• Dr Julia Hodgson (@drjuliaparents)

Please ask before grabbing my boob

Updated: Feb 1, 2021

This image is from the golden hour (the first hour after baby is born) with my first. The nurse came in and showed me how to breastfeed. Well, let's more accurate, she came in, grabbed the baby, and shoved her on to me.

In this moment, I felt really grateful that someone was there to show me what to do. After baby latched, I was convinced that I never would have been able to do it on my own. All those things that are supposed to be "natural" and an "instinct" felt entirely undoable.

I had taken the classes and read the books, but there is something very different about actually having a wiggling tiny baby there and trying to figure out how to get them to attach to you the right way. As we all learn, it's much more... aggressive, perhaps, than you'd expect! It's incredibly helpful, albeit a bit jarring.

I was, and am, grateful for that nurse.

That said, I also found it a bit startling when the nurse came over and reached in to help without saying anything. She grabbed the baby's head, grabbed my breast and squeezed (hotdog hold? hamburger? i already forget again), and she got the baby latched. Baby was able to start to eat! Wonderful!

And yet, she came over and grabbed me. She touched me without saying anything. She didn't ask if it was okay, she didn't tell me what was happening. She just grabbed my body. She grabbed my baby. We didn't have a chance to try it ourselves. I wasn't allowed to let baby find her way up like the books said she could. Grab, grab, shove.

There's such a loss of autonomy, lack of choice, when it comes to babies and the hospital. And, equally seriously, a total disregard for the possibility of any sort of trauma in my history. Can you imagine what it is like for someone who has been abused or assaulted or otherwise have any sort of issues with their body to have another person--a stranger-- come over and grab them without consent?

I have heard so many mamas recall that moment unhappily. Feeling uncomfortable, angry, embarrassed, like they were deprived a quiet moment with their baby. How much of that could have ben avoided by asking a simple question? Checking in with mama before touching her body? Asking if she wanted help in that moment?

What would it be like if we, gasp, empowered women to be involved in the choices made about them during their deliveries?!

Sarcasm aside, there is any easy intervention here. Permission. Asking permission. Asking permission before touching in any medical procedure, no matter how small it seems. Consent. Awareness that someone may have a trauma history or any number of reasons that touch, even well intentioned touch, would be aversive. ⁠

Mamas, you may have to advocate for yourselves.

Partner(s) in birth, you may have to advocate for mama.

You deserve the touch and lack of touch that you are comfortable with.

A mixed bag in this photo, for sure. ⁠

Love, ⁠

Dr. Julia


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