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Dear Public Health and Pediatric Nurses

It is ok for a mama to breastfeed her baby during a painful procedure.  The baby will not die from choking on breastmilk. 

Let me repeat:  It is ok for a mama to breastfeed her baby during a painful procedure.

My first pediatric visit with my firstborn ended badly when the nurse refused to let me nurse Norah during an injection.  I was crying.  The doctor had told me I could but the nurses shut the door and said it wasn’t gonna happen.  One nurse said, “You’ll strangle that baby.”  And she tried to take Norah from me.  Rather roughly.  Yeah, that wasn’t gonna happen.  I left in a blaze of postpartum tears. 

Recently, a mama friend stopped in at the local health department to get a vaccination for her baby.  The nurse belittled her and bullied her about her vaccination choices.  Then told her she could not nurse her baby during the shot.  She would “aspirate that baby.”  Now, this mama had nursed her baby through every heel stick and injection.  He has never cried.  This time he did.  And the mama left in a blaze of postpartum tears.

Really, is this request such a big deal?  Do you really, really think that this activity is dangerous?  Has there been a case of a baby dying from breastfeeding aspiration?  I haven’t been able to find one.  And babies choke on breastmilk all the time.  Especially when mama has a forceful let-down. Maybe mamas with forceful let-downs should not be allowed to nurse.   

I found  this American Academy of Pediatrics statement:   Breastfeeding during a painful procedure such as a heel-stick for newborn screening provides analgesia to infants.

And this study in Canada:  There are no reports of adverse events, such as gagging or spitting up. Compared with the frequency of breastfeeding, vaccine injections are uncommon, and it is unlikely that an infant will associate breastfeeding with painful procedures.

And several others.   

What I did not find was anyone with anything to say about aspiration during breastfeeding.  Where is the evidence? 

I couldn’t believe this was such an issue.  The breastfeeding books I read told me to do it…then I couldn’t find anyone who would support it!  When I finally found a nurse willing to administer an injection while I breastfed Norah, I admit I was a little nervous.  Would she choke?  Nope, she didn’t even cry or turn to look at the nurse.  

So c’mon.  Lighten up on this one.  Be a baby-friendly nurse, please.

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7 responses »

  1. I had this problem when I went to the Greer Hospital lab for Mary-Grace’s heel stick. I asked up front to be sure it wouldn’t be a problem and they said it would be fine. So, I held off nursing her during the very long wait and once I finally got back there the phlebotomist gave me a huge attitude. I asked for the lab manager who also gave me a hard time. I politely told them that I had been assured by the very kind lady who checked us in that it wouldn’t be a problem and that, if it was, I would leave. They were still refusing but someone had gone to verify my “story” with said kind lady who checked me in. She came to the room and the manager said, “Well, SHE can do it if she wants to, but I’m not sticking a baby that way.” I still had to lay her on the table and contort myself (even the kind lady wouldn’t let me just hold her…) but she nursed and did not cry. I made a complaint about the lab but gave the kind lady a compliment card. Too bad that it has to be so hard – and, apparently, widespread.

    Reply
    • So I should address this to phlebotomists and lab managers, too. That is so irritating! I can’t believe they made you put her on the table. The L&D nurses at Greer have been open to mamas nursing during the vitamin K shot.

      I took Cedar to the Pickens DHEC office for her heel stick. I kept her in the sling, exposed her heel, and then asked the nurse to wait until she was nursing. The nurse was pretty matter-of-fact about it. Unfortunately, it was Cedar, after all. From the moment she felt the woman’s hand until we arrived back home she refused to nurse and screamed bloody murder.

      Reply
  2. I don’t understand why it would be a big deal. They probably just need some training on how to do an injection while someone is holding the baby.

    Reply
  3. When we took Turner to Beirut for his first round of vaccinations, the pediatric neurologist (a woman) was surprised but supportive when I told her I wanted to nurse him. She said she had never seen such a calm baby and that she would recommend all her patients nurse their babies during shots. In Kuwait, the nurse (also a woman) gave me a hard time but allowed me to do it. Just a report from my little corner of the second world…:)

    Reply
  4. I was always afraid that the baby would associate heal prick/needle with nursing? Here I am nursing along and wammo something painful happens when I nurse? What are your thoughts on that?

    Reply
  5. Oh Julie! This is SOOOO important! I’ve nursed Evie through so many procedures and it’s been such a comfort to both of us.

    I would say it is most important to emphasize this with phlebotomists because if your baby is panicking, the blood drawn will be hemolyzed (broken up cells) and at the very least, it will need to be redrawn. (In our case, the dr on call in the e.r. thought she was going to have heart failure because so much potassium had been released from the cells!) Nurse your babies mommies! Insist on it!

    Reply

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