Written by Hillary Kuzdeba, MPH
Before I had my first baby, I was like so many other health professionals – I believed that breast was best, and that every mother should be encouraged to strive for exclusivity, as recommended by the major medical organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and World Health Organization. I prepared diligently for breastfeeding, speaking to lactation consultant co-workers, watching documentaries, reviewing breastfeeding educational resources, and talking with the breastfeeding mothers I knew. My husband and family were all extremely supportive of breastfeeding, because they too knew breast was best. I knew that breastfeeding could be challenging, but I was prepared to make it work. And everyone assured me that it would, as long as I was dedicated.
My daughter was born at 37 weeks, 2 days after a difficult unmedicated labor, and vaginal delivery. She was a tiny little thing, just over 6lbs but she was strong and healthy. She was born with moderate cranial bruising from the almost six hours of pushing it took to get her out. She was immediately put skin to skin, and we had our first nursing session within 20 minutes of her arrival.
Due to her early term status and her bruise, we were told she was at risk for jaundice. (hyperbilirubinemia) While they told us that they would be watching her bilirubin levels closely, and were encouraged to attend the hospital’s breastfeeding class, we were allowed and encouraged to continue with our original plan of exclusive nursing. Despite my high level of breastfeeding education, I had never learned about this condition, and I didn’t know that it can be greatly exacerbated or triggered by dehydration. I had never been educated on starvation related complications, and only knew that occasionally some babies lost too much weight due to milk supply problems. I had heard of jaundice, but everything I had read indicated that it was “common” in breastfed babies and nothing to worry about in most cases. Regardless, my great care team didn’t seem to be concerned enough to recommend a change in feeding plan, so we just continued with our original plans as if she was like any other baby. Continue reading