Hospital Lactation Care Q&A: What to know before delivery-day

Every hospital approaches lactation care differently. If you plan to deliver in a hospital, it’s important to understand exactly what you can expect once your baby arrives. Sometimes asking a few questions will help you prepare you for all of the different scenarios that come with bringing a child into the world, not to mention helping you figure out what is best for your family. To help you navigate the world of lactation care in hospitals, here is a list of some questions to ask your healthcare provider before the baby comes.

6 questions to ask your hospital about lactation care

1. Can I spend time skin to skin right after delivery?

Instead of the hospital taking your baby away for examination right after delivery, you can ask for immediate skin to skin contact. Also known as the golden hour, this when your baby is placed directly on your chest before he or she is cleaned, examined or measured. Studies show that as long as your baby doesn’t require immediate medical attention, the benefits of an uninterrupted hour of bonding time can be endless for mom and baby, not to mention it can stimulate milk production. Hospital protocols can be modified to support uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact immediately after birth for both vaginal and cesarean births, so make sure to communicate your wishes to your doctor.

2. Is there an on-site lactation consultant? And will I have access?

Find out ahead of time if an IBCLC is on staff at your hospital. While some hospitals may have a resident lactation consultant who makes rounds to every patient, others may simply have nursing staff to aid in getting your breastfeeding relationship off on the right foot. The truth is that quality lactation care can make all of the difference, so If breastfeeding is important to you, make sure to find out what kind of care you can expect. If your hospital does not have an IBCLC, consider establishing a relationship with one ahead of time so that you can ask your doctor to prescribe a visit if things aren’t going well out of the gates. Even if you get the hang of breastfeeding right away, having a professional you can rely on will give you peace of mind.

3. Is there access to a hospital-grade breast pump?

For those who may have a little trouble kickstarting that breastfeeding relationship, a hospital grade breast pump like the Medela Symphony may be just the tool you need. Whether your infant is having trouble latching and needs that extra bit of colostrum or you want to help your milk come in faster, a high-powered pump will stimulate milk production to help provide breastmilk for your baby. If the hospital doesn’t have one, remember that Ashland Health can help you secure a hospital-grade rental through your health insurance.   

4. Is there a hospital nursery?

The new big debate of maternity wards is if babies should spend the night in a nursery so the mom can recover, or stay in the same room for extra bonding time. Both schools of thought are totally acceptable, and ultimately it’s up to the mother. Moms who are recovering from childbirth are exhausted already and deserving of a good night sleep without judgment. Some hospitals are eliminating nurseries altogether, so make sure you know what to expect. After a long delivery, with no nursery, you may need to call in family members for reinforcement so they can hold the baby while you get some much-needed rest.

5. What is your formula policy?

Some babies don’t take to breastfeeding quite as easily as others. Whether they are tongue-tied, having difficulty staying latched, or the mother’s milk hasn’t come in, it can be very unnerving when a newborn drops weight immediately after birth. Don’t panic—you have options. If the hospital recommends giving the baby formula, ask for a little more time to get things right. You can pump to stimulate milk or additional colostrum, or we would recommend you ask for the help of a lactation consultant. And of course, fed is best, so if the hospital recommends supplementing with formula early on, don’t worry, you will still be very likely to establish a great nursing relationship.

6. What is your pacifier policy?

A pacifier is an amazing tool for soothing little babes. The problem is that the sucking motion of a pacifier is different than that of the breast. Some doctors recommend holding off on introducing a paci until mom has established a good milk supply and the baby has established a good latch. Most hospitals are A-Okay with giving your baby a pacifier, so do your research and decide what is best for you!

The most important thing for mothers to know going into the hospital is that it is okay to ask questions. If a nurse or doctor makes a recommendation, requesting more time to make the decision that is best for your family is perfectly acceptable. There is no right way to parent in those first hours with the baby. Still, knowledge is power, so the more information you have, the more prepared you will be to make a decision you are comfortable with long term. Remember: Ask for what you need to get what you want. If you do not like the answer, ask again or ask someone else.