Breastfeeding in the Operating Room

Over the next few weeks we will be sharing stories of triumphant breastfeeding mamas and their biggest supporters who helped them reach their personal breastfeeding goals. 


This story is from Dawn.

I have to thank my hospital TEAM for my breastfeeding success! 

When I gave birth to my son 5+ years ago, it wasn’t what any first time mom would like to experience. I was having problems with maintaining my blood pressure and when my little boys’ heart rate dropped too low, I was rushed into an emergency c-section. It was an extremely frightening process that didn’t even enter my mind as a possibility. The months that followed were hard. We struggled at finding a proper latch and feeding became such a difficult task, I dreaded it.

It never occurred to me that our difficulties at latching could have been because of the birth experience.

In early 2012 we received good news, we were expecting! I did my best to set everything up for a different birthing experience. I searched out a CDC accredited Baby Friendly Hospital in my area, researched VBAC’s and educated myself on the benefits of skin-to-skin.  It wasn’t until closer to my due date that I was informed I couldn’t have a VBAC.  No hospital would even consider me as a potential VBAC candidate because of my small heart issue as well as my age.  After fighting and pleading, I had to acknowledge that I had no other option, but another C-section.

I may have lost that battle, but I was going to do everything in my power to have skin-to-skin with my little girl. I was aware of the evidence-based research on the benefits of skin-to-skin and its success rate with c-section births. I talked to my pediatrician about this and he agreed.  (I since found out that it is the pediatrician who is in charge in the OR!)  I wrote my birth plan with the intentions of doing skin-to-skin immediately after the c-section unless there was a medical reason not to. 

Alas, I wasn’t able to make it all the way to my scheduled c-section date. This time I was low on amino fluids and baby’s lack of movement put me into the hospital at 36 weeks. With concern, my OB and the pediatrician, agreed, that under supervision, they would monitor me and try to get us to the 37th week and do the c-section. 

Now, prior to this, we made sure to talk with all the right people about our wishes for skin-to-skin.  Everyone was on board: our OB, the hospital’s labor and delivery nurses, and staff.  In fact, the hospital staff has been championing the change in procedures to allow skin-to-skin in the OR without success. 

The day of my C-section, my regular pediatrician was out of town and his standing replacement wasn’t comfortable at all.  I had to conveince the standing pediatrician that this was in my and my baby's best interest.  The hospital's Head Labor & Delivery nurse helped us get to a compromise!  She is my angel!  She proposed that if everything looked good my little girl would be immediately placed on my chest, without ANY other intrusion.... meaning the vernix would be wiped off her while she was on my chest and she would be weighted and measured later. 

When the hour came for us to have the c-section more drama around skin-to-skin unfolded, this time all the way up to the director of the Family Birth Center.  The director of the Family Birth Center was completely opposed to it and tried talking my OB out of it.  We were lucky we had enough support and commitment from the labor and delivery nurses and my OB to move forward. We finally got our wish!

I have to admit, because she was coming 3 weeks early, I wasn’t sure we would even get the option of skin-to-skin, but our little girl emerged perfectly!  She was screaming and quickly confirmed in perfect health! 

When she was placed on my chest and covered with a warming blanket, I was in awe.  This little 6 pound bundle was just perfect.  After a little while, she actually scooted and rooted for my breasts and eventually latched and nursed!   I just didn’t think I would get that experience since she was early.  The remembrance still makes me cry.  It was such an amazing experience.  I was so happy I had the team in my corner and the hospital went forward with my wishes.  

When I was first told I would have to have another cesarean, I felt completely out of control and very disappointed.   Creating a birth plan around my c-section allowed me to take a bit of control back and talking with all parties that come with a c-section allowed me the skin-to-skin connection that was deeply important to me.  

It has been over a year since Beth was born.  We are still nursing strong and have a connection that I attribute to the wonderful team that helped me get skin-to-skin in the OR! 

Side note:  I have since heard that they have allowed other moms the same experience!  The hospital team not only helped me, but also have persevered in getting policy “changed” at the hospital!  

Dawn Alva

Rumina Nursingwear