Prompted by a question on a Facebook post about whether her hospital was Baby-Friendly, Janet McKay replied that her first two children “were born in a non-baby friendly hospital 😔,” but the facility where her third child was born was “baby and mama friendly” and she “had an amazing experience.”
We were intrigued, so we contacted McKay to hear her story.
It turns out she was speaking about “baby friendly” (small “b” and “f”) in general terms and knew nothing about the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (large “B” and “F”) until we told her about it.
“I didn’t even know Baby-Friendly was a thing,” she says.
We quickly confirmed what she already knew instinctively: her first two children were delivered at a facility that is not Baby-Friendly designated and the hospital where she delivered her third child (Little Company of Mary Hospital in Evergreen Park, Illinois) is, in fact, a Baby-Friendly designated facility.
“I’m not at all surprised,” says McKay. “By my standards, they were very baby-friendly. I didn’t know they had a certification, but they certainly seemed baby-friendly to me.”
She says her first two birth experiences were “not terrible,” but she felt like nothing was in her control.
For example, with her second child (Leo, 3 years old in July), McKay says she went in for her 37-week check-up, and when they discovered she was 100% effaced and two centimeters dilated, even though she wasn’t in labor, they sent her to the hospital.
“I was kind of surprised because nothing was going on,” she remembers. “But I went because I didn’t know my options.”
In the hospital, they gave her Pitocin to induce labor, along with an epidural, and the baby arrived about two hours later.
“They took him from me right away, gave him a bath and all that. They told me what to do and just kind of did everything,” she says. “It was just kind of matter of fact, like I had gone to the hospital for a procedure.”
“With my third child, I wanted to do it on my own terms,” she recalls.
So, she decided to switch to a midwife at Little Company of Mary and says the birth of her third child (Ezra, 3 months) was a completely different experience.
“With Ezra, I didn’t go into the hospital until I was in active labor, even though I was 100% effaced again and walked around two centimeters dilated for a week and a half. And not once did they ever offer to induce me or tell me to go in. So, I went into labor very naturally,” she says.
McKay says this time around she was in control.
“They allowed me to turn off the lights in the room and let me play music. I was able to go into a bathtub when I wanted and to move around as much as I could. They never once offered me an epidural or anything like that because I had already told them I didn’t want it.
“When the baby came, he was immediately put on my chest. I got to do skin-to-skin and was able to breastfeed right away. They let my husband cut the cord.”
Best of all, McKay says, they never took the baby away from her.
“Everything was done in the room with me right there and they asked me before they did anything,” she remembers fondly. “It was just a very comforting, very peaceful birth and aftercare. It felt like a more natural and more maternal experience, when before it was more like I was a patient at a hospital.”
A more fulfilling maternal experience naturally translated into better breastfeeding results.
“I tried to breastfeed my first child (Sophie, 4 years old in July), but I didn’t have any support or knowledge,” McKay recalls. “I couldn’t get her to latch and I ended up giving up around two weeks and switching her to formula.”
My second child latched on right away and I breastfed him for 16 months, easy. I didn’t need any support.”
But her third child had a tongue-tie that made latching more difficult.
“He was latching, but it was like a shallow latch and I was having issues with pain. It hurt really bad. I was able to see a lactation consultant in the hospital who helped me tremendously and then I was able to go once a week to see her with a group. That was so very helpful to me.”
Ezra is now successfully breastfeeding.
“I feel like if my daughter, the first one, was born at Little Company, I would have been able to get her to breastfeed,” McKay says. “If my second hadn’t latched right away, I probably wouldn’t have ended up breastfeeding him either because of the lack of support.”
McKay’s message to other mothers is that it’s all about choices – having knowledge and knowing your options.
“Whatever you want to do, it’s important to be informed. Whether you want to breastfeed or you don’t want to breastfeed, it doesn’t matter. The key is having the support to make an informed decision for what’s best for you,” she says.