I had to fight to be heard when it came to feeding my baby at the hospital

And I would tell any new mother to do the same.

facing feeding pressure in hospital after birth

"Here, try this, it's called the football hold," the lactation consultant said, moving my freshly born son to a side and angle that felt entirely unnatural for me. He was crying. I was screaming internally. None of this felt right.

My first baby had been born after 40 hours of labor that didn't progress. When his heart rate dropped, I called the doctor and said I was done. I had endured multiple miscarriages before getting pregnant with him. While I had been determined to have a vaginal birth, absolutely nothing mattered more than his safety. It was time to get him out.


The C-section was fine, and I imagined that breastfeeding would feel effortless compared to almost two days of laboring without pain meds. I was wrong.

I spent a year in therapy because of shame at my "failed" birth and my inability to breastfeed. When I went to have my second son at the same hospital, I went with formula in hand. I was not going to breastfeed. My thyroid disease prevented me from having a robust supply the first time, and my bout with PPD had been long. We found a formula that worked for us, and I knew that a happy mama meant for a happier baby (although I learned this the hard way).

Hours after my second son's planned C-section birth, nurses were pressuring me to pump. I'd halfheartedly attempted a few latches, but the baby couldn't get it done. (Eight weeks later we learned he had a severe lip tie and a minor tongue tie.) Every time the nurses came in, they nudged the pump closer to me and urged me to "just try." I felt guilty and could not say no. Thus started another breastfeeding journey that ended with feelings of failure and depression.

With my third baby, I was even more determined to do things the way I had learned was better for my mental health. I called the hospital ahead of time and told them that I would be bringing my own formula. I said I did not want a pump in my room, and that I did not want to be pressured to breastfeed.

The head lactation consultant was very supportive and even apologized for previous experiences when the nurses felt pushy to me. "They tend to think that a mom just doesn't know what she wants, fresh off of birth, with hormones and exhaustion setting in."

That struck me. Why wouldn't they assume that a mother knows what's right for her, and her baby? We don't trust mothers enough.

My third baby was born at 37 weeks with another planned C-section due to complications with cholestasis. There was no cry when she came out. I kept asking if she was all right because I couldn't hear her making any noises. "She's fine," everyone assured me, "just a slow starter." Her APGAR scores were both 8. I would get to hold her in a minute.

After 45 minutes, they said they were taking her to the NICU. I burst into tears on the operating table. No immediate skin to skin. Not even a good look at my third baby, my sweet little girl. I sent my husband to the NICU with her because I couldn't fathom her not having a parent nearby.

While I waited in recovery, no one mentioned pumping. While I sat in my room for four hours, alone, waiting for my legs to regain feeling, no one asked about breastfeeding in the NICU.

Once I finally got clearance to sit in a wheelchair and go to the NICU, my baby was eight hours old. I'd never been away from my other two newborns that long, ever. The moment I entered the NICU is seared into my mind. My tiny baby, hooked to cords and monitors, a feeding tube in her mouth, CPAP in her nose. I held onto her hand. She was here, she was safe, but I had never felt more defeated in my life.

"When can I hold her?" I squeaked, holding back tears and pain as I stood over her.

"Not while she's wearing the CPAP," the nurse said. "Maybe tomorrow."

That night, though, after the change of shift, the doctor removed her CPAP and said her lungs were strong. I got to hold her. I'll never get those first 12 hours back, but I reasoned everything had to be better from here. On day three in the NICU, they took out her feeding tube. I got to give her the first bottle and insisted that my husband and I would do all of the feedings.

The NICU ran on a 3-hour schedule, so my daughter was evaluated and fed at 6, 9, 12 and 3 around the clock. The only problem? Like my other kids, she was born with a robust appetite. She was always hungry before three hours had passed.

When my sons were infants in the hospital, I was feeding them in some capacity every two hours, if not more—urged on by nurses who said that feeding on demand was an essential part of mother-baby bonding. In fact, with my first son, when breastfeeding was not working, I was threatened at 3 am by another nurse, who said that if I didn't give the baby a little formula, they'd have to take him to the NICU. His blood sugar was one point too low. I fed him the formula, choking back tears.

But in the NICU, those mother-baby bonding and frequent-feeding rules no longer applied—and it was confusing and stressful for all of us.

After two painful nights where our baby cried for 30 to 60 minutes before we were allowed to feed her, I broke. I snapped at the nurse, in tears, and said, "My newborn is crying in hunger for over an hour, and I'm not allowed to feed her? If she were downstairs in the postpartum room with me, they'd be telling me to feed her. The only difference is that she's up here. She's hungry, she's able to eat, and no one can tell me that I can't feed my baby!"

But I'm a rule follower, so I couldn't just break the NICU schedule. I was scared that they'd deem me an unfit mother, which, in retrospect, is insane. Fearing being called unfit because I wanted to feed my crying, hungry infant?

The next morning when the doctor came in, he said he was moving her to a schedule that would allow me to feed her on demand, whenever she was fussy or I felt she needed it. I still regret that I had an emotional outburst at 3 am in the NICU, but in my own hormonal, desperate way, I was advocating for my daughter.

There is no one-size-fits-all answer that works for mothers and babies. We're all unique, but no one is more adept at figuring out what her baby needs than the mother herself.

Yes, we need medical care and experts. But many times this means asking why something is being done, or not done. In my case, I challenged the arbitrary nature of keeping my baby on the 3-hour NICU scheduled when my husband and I were right there, available to feed her. I'm so glad I did.

My baby is almost 11 months old and I'm still dealing with some traumatic memories from our NICU stay. But I no longer regret my middle of the night hysteria over her hungry cries, because it was the start of my journey doing what we moms do: making sure our kids are taken care of.

In This Article

    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


    We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


    In a recent survey shared in the Reproductive Health journal, one out of six women in the United States reported being mistreated while in labor, where mistreatment included, "loss of autonomy; being shouted at, scolded, or threatened; and being ignored, refused, or receiving no response to requests for help."

    One out of six.

    To make these numbers even more sickening, mistreatment was more common among women of color, women with partners of color, women with lower socioeconomic status, and women under the age of 30.

    (And yet people still question the validity of stating that black mothers are at a higher risk of pregnancy and birth-related complications.)


    Rarely at a loss for words, I find myself almost unable to speak.

    I am a midwife, and I am disgusted.

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