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Breastfeeding a Small Baby Has Its Challenges

Black Health Matters / Our Health  / Breastfeeding  / Breastfeeding a Small Baby Has Its Challenges

Breastfeeding a Small Baby Has Its Challenges

The benefits and bonding are worth it, says a new mom

When the nurses brought 4-pound, 9-ounce Naomi to her mom, Charlyne McWilliams, an hour after McWilliams’ unexpected c-section, there was worry about the baby’s ability to breastfeed.

Arriving three weeks ahead of schedule, “she was termed a late-term pre-term. She wasn’t considered premature, but she was small,” McWilliams says. “They were concerned she might not be able to latch on, that she might not be able to take to the breast.”

It turns out, there was no need for concern: “She latched on immediately,” McWilliams says.

This made the first-time mom happy. “I was planning to breastfeed from the get-go,” she says. “I wanted to give my baby as many health benefits as possible. And I’d read and heard from other friends that breastfeeding would provide the protection she would need. She’d be less likely to get sick. She’d have some antibodies from me that would benefit her. She would have fewer illnesses as she grew up.”

Organized to a fault, McWilliams religiously prepared to breastfeed. During her pregnancy, she looked into whether or not she’d be able to breastfeed (“I found out I have good nipples for it,” she jokes now) and checked into the cost of breast pumps. To her delight, her insurance company covered everything. She didn’t buy any formula and had only a few bottles on hand, those given as baby gifts by someone.

She also made it clear that she wanted to give her baby nature’s first food. In the recovery room, she reminded anyone who would listen that she intended to breastfeed. Still, McWilliams thought “they might take her somewhere and give her a bottle. I was extremely happy they listened to my wishes.”

The hospital, Holy Cross in Silver Spring, Maryland, sent its lactation unit to answer any questions the new mom had. When she and Naomi went home three days after Naomi’s birth, she thought she was well prepared.

Then reality set in. Because Naomi is small—she’d dropped to 4 pounds, 6 ounces by the time they left the hospital—the doctors told McWilliams to nurse every two hours. Even when the baby was asleep, McWilliams was advised to wake her and stick to the every-two-hours schedule.

“I’ve been adhering to on-demand feeding,” she says with a chuckle. “You don’t get anything done. You maybe get to wash your butt. It’s a straight-up full-time job. I’m amazed at how little sleep you need to function.”

The next hurdle came when Naomi was about three weeks old. She wasn’t gaining weight, so the doctors suggested McWilliams supplement each breastmilk feeding with an ounce of formula. “They had to fight me for that because i wanted to breastfeed exclusively. i was really torn because it made me feel like my milk wasn’t sufficient for her. But the goal is to have a healthy child.”

Now that Naomi is three months old (and weighs 7 pounds, 3 ounces), mom and baby are settling in well. McWilliams is facing the same struggles as many breastfeeding moms: being mindful of what she eats, returning to work and fighting off other folks’ “helpful” suggestions.

She shares this advice for other women planning to breastfeed:

Be mindful of what you’re eating. “Learn what to eat that’s going to help you produce milk— carrots, yeast, flaxseed, oatmeal, fenugreek. Drink plenty of water. And eat substantive meals, which gives you what you need to give your baby what she needs,” she says. She swears by Lactation Cookies. (See recipe, below.)
Cook and freeze some meals before giving birth. Or, if you can afford it, get a food service.
Talk to your boss. Do it before you go on maternity leave. McWilliams says her company has been very supportive, and they’ve made arrangements to accommodate her needs.
Stick to your guns. “There have been people who have said, ‘You’ve done it long enough. Go on and give her formula now.’ But I don’t want to do that yet,” she says. “I want to bond with her as much as possible. My goal is to breastfeed for at least six months. And then, depending on her and how she develops, maybe a year. It’s a time-consuming process, but that time seems all worth it.”
Lactation Cookies

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

4 tablespoons water

2 tablespoons flaxseed meal

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3 cups steel cut oats

1 cup chocolate chips

4 tablespoons brewer’s yeast

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix the flaxseed meal and water and set aside. Cream the butter, sugar and brown sugar. Add eggs and mix well. Add flaxseed mix and vanilla and mix well. Sift together flour, brewer’s yeast, baking soda and salt. Add dry ingredients to butter mix. Thoroughly stir in oats and chocolate chips. Scoop onto baking sheet, approximately 1-inch balls. Bake for 12 minutes. Allow cookies to set for a few minutes before removing from baking sheet.

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BHM Edit Staff