Editor’s note: August is Breastfeeding Awareness month. In conjunction with the observance, the Sidney Daily News has published various stories about breastfeeding.
SIDNEY — The journey to successfully breastfeeding their infants have lead two local mothers down different paths.
For Jacqueline Parma, of Sidney, the journey has had some bumps along the way which she has overcome with the support of family, friends and the Sidney-Shelby County Health Department’s WIC breastfeeding coordinator Shannon Nagel, RN, IBCLC. She and her husband, Steve Parma, are the parents of daughter, Rebekah.
For Katelyn Ross, the journey took an unexpected path when a heart defect was discovered when her son was four days old. Ross and her husband, James Ross, are the parents of two children, Scarlett and James Theodore.
“Breastfeeding has always been a goal for me with both my pregnancies,” said Katelyn. “I have always heard of the benefits both for the mother and child bonding as well as the health and nutrition from doctors, nurses and lactation consultants. You always want to give your children the best and this was one way for me to try to do that from birth.”
When James Theodore was born, the family found out about his heart defect when he was four days old.
“When you can’t hold your baby or comfort him the way you would normally, the only thing I felt I could do for him was give him breast milk, so it was even more crucial for me to do so,” said Katelyn. “I have had so much help from lactation consultants from Wilson Health to Children’s Hospital and the WIC office. It’s not always easy but having someone to be able to talk to makes it easier, especially when you don’t feel like you can keep going. It’s nice to talk to someone who knows what you’re going through and can remind you of the importance of breast milk for your baby.”
When Jacqueline became pregnant, she researched breastfeeding and the advantages it gives a newborn.
“I learned it was best for the child,” she said. Mom and baby have had their struggles as Rebekah failed to gain weight after her birth.
“I can smell her and I’ll produce a different breast milk for her needs,” she said. “If I give her a kiss, that’s a different chemical compound. I don’t have to do anything, all the antibodies she needs, I can give her.”
Husband and new dad Steve provides a support system for his wife.
“I let her be the mom as much as can be,” said Steve. “I do other things to help her be the mom.”
One of those things the couple decided was Jacqueline wouldn’t return to work after the baby was born.
“It was nice not having to be back at work when she was six to eight weeks old,” said Jacqueline. “I’ve transitioned to working from home.”
“She’s worked her whole life and it was great that we have these options,” said Steve.
“I knew I couldn’t breastfeed her if I went back to work when she was six weeks old,” said Jacqueline.
“Baby Rebekah was born on a Thursday (June 6) and mom and baby went home on Saturday.
“I called Shannon on Monday. I was here (health department) with Rebekah within a half hour.”
With the support of Shannon Nagel, Jacqueline was able to get her questions answered about whether breastfeeding should hurt or not.
“She was bleeding and sore and had completely scabbed over,” said Shannon. A protective shield was introduced to the breastfeeding routine.
“We learned it’s not like Hollywood,” said Steve of how breastfeeding is portrayed on television and in the movies.
“She was a little tongue-tied too,” said Jacqueline, which factored into their daily routine. “We had some toe-curling crying times.”
After seeing Shannon, the baby had an appointment with her pediatrician, who discovered she was slightly jaundice and wasn’t gaining weight.
Enter a breast pump to help the baby get more nutrition and breast milk.
“Shannon had to show me how to use it,” said Jacqueline. “I’m learning new skills and I have to use what I know to make it perfect.”
Jacqueline said the first four to six weeks of Rebekah’s life were the “hardest work I’ve every done in my life.”
Together, the family watched the baby gain weight, then lose it, gain it back again and lose it again.
Finally they turned the corner — Rebekah was keeping her weight on — Jacqueline was more comfortable with breastfeeding her — and Steve continued to provide the moral support both needed.
“Everything is perfect,” said Jacqueline. “Shannon has told me I can do this at least 16 times. We had a lot to overcome the first month but we’re getting there.”
When they were interviewed, Jaqueline said the previous two weeks felt like they had turned the corner to successfully breastfeeding.
“At her two month appointment, she was over 8 pounds,” said Jacqueline. “On the growth chart, she’s growing. I’m able to feed her at most feedings without using the nipple shield.
“My milk didn’t come in for the first two weeks,” she said. “Now she’s spending about 10 minutes on a side feeding. Before, it would take one hour to feed. No I can feed her, burp her and have some time for myself before it’s time for her next feed. And she’s not crying when she feeds.”
“It takes all of us on your team to do this,” said Shannon.
“It takes a community to raise a baby,” said Jacqueline. “We’ve been to church twice with all of us together. She doesn’t cry after she’s done eating so I know she’s full.”
She said the nurses in the hospital were wonderful.
“But when we went home, we didn’t know how to burp her,” she said. “The nurses swaddled her and did everything for us. If I didn’t have Shannon, I’d have fed her formula on that Monday.”
Jacqueline said Shannon asked her what her goal was in how long she breastfeeds Rebekah.
“At six weeks, she asked me how I felt,” said Jacqueline. “At seven weeks she asked me how I was feeling.
“It’s been rough, but I told her I can do this another week,” she said. “There’s no shame in using formula, but that’s not our goal. It would be annoying if I gave up now after all the effort we’ve gone to. We’ve gone day by day, week by week.”
Because Rebekah was tongue-tied, Jacqueline and the baby had to learn how it would be best for her to latch on.
“We learned how to latch on in a way that works for us,” she said.
Jacqueline offered her advice for a pregnant or new mom who is considering breastfeeding her baby.
“My first piece of advice is to decide the path you want to go on,” she said. “Research it and prepared, if needed, formula and a pump. Decide what do you want to happen after your baby is born.
“Get a support system in place,” she continued. “If there was no Shannon for me, I wouldn’t be breastfeeding today. She’s trained to help you.
“Get your friends’ help,” she said. “Meeting one hour a week with them gives you so much information. But they can only tell you their own experiences.
“Find outside help like a lactation specialist, LaLeche League or WIC office,” she said. “Get support for yourself and your baby. If she (Rebekah) wasn’t gaining weight, we would have switched to formula if that had been what’s best for Rebekah. We got excited when she gained 3 ounces of weight.
“Figure out what your goal is and then get the support to succeed,” she concluded.
And Steve also offered his advice to new dads.
“Be patient,” he said. “Be aware of what’s going on and become involved. It’s easy to go to work and become involved in your own routine. But to understand what’s going on at home, it takes listening to her talk and having patience. We communicate a lot on what’s going on.”
When they go shopping, Steve will stay in the car with the baby so the stops go quicker for Jacqueline.
“When I’m breastfeeding, he gets me water and gets me food,” she said. “He understands that I’m constantly thirsty or hungry.”
Jacqueline has learned that she can’t do it all on her own.
“My personality is one where I want to do it all myself and then I’ll have a meltdown,” she said.
“We’re still struggling,” Steve added. “I’m not a superdad or a superhusband.”
Together they are choosing the path in which to raise their daughter to be a healthy, happy person.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.