The children’s hospital responded to my letter

A few weeks ago I wrote about my rocky road back to work from maternity leave and our trip to accident and emergency in the local children’s hospital when the baby got dehydrated from gastroenteritis.  After some encouragement from Anne-Marie of, I decided to write to the hospital about the incorrect breastfeeding advice that the doctor gave us. As Anne-Marie pointed out in her comment, not everyone might be confident enough to challenge the advice of a doctor and I thought it was important to bring it to the hospital’s attention.

I won’t share my letter with you here because I waffled on a good bit and your time is precious, but to summarise, I described the events of the night, the advice we got, the reasons I felt it could be damaging, asked them if they had a breastfeeding policy and requested that their doctors receive continuous professional training  in treating breastfed babies. I was at pains to point out how absolutely brilliant and attentive the doctor was outside of the breastfeeding advice. She really was. Out of courtesy, I also informed them that it was likely I would publish their response on my blog.

I received a really positive letter in the post today from the hospital’s paediatric emergency medicine consultant.  I thought you’d be interested in what she had to say:

“Thank you for raising your concerns with our team, thus giving us the opportunity to address this issue.  We as a department and hospital unequivocally support the HSE and WHO guidelines on breastfeeding and the advice you received was clearly erroneous.

(Redacted hospital name), as a national tertiary referral centre for a wide variety of neonatal problems, understands fully the importance of breast milk in the infant diet and the irreplaceable advantages it offers.  A hospital-wide breastfeeding policy is in place, and indeed our department has developed a number of clinical practice guidelines for our junior doctors to follow for a number of specific conditions including gastroenteritis.

Both this guideline and the accompanying parent information leaflet emphasise the recommendation that breastfeeding should be continued during gastroenteritis.  The parent information leaflet which you should have received, is attached.  The staff member who looked after (Baby S) on that evening, was unfortunately not familiar with the recommendation. We have found her to be an extremely hard working junior trainee who has recently joined us as part of her training in general practice.

I have discussed the issues raised with her and am satisfied that she is now appropriately informed to advise breastfeeding mothers of ill infants. Furthermore, we have put an education package in place for all trainees rotating through our department, which will be delivered at their commencement with us.  I trust that this addresses your concerns, and I thank you for highlighting the issue with us.

Your truly…”

I’m really happy I wrote the letter so a very big thank you to Anne-Marie for giving me the nudge.  It’s really reassuring to read how highly they rate the benefits of breastfeeding.  For me, it’s just one more confirmation of what a brilliant health system we have.  I know a lot of people have had negative experiences with the Irish health system, and it clearly has its faults, but on a personal level, I have had some really excellent care – from emergency health, to maternity care through to women’s health. It has been exceptional.  I do feel a little guilty for calling out the doctor who treated S because she was really lovely and a good doctor but I suppose that is the consequence of writing a letter of complaint in the first place.  The consultant ended the letter by saying she trusts she has addressed my concerns and in fairness, she has gone above and beyond addressing them.

Incidentally, you might also be interested in this quote from the information leaflet they sent with the letter:

“We advise that you offer small amounts of fluids frequently to your child – just like you have done in the Emergency Department. We suggest you continue normal feeds if your child is breastfeeding or formula feeding, you can also supplement with Dioralyte or another rehydration solution – ask the doctor before you go if you’re not sure which fluid to give your child.  Offer a drink each time they vomit or have diarrhoea.”

Good to know!

Hey lady! Get your hands off my baby!

One of the lovely things about your new baby is that everyone stops to admire your beautiful bundle when you’re out and about. I used to flush with pride when people would comment on how cute baby S was or mention how blue his big eyes were. (Hey, I still do!) But sometimes people cross the line, just a little. And when I say people, I’m actually talking about a very specific demographic. It was a friend of mine who pointed it out to me. I hadn’t made the connection until she said “do you notice it’s always women of a certain age?”.

Oh, I’m going down a controversial road here but sure, in for a penny, in for a pound!

Here’s the accusation: older Irish women seem to have a penchant for accosting strangers and their babies in shopping centres.

I have two personal case studies of my own to impart.

Incident #1: When baby S was but three weeks old, I had a really successful outing to the local breastfeeding support group. I was thrilled with myself. I’d chatted to other new mums with their small babies. We’d successfully had a cup of coffee and something to eat. We’d all breastfeed in public. I was brimming with confidence as I prepared to go home. I was feeling plucky enough to try and pick up some new babygros for my rapidly expanding baba before returning to the car but when they didn’t have his size, the kind lady in the shop offered to check the stock room for me and things swiftly started to go downhill from there. I had miscalculated when the baby might get hungry again and as the minutes ticked by while we waited for the clothes, baby S kicked off. You know that desperate insistent cry that can’t mean anything else except “I’m starving mama!” I was keen to get home as soon as possible, so rushed through the sale and then rushed to the car park meter. While I was desperately fumbling through my bag for change as the poor baby’s cries grew louder and louder, this WOMAN appears out of nowhere and started rocking the side of the buggy and leaning in to stroke the baby’s cheek. “Ah poor little baby, poor baby” she says. “Isn’t he beautiful? You know he’s dehydrated, don’t you? Do you have a bit of water or anything at all for him?” The polite Irish lass in me bit my tongue and said “I’m just going to feed him now” while she continued to stroke his cheek and rub his head. “Oh, he’s very dehydrated”, she said “but you’re doing a great job, a great job”. What a wagon! I was very upset and flustered then. She was delaying me from comforting my child but stupid manners on my part were just as much to blame. What I should have said was “hey lady, get your hands off my baby – and mind your own business”.

