfeed could make their choice to breastfeed easier.

You will be surprised that, in most cases, no one will give you a second glance.

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A Mother’s Breastfeeding Journey

Kathleen Ramsey Little

Successful Breastfeeding Mom

Written by: Kathleen Ramsey Little

August 2014

I’m sitting on the edge of a cliff grasping for what little branches I can find to hang onto.

Using all my strength to keep from plunging down to the deep dark waters of depression below.

I feel incomplete.

Like I’m not a full woman. It’s as if I am not what a real mom should be. I want to nurture and feed him enough to support his life like a mother is supposed to do, but I can’t and it’s tearing me apart inside.

A daily struggle with thoughts saying I’m inadequate. Not good enough. Not a real woman.

I feel defeated.

No. Reaching harder so I don’t fall.

My child will still thrive and be healthy. My baby is loved. He is my world, my life, my everything. I must hold on for him.

I’ve done my best; I’ve tried my hardest. I am a real woman; I am a good mom. My best is more than good enough. I love my baby and he loves me.

Breastfeeding doesn’t only mean attached to the breast. It also means expressed AND donor’s milk.

I am NOT a failure.

I am a Successful Breastfeeding Mom.