A Baby-Friendly, Mom-Friendly C-Section
Sherry Moon just had a baby. In fact, when I met her, her daughter Ashiya was just one day old. For Sherry, this is the fourth time she’s given birth. However, this time was different in a very positive way.
Why? Not only was this Sherry’s first time delivering at UVA, but what also made the big difference for her were the new practices and policies UVA has instituted in the last year to earn accreditation as a Baby-Friendly hospital.
Sherry didn’t come to UVA because of the Baby-Friendly designation. But her experience proved to her that when a hospital focuses on the mother-baby relationship, it can have an incredible impact on their emotional and physical health.
A Room of One’s Own
Sherry has the big, softly lit room all to herself; every maternity room at UVA is private. A big inviting grin on her face, Sherry talks with animation and emotion. Frequently, she smiles at the swaddled bundle sleeping soundly in the glass bassinet parked beside her.
Sherry, who lives in Lynchburg, starts by telling me why she’s here at UVA, so far from home. While her family has visited, she’s mostly been by herself.
Her first three children were delivered by c-section. During the third, “the anesthesiologist couldn’t find my vertebrae. Then there were all these precautions because of my weight, they said I was high-risk, so they referred me here.”
The Benefits of a Teaching Hospital
Sherry was scared. She worried about another problem associated with anesthesia during her c-section. She was also “kind of nervous because it’s a teaching school – a university. I was like, OK, they’re going to have the kids working on me, and this is serious stuff. I was real antsy and couldn’t sleep.”
It turned out she needn’t have worried. The clinical expertise of her caregivers earned her trust. “My whole surgical team did a wonderful job. I have little to no pain after my c-section.”
Having extra team members at her bedside meant more personal attention. “I’ve really enjoyed the students and residents. They’re genuinely concerned. If you have a question, they don’t brush off what you ask them. They sit down and listen. They made me feel like I was at home.”
Mother and Baby Bonding From the Start
When she starts talking about her daughter’s birth, tears arrive.
“The whole experience was lovely. They do things other facilities don’t do. For instance, it’s my fourth c-section, but it felt like I had a natural birth. Sorry; I am going to cry.”
She pauses, takes a breath. In accordance with c-section practices used around the country, her first three newborns were whisked out of her sight right after birth. “The baby goes with a nurse and maybe the father, whoever is there. But after you’re done, they’ve got to stitch you up, put you in your recovery room, and then you have to wait until they put you in your other room before you can see or touch the baby — so I’m the last person to even see my own baby.”
Sherry was surprised when things went differently this time.
“When Ashiya came out, they cleaned her up a little bit, made sure she was breathing correctly, came and put her on my chest. I had never experienced that. I’ve been able to see everything. And that has really meant a lot to me. Just because you get to peek at her when they show her to me (during a c-section) doesn’t mean I have counted her fingers and toes, seen her, known she’s my child, you know what I’m saying?
“Here, the whole time they were stitching me up, I sat there holding her, and I was just crying. You know, I could kiss her arm, and the bonding started instantly. I really liked that.”
Breastfeeding Support: Encouragement Makes a Difference
That immediate skin-to-skin contact between mother and child played a crucial part in helping Sherry breastfeed her baby.
She explains, “That’s what kind of got me to breastfeed. Because they as soon as they put her on my chest … she grabbed a breast and started nursing.”
Again, while this is her fourth baby, this is the first time Sherry’s had any sort of success with breastfeeding. The hospital’s environment has made the difference, she says.
“Other facilities never pushed it. When you come into your room, they already have this bassinet stocked with baby formula. But here, they really pushed the natural thing. And I know that’s the way it’s supposed to be, because I’ve done a lot of reading and research, so I really enjoyed that.”
Sherry did have a moment where she almost gave up. The nurse “came in here because I was upset. I said, ‘I’m not doing it, I’m tired. I’m tired from the surgery.’ But she actually helped me move my breast to make the milk come out. We took spoons and fed it to the baby, and I saw how much it helped her.”
Ashiya’s blood sugar levels were low, and “two teaspoons of milk, a couple droplets, boosted her up.”
It also, Sherry notes, made her baby calm and content. “I’ve never had a baby this content. She doesn’t even fuss when she wants to eat. She just starts sucking on her thumb.“
Sherry’s also been pleasantly surprised to find out how well Ashiya tolerates her milk. “The other babies were gassy or uncomfortable. Ashiya is the only child I’ve ever had who has never had a milk intolerance. All the rest of the kids used formula; it messed their stomachs up, and they were constantly throwing up. “
No Nursery, No Problem
As part of the effort to become a Baby-Friendly® hospital, UVA transitioned away from housing babies in a nursery to keeping babies in the same room with their mothers. Research has found that babies flourish when kept with their mothers, and having that constant connection creates the best kind of security system available (according to Sally Miller, NP).
Sherry had been worried when she heard that there is no nursery at UVA. “I was like, what am I going to do?”
But the experience has been reassuring, not scary. “I found out I don’t need a nursery. Because the nurses are right here.”
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Not to mention, “This is real life! This is what you have to deal with, and they are here to work you through it. Because when you go home, there’s going to be nobody to put the baby away in a nursery when you’re tired. This is the real experience. “
Sherry says she will tell everyone about UVA.
“I really enjoyed it. I was kind of scared at first, I’m not going to lie. But how this place was run, the team—they’re wonderful. They are lovely.“