Incident #2: In a distant shopping centre, far, far away – well, just up the road really – another similar event occurred. On the travelator, a woman standing beside me looked down at baby S in his buggy, turned to me and said “Ah! Isn’t he lovely? Beautiful, big blue eyes” and then said the following as she stuck her hands into the buggy and pinched his cheek “Of course I shouldn’t be touching him really. Some mothers these days, they go mad if you even think about touching them.” Politeness prevailed again! AND we were on a travelator. I was so distracted by this conversation, I didn’t realise we had reached the top. She hopped off and went about her business but the wheels of the buggy had turned sideways and we ended up getting stuck with the wheels just bashing again and again against the top of the roller. Next thing I get a bang on the backs of my legs as a cleaning trolley rammed into the back of me. I turned in shock to see a travelator full of people quickly heading my way for a pile up! Luckily I managed to free the wheels just in time. Feckin lady! I was mortified.

It was only through sharing these two stories with other mothers that we managed to piece together a patchwork of similar tales and that’s when the age similarity was spotted.

If you’re a post-menopausal woman reading this and you’re deeply offended, I apologise. But will you do me a favour? Tell your mates to stop touching stranger’s babies. Thanks 😉

Am I terribly bold?

The Top 3 things to say to a new mum

photo credit: chrisinplymouth via photopin cc
photo credit: chrisinplymouth via photopin cc

There are three things that you should say to every new mum, whether it’s her first baby or her tenth.  They’re very simple really.

  1. Your baby is so beautiful
  2. That’s a lovely name
  3. You look fantastic

It doesn’t matter whether you believe them or not. It doesn’t even matter if she believes them.  It’s just great to hear them.

It might seem like a statement of the bleedin obvious, but you should absolutely, definitely, NOT say the opposite of the above.  You’d be surprised how often this happens.  It’s the round about way that people say things that makes them think they’re being inoffensive.  Do any of these sound familiar?

“God, you look exhausted”

“They all look like old men, babies, really, don’t they?”

…and straight from my own mother’s mouth, “What other names did you have on the list?”


Her baby is beautiful and she does look fantastic, because even though she’s probably exhausted she has that lovely glow of a woman who’s just experienced that everyday miracle of birthing her baby.  Okay, you’re not crazy about the name but she doesn’t need to know that.  She loves it.

Go forth and compliment!

There are online lives and there are real lives

It was with disappointment that I read today one of my favourite blogs will be no more, and I felt sadness and dismay when I discovered why.

Repeat visitors to this blog may have noticed that I have a link to a blog called Labor and Deliverance, a fascinating and humorous blog written by a male OBGYN based in the States.  His description reads:

“Over 50 tired guy who thinks his job is the greatest one on earth. Assisting a mother’s delivery is one of the few times man gets to help God with a miracle.”

He is a natural birth advocate and therefore considered something of a renegade in the medical system that he works in.  I’ve always particularly enjoyed his posts because it’s unusual to read the medical perspective and he has a great caustic sense of humour about his job, his patients, his colleagues and the US medical system as a whole.

He posted his final blog entry last night because he feels he has no choice but to give up.  Here’s why:

  • He mentioned in a recent post that a labouring mother who had wanted a natural birth but was being pressured into a C-section ended up having the birth that she wanted because the doors to the operating theatre accidentally got locked with the mother inside the theatre on her own and the medical team outside looking in.  Opportunistic lawyers read his post and did their level best to find the mother he mentioned to encourage her to take a legal case against the hospital.
  • He attended to a frightened woman who had missed her last two antenatal appointments because at 36 weeks her doctor told her he wanted to induce her at 38 weeks.  When she declined the doctor tried to frightened her with stories about stillbirths.  She ended up having the delivery that she wanted but a senior partner was upset by how events unfolded and the loss of potential medical fees.  The nurse who assisted in the delivery was fired and rehired on half her wages and Dr Labor and Deliverance finds himself on call every second weekend with the rest of the registered nurses afraid to work with him for fear of the consequences.
  • People who dislike his medical style and his blog have been harrassing the owners of the blogs that he has in his blogroll and leaving abusive comments.

Although I am very sad to see this blog go, there is something deeply disturbing about the real life events that have transpired here.  A woman lost her job.  A man is being vilified and punished by his colleagues and the medical establishment for advocating for his patients and not extracting the maximum fees possible from their health insurance policies.  Pregnant women are suffering a clear injustice here in favour of making money.  I find it frightening to be honest.  It makes me glad I don’t have to have my babies in the US.

If you have a few minutes, I would recommend browsing through his archive before it’s taken down.  I do hope he decides to leave it up even if he doesn’t post anymore because apart from anything else, it serves as an historical record.