Thursday, 17 October 2013

Booby Traps, Cracked bases and Officer Brown

Yesterday was a pretty appointment-intensive one. The things I we had signed up for were completely optional, and in the days before husband got this miraculous government-shutdown inspired extension on his grant application, so he could probably have done without two trips out of the office, but I figured I'd give you the run down in case anyone is debating whether to take extra classes on top of the usual child-birth prep. 

I mentioned our child-birth preparation classes briefly before, but overall I'd say they were completely worth the money. We loved the instructor, who was a big ole hippy, but a marvellously non-judgemental one, who clearly had opinions but knew that they were just that- her opinions. This meant that when she spoke about a subject, she spoke with conviction but never made any negative comments about anyone else's decisions or choices. She was so lovingly supportive of the parents of twins who went from 'probably' having a normal delivery to 'definitely' having a planned section over the 4 weeks, even though you could tell she wasn't 100% happy with the Doctor's reasoning. The parents were though, so she was a brilliant cheerleader about how awesome the experience would be for them. She completely won over husband, which is really saying something as he is so anti-hippy it's quite hilarious. We went to the classes at UCLA Santa Monica, in case you happen to be googling child-birth classes in West LA and have stumbled upon this (sorry if it is not particularly informative!) I would say that if I was dead set on a medication-free delivery then there is probably better classes out there for you. This was a nice over view for those of us who want an epidural but want to get to active labour first, or don't really know and are just going to see what happens once it all starts. There was lots of focus on breathing and relaxation, but I'm not sure it was enough to get you through to the end.

Anyway, back to yesterday. First thing was our car-seat check by the lovely officers at West LA traffic division. There are big billboards up in the mall that say that 90% of car seats are incorrectly fitted. Seriously, 90%. I knew this statistic already thanks to my mum's friend Sheila, who is a SoCO (Scene of Crime Officer, or CSI to my American friends) and had told me horror stories of finding babies half way down the road having been ejected through the front windscreen after a crash. It seems easier at home where Halfords run checking clinics, but as this is America there are hardly any organisations that will do it for fear of liability issues. This awesome blog post by Girls Gone Child (my main source of LA information, in all honestly) helped me get my ass in gear to make an appointment, since I had time to wait and did not have money to pay a lady to come to the house and do it.

So we arrived a bit late, with a flustered husband who hadn't had any coffee yet. I've discovered through this whole pregnancy process that booking the first appointment of the day for anything is a good idea, since they are less likely to be running late which gives me less excuse to be. This applied to the police as much as the various doctors' offices we've been to. Very lovely Officer Brown greeted us, got me a chair since I was obviously far too pregnant to stand up* and two other officers squeezed in to the back seat of our car- no mean feat considering we drive a 3-door sports model Ford Focus... Husband and I were convinced that someone's gun was going to get caught in the seat belt strap and shoot them in the foot. The fact we both had this thought separately really shows you how British we are about firearms, even in the hands of professionals.

It turns out the base was fitted wrong. We are the 90%. Husband and I had both read the instructions on our car and the car seat, and tried to muddle through on our tiny back seat, but basically the LATCH system (Isofix equivalent for the UK people) wasn't going to work in the middle space- the angle the straps were at would put too much pressure on the  narrow base (we specifically chose a narrow one since our car is so small) in a crash, even a slow one, and it would crack down the middle. An hour later, after many repeated demonstrations, the car seat was in, we knew how to do absolutely every adjustment and tweak to it and we were both a bit in love with Officer Brown. The best free service ever, especially since NOTHING baby related in LA is free. The wait list for an appointment was about 4 weeks, but I would recommend it to anyone and can guarantee we will be taking back our next car seat too.

Fast forward 6 hours and it was time for our Breastfeeding class. I had spoken to my brother in the afternoon who had said 'What on earth are you doing that for?' and I didn't really have a good answer for him. The instructor then introduced the class by asking how many of us (about 75 first time parents. A LOT of bumps...) had spend any time with mums breastfeeding a newborn. 4 of us raised our hands. She then asked us how many of us had discussed breastfeeding at any length with these mums. Three of us kept our hands up- 2 were NICU nurses and I'm a paediatric nurse. She explained it was like being raised in captivity- as modern women, we just didn't have the experience of it to do it easily. I was instantly happier about being there.

The first hour was her extolling the virtues of breastfeeding. I found this kind of irritating. Everyone in the room had paid to come to a class about breastfeeding, and the majority had dragged reluctant husbands/partners along with them. We were not really the target audience for a public health lecture. I knew all of it, and some of the science was a bit questionable.** That being said, once she started talking about the process behind how breastmilk improves immunity and the science of the nutritive qualities, I could see husband was developing a crush sold. She had an audience of very intelligent people, and spoke to us as such. For the second half, she was much more practical. This is really what I had come for. I knew the theory of a good latch, I wanted her to show me how to do it. Which she did, multiple times. Then she showed a video clip that showed even more. She explained what it should feel like, sound like, look like. She showed us different positions to do it in so you can check twitter eat avoid your section scar if you need to.  

