Tasharia Oliver was prepared to give her daughter Denver the best, no matter what it took. Oliver had taken all the pre-natal courses and learned about the importance of breastfeeding when she was pregnant and she decided breastfeeding was the best option for her baby.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months, with the gradual introduction of solid foods after 6 months while continuing to breastfeed up to 1 year.
When it comes to providing babies with the best nutrition, breastfeeding is not only economical, but it has positive health effects for both baby and mom. Breast milk is uniquely suited to the baby’s nutritional needs, with immunologic and anti-inflammatory properties.
Many of us have heard “breast is best” when it comes to feeding young babies. While this may be so, the truth is learning to breastfeed doesn’t always come easy. Marisa Merlo, RN, IBCLC, Lactation Consultant at UConn Health met with Oliver a few hours after Denver was born to help her learn how to breastfeed. Unfortunately, Denver did not latch on or use a bottle, so Oliver had to feed her through a syringe on her finger.
Merlo encouraged Oliver to keep trying and reassured her she was doing everything correctly. She taught her how to use a breast pump Oliver was able to take home with her.
“Pumping my breast milk was beautiful, I enjoyed every minute knowing I was giving my daughter the best I could,” said Oliver.
Oliver ended up with postpartum hemorrhage (also called PPH) when a woman has heavy bleeding after giving birth and ended up back in the hospital. Even though her daughter wasn’t with her, she knew when she was crying because her milk would release.
Soon after, Denver ended up at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center having had lost weight and during the 2 week period of her hospital stay, she received Oliver’s breast milk via Nasogastric (NG) Tube in her nose. The doctors determined that fortifying her breast milk would increase the number of calories that Denver was receiving. They tried several types of formula until finding the right one and mixed with her breast milk.
“I wasn’t going to give up because I knew breast milk was the best option for her,” says Oliver.
When you breastfeed, you give your baby a healthy start that lasts a lifetime.
60% of mothers do not breastfeed for as long as they intend to. The duration a mother breastfeeds her baby is influenced by many factors including:
- Issues with lactation and latching.
- Concerns about infant nutrition and weight.
- Mother’s concern about taking medications while breastfeeding.
- Unsupportive work policies and lack of parental leave.
- Cultural norms and/or lack of family support.
- Unsupportive hospital practices and policies.
Oliver went back to work and was told by her employer that pumping her breast milk at work would not be an issue and there would be accommodations made for her.
In the State of Connecticut, employers must allow employees the ability to express their breast milk at the workplace during meal and break periods. They must also provide a room or location other than a toilet stall for the employee to do so in private.
Oliver found the first month back at work that her breast milk decreased. She often had to go out to her car and pump her milk during lunch because the room set aside at her employer was never available during her lunch.
“I would have preferred doing it inside where it was private with an electric pump rather than a handheld pump in my car,” says Oliver, however, “I did whatever I had to do and wherever I needed to do it to provide for Denver.”
Having to go back to work so early after having Denver, who was adjusting to getting the right nutrients took its toll on both Oliver and Denver. “My doctor advised me not to go back to work as I still hadn’t healed from the postpartum hemorrhage, however, I had to work,” Oliver says.
The United States is one of the richest countries that does not have paid maternity leave.
Throughout the year, Merlo was there for her says Oliver, “I always emailed her and updated her on what was happening, she was so helpful.”
“Working with Tasharia and Denver has been such a pleasure. I have loved watching Denver grow and thrive over the past year,” says Merlo. “One of my favorite parts about being a lactation consultant is the connection I develop with patients; I look forward to receiving updates and assisting them along their breastfeeding journey.”
Oliver’s advice to mothers is to listen to their bodies. She applauds all the moms who go back to work and wishes that the United States would find better ways to accommodate women who have had babies and need to work.
Oliver never gave up and even used the last of her breast milk to mix with oatmeal when Denver started on whole foods. Denver is continuing to thrive and she loves to read, swim, and eat.
What Can You Do to Support Breastfeeding?
Visit The Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Support Breastfeeding to learn how you can participate in a society-wide approach to support mothers and babies who are breastfeeding.
August 1-7 is World Breastfeeding Awareness week, a global campaign to raise awareness and galvanize action on themes related to breastfeeding. UConn Health celebrates each year and this year will have special gifts for babies born during this week including a onesie that says “Eat Local” for babies as well as a Haakaa silicone breast pump, which is portable and effective at expressing breast milk.