Feedings every two to three hours, sleepless nights, learning how to swaddle and remembering to buy enough diapers to last more than two days. There’s no question about it: the “firsts” for first-time parents are new, a little scary and stressful.
Now imagine your little one decides to come almost two months earlier than planned.
That was the case for Brianna Wiltse.
Like most new moms, Brianna was thrilled to welcome little Emma in February of 2013 but because she came seven weeks early, it meant an even steeper learning curve during Emma’s first month in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
Emma was so small at birth – 4 pounds, 7 ounces – Brianna wasn’t able to breastfeed at first but that didn’t stop her. “I thought this is the one thing I want to do and the one thing I can control,” she recalls. Brianna began pumping her breast milk every three hours to give to Emma to help her grow.
At what would have been her 37th week of pregnancy, Brianna took Emma home. But the challenges of breastfeeding remained.
Because Emma was so small, she didn’t have the strength and coordination needed to breastfeed. Brianna would pump and feed her bottles of breast milk and would even weigh Emma on a gram scale before and after feedings to make sure she got enough milk. It wasn’t until Emma turned six months old that Brianna was finally able to nurse her.
“The thing that really helped was the support I got from lactation consultants, like Robin (Hollen), and other moms at The Lactation Connection,” Brianna says. “It didn’t matter how you were feeding — I would pump and bring a bottle and I had a friend who couldn’t breastfeed and would bring formula — everyone was supportive. I think sometimes new moms feel there is a certain image of what a mom is supposed to look like, and it’s good to have the support of others who know it’s hard and telling you it’s okay if you don’t match that image of what you expected as a parent.”
The friendship Brianna came to cherish expanded beyond the group’s weekly meetings at Renown. “We made a large mom group,” Brianna says. “It’s nice to have the extra support, someone with kids who are the same age and going through similar issues as they grow.”
Bonding Over Breastfeeding
Even though the group has grown outside the walls of The Lactation Connection, their focus and support of breastfeeding is apparent. Each year, the group takes part in Liquid Gold, an annual 5K walk and run presented by the Northern Nevada Breastfeeding Coalition.
Hoping to bring more awareness to breastfeeding, this year’s event on Saturday, Aug. 1 will also help kick off World Breastfeeding Week. In addition to the family-friendly race the event will feature a children’s fair, vendors and raffle. And The Big Latch On — where moms from around the world are encouraged to feed their little ones at a set time — will occur after the race.
Brianna weaned Emma in January, but the event is so close to the Wiltse family’s heart they’re all still taking part. This will be the third consecutive year the whole family will be participating — Brianna’s husband has even made it a tradition to recruit co-workers to join. “It’s really a positive event and a safe place for families, trying to make breastfeeding more common and women more comfortable. One year, my friend had to nurse the entire walk and everyone is so supportive,” Brianna says.
And for moms to be and new moms who may be struggling with breastfeeding, it’s another great place to learn about the resources and options for help in our area. Of course, if you can’t make it to Liquid Gold you can get help year-round at The Lactation Connection.
5 Top Things You Should Know About Breastfeeding
Robin Hollen, an Internationally Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) shared five of the big things new moms need to know:
1. Breastfeeding is easy. This is the biggest breastfeeding misconception. Parents believe the baby will know how to feed and they get distraught when it doesn’t go well.
2. Relax, try this and you’ll make milk. Commonly shared from mom-to-mom are the breastfeeding “helpers”: water, milk, tea, cookies, oatmeal, beer and fenugreek. Unfortunately, these things do not produce milk. If you are having an issue, don’t delay – call a lactation consultant for help. After trying self-remedies, it may be too late.
3. Know and use your resources. Ask for help in the hospital and if it hurts, something is not right and needs to be evaluated. After you leave the hospital, join forums and breastfeeding groups for support and to help answer questions.
4. Breastfeeding troubleshooting. The most common problems are similar for most breastfeeding moms such as damaged nipples, not making enough milk or delayed milk, infant not gaining enough weight, and frustrated and tired parents. Remember while the problems are the same for many moms, the treatment is not. Each case is very specific to the individual mom and baby. That’s why reaching out for help is so important.
5. Nature’s best resource. Try to keep your eye on the prize and focus on the benefits from breastfeeding for both you and your little one. It helps infants’ immune systems better fight allergies and asthma, protects against various infections and has been shown to reduce the risk of breast cancer in moms.