She explained very sensible timelines for introducing dummies and bottles and how and when to pump and when it's ok to let Dad do one of the night feeds. She gave good recommendations on Nipple Creams and pumps and slow-flow bottles and other things we might want to try, but made it clear they were all extras. The most important thing for me was that she explained that we were probably not going to have problems. I have many, many friends who have had a really hard time breast feeding. Whilst on placements I spent a lot of time talking to women who were struggling. I have a skewed view of it. The reality is, as with everything in life, those who have no issues don't talk about it, meaning the loudest voices are those who have had a hard time. I was so well informed about how hard and awful it was that I had no concept of how it would be if it worked. It seemed this lingering negativity would be my 'booby trap'- the thing that would make inclined to give up at the first bump. I'd still say I'm not a 'formula is direct from the devil' convert, but I'm a bit more confident about it, especially when she showed a video of about 20 newborns just doing it, with no problems at all.

It was immensely reassuring for me, and husband really knew nothing about it at all, so he definitely found it useful. The class was run by The Pump Station, which is kind of hard to explain to those who live somewhere normal because it is so cripplingly LA, but basically it is a boutique baby store which sells baby gear but focuses on everything you could ever possibly need for breastfeeding. They run classes and expensive Mommy and Me groups as well as their main function, which is a team of Lactation Consultants you can call or make appointments with. It's all private, i.e. quite expensive, but the class definitely helped husband and I come to the conclusion that if it's not going well we will call them straight away. They do offer a lot of free services normally performed by the NHS at home, such as calling to check if medications will interfere with breastfeeding and milk supply (eg Sudafed is not contra-indicated for breastfeeding, but will dry up your milk supply along with your snotty sinuses, so is best avoided) and having professional scales in store if you feel the need to check the baby's weight. 

Apparently if you book the class at The Pump Station directly instead of via the hospital, like we did, they provide beer for the dads. Husband scowled at me when he discovered this, but I didn't know and suspect the price for the class would have been much more if it had included booze. We didn't have a ton of money for classes, so had to prioritise. Husband just had to make do with half a twix during the class (provided by me) and a PBR out the fridge when we got home. 

We are now officially done with all our classes. We are as prepared as we will ever be***. The last thing we have to do is a rescheduled hospital tour, which we were meant to do the morning after we moved house but ended up cancelling as we were were unable to lift our arms higher than our waists. That's in a few weeks time, but having been on Labour and Delivery at the other UCLA-run hospital we are both a bit more comfortable with it already. So there you have it. My reviews of the things we have attended. The only other thing we want to do is a Pump Station drop-in session about baby carriers. I've been talking about wanting an Ergo, but basically once Kick is here we can go along and they will help you try all the carriers they stock and see what works best for you. This really appealed to husband as for some reason spending $150 on a carrier is freaking him out, even though he bought a $60 poster of vaguely racist animals for the nursery wall that I really wanted without so much as an eyebrow being raised****. Go figure...

*This is one of my favourite things about being pregnant. I hate standing up.
** So there is a ton of evidence about breastfeeding reducing breast and ovarian cancer rates in mothers, however she also mentioned that mothers who breastfeed are less likely to have Type II Diabetes and Hypertension- which is a shakier causal link to me. Mothers who invest time and energy in breastfeeding are more likely to invest time and energy in healthy living generally, and there is a pretty big social class link as well (at least in Scotland) which makes that one seem sketchy to me. Medical Scientist husband also did not approve of this particular example.
*** not at all
**** pictures to follow, I promise


  1. Thanks for writing all of this, it is super, super useful. We just signed up this week to the childbirth class, starting next November, and we have a hospital tour next Monday.

    Other than that I have been wondering whether or not I should take a breastfeeding class, wondering if I really need it as you can find loads and loads of information online, my sister is a nurse, my mom says she can teach me, and that anyhow a lot of it depends on the baby itself and is kind of *led* by him and that freaking out / worrying about things that have not happened yet is not the way to go for my anxious self.
    We have a very similar boutique / breastfeeding support center over here, they even let you "rent" the baby carriers for a few days to see if they suit you and then you can either return them or buy them. And their main activity is to support breastfeeding moms,they did seem very grounded, friendly and knowledgeable. Knowing they are there for consultation if a problem should arise is good... and well, I think our childbirth course includes some breastfeeding basics so we will decide after that, I guess. Their courses are 4 nights of 1h30 sessions only on talk about the boobs, so I am not sure if that's a lot. I also have no idea if I will need a pump or not, since I will mostly be staying at home, but what if I am producing a lot of milk? Or what if I need to express, you can not really know in advance can you?
    As for the car seat, wow! That is such a great service, but those statistics are very scary. We have Halfords in the Netherlands, so I will check if they have such a service (once we have the car seat) or will also otherwise check with the police here.

    1. I would say the information I had found online/ in books really paled in comparison to the class, partly because having the visual explanations rather than pictures really worked for me. If you have family who can teach you then that's definitely awesome- my mum will be here and successfully breastfed all of us, so I'll be counting on her too! I didn't realise how much reassurance I needed that it would probably be fine, and I would say 95%of the class focused on that rather than problems, but it was only one 3 hour class.

      I've ordered a massive double electric pump, but only because it's free with our insurance. I'll be at home too, but plan on having husband do one feed a day by bottle after the first few weeks- partly to keep him really involved and partly so she's comfortable with them in the long run. I'm much more confident about that being the right thing to do for us after the class as well actually.

      And yes, get the car seat checked! Even if we'd had to pay for it, with retrospect it would have been worth every penny! x


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