Opinion

September 18, 2013

New moms: Eat, sleep, nurse

I was floating above myself in a crib. I was hungry and crying, but I felt bad and just wanted to sleep. The baby in the crib below me was yellow. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t wake up and eat or why the baby was so yellow.

Then my eyes popped open and I realized it was just a strange dream. I rolled over to look for the clock above the hospital door wondering what time it was. I couldn’t find it. I reached out for my newborn daughter’s hospital bassinet and couldn’t reach it.

Then I panicked. Where was Sophie? It was too dark, darker than the hospital room. I strained my eyes trying to make shapes form to see where my newborn and my husband were.

Nothing.

I began crying and yelling for Chris because I didn’t know what else to do. I didn’t know where I was.

As he came to my side, I realized I was home, in my own bed. It was our first night home as a family of three. And I was majorly sleep deprived, stressed and hormonal.

Sophie had jaundice and I was under doctor’s orders to nurse her at least every two hours because frequent feedings help flush the jaundice out of a baby’s system.

Breastfeeding wasn’t going quite right for us. We had latch problems, and it was causing me terrible pain. My life was a hazy, sleepy blur of trying to keep a baby with jaundice awake long enough to nurse, just to repeat the process again in a couple of hours. (It wasn’t until later we mastered nursing lying down and in our sleep.)

I was failing miserably at breastfeeding. So I began to pump and let Chris and my mom take a turn overnight feeding her so that I could get a little more sleep and function somewhat normally again. My only job in those first few days was to sleep, eat and nurse or pump for Sophie.

When I got pregnant I said I would breastfeed for as long as I could, whether it be six days, six weeks or six months. It looked like I wasn’t going to make it to even six days, even though I really wanted to do this. The health benefits of breastfeeding for baby and mom are numerous, especially when breast milk is the only thing a child ingests for the first six months.

I had no idea what I was doing, and neither did Sophie. I also didn’t know where to turn for help.

Then Sophie’s bilirubin levels grew higher, and she was admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Hamilton Medical Center at five days old to be treated for her jaundice. I was in hysterics.

What I didn’t realize at the time was being in the NICU was the best possible thing that could have happened for our breastfeeding relationship. I cannot even begin to express my gratitude to Theresa Brown, the IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) at the hospital, for teaching me how to nurse my daughter as well as how to pump properly.

Pumping was necessary so Sophie would have breastmilk when I had to leave the hospital at night, and it was a knowledge that benefited me later when I returned to work full time. It also allowed me to donate close to 500 ounces of breastmilk to other mothers.

Now, Sophie and I are quickly approaching two years of a nursing relationship. We didn’t do it alone. We couldn’t have done it alone.

It took a lot of support and help — from my immediate family, friends, other mothers who were successful nursing long term and my co-workers, who made it easy for me to pump as needed (even if I did once pump in the parking lot of the Dollar General while a manhunt for a murderer was happening around me and once in the media parking lot of the Falcons-Titans practice day at Coahulla Creek High School).

I’m glad to see this year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week (the first week of October) is “Close to Mothers,” focusing on the support given to help mothers succeed at breastfeeding. There will be a walk and celebration at the Mack Gaston Community Center in Dalton this Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. with several vendors and organizations that support breastfeeding mothers.

Breastfeeding takes the support and advice of several different people on several different levels. Make sure these people don’t harm your journey, though. (The people represented on Friday won’t!)

So many mothers fail because they followed bad advice, like “supplement with formula. You’re not making enough milk” when a baby increases its feedings suddenly at 12 weeks old. (Guess what? There’s a growth spurt then and it doesn’t mean the baby is ready for solids of any kind or that the baby needs formula.) Or when people suggest scheduling feedings, introducing pacifiers too soon or introducing water, all of which can harm a mom’s milk supply long term.

To the pediatrician who insisted he would have put my daughter on formula when she had jaundice, that’s old information and you’re destroying what is best for both mother and child when you tell people that. Look up some modern research. I walked out of that office and never looked back.

So go Friday to find out how to really succeed at breastfeeding, whether your goal is a year or two years or to let the child self wean, which happens naturally after about two-and-a-half years. Go if you’ll be supporting a breastfeeding mom.

Friday will feature talks from dads, health care providers, employers and grandmothers who have supported breastfeeding moms. These people deserve so much recognition and praise. They’re the ones that take care of the laundry and sweep the floor and cook and bathe the newborn so that the mom can concentrate on the three things her first few weeks should be focused on: nursing, eating and sleeping.

Murray County native Misty Watson is a staff writer and photographer for The Daily Citizen. You can connect with her at mistywatson@daltoncitizen.com; facebook.com/MistyWatsonDCN; or on Twitter, @mistydwatson.

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