A group of spirited women crowd into a small conference room every Wednesday at Akron Children’s Hospital for much valued fellowship and learning. They all share one thing in common – breastfeeding.
Certified lactation consultant Liz Maseth, BSN, RN, who they affectionately call “boob goddess,” leads the weekly breastfeeding support group. She weighs their babies, listens to their experiences and gives advice.
“Liz is absolutely awesome,” said Kathleen Willis, who is finished with breastfeeding but still comes for the sisterhood. She brings her children Adyson, 6 and Ayden, 3, who play with the babies while the moms share their story.
After Adyson was born, Kathleen had an inverted nipple followed by infected breast tissue. These issues prompted surgery and a 2-week hospital stay, leaving her with only one-sided milk production.
“Without Liz’s help, I wouldn’t have made it those first 2 weeks,” Kathleen said.
Before her next pregnancy, she met with Liz and subsequently breastfed her second child, primarily from one breast, for nearly a year.
Last week, on the eve of World Breastfeeding Week, Aug. 1 – 7, they discussed 8 common myths and misunderstandings about breastfeeding.
Myth 1: Breastfeeding is easy.
“It’s not easy and many moms wait until they have difficulty before they seek help,” said Michelle Dickstein, mother of twins. “I starting coming to the group 4 weeks prior to birth to familiarize myself with the issues.”
She joked that at first she thought “this is a lot of boobs,” but with Liz’s encouragement she has gone on to become a lactation education consultant.
Myth 2: Breastfeeding moms always have a good support system.
“Moms don’t generally share that they’re having trouble and don’t have a sisterhood like this group,” Kathleen said. “Your boobs hurt for a while and you need to know that it will get better.”
Another mom, Britt Petro, credits the nurses in Akron Children’s NICU at Akron General with that support. She described her premature baby Wyatt’s 12-day stint in the NICU and how the bonding program, where babies stay with moms, was life saving.
The bonding continued after Wyatt left the NICU through this group. “That physical support helped us be successful,” Britt said.
Myth 3: Breastfeeding doesn’t hurt.
Courtney Zimmerman wants to clear up this myth. Her 15-month old son, Finn, got his first teeth at 2 months and his biting was a challenge.
“Group members shared a tip – take him off the breast when he bites and say ’no bite,’” Courtney said.
It worked and she’s gone 15 months without supplementing.
Myth 4: You shouldn’t breastfeed if you’re on medication.
Kathleen is allergic to Penicillin so she was given another antibiotic and Benadryl for her infected breast tissue. Many in the group said they were told you couldn’t breastfeed if you were taking certain medications such as these.
“This is one of the biggest misconceptions,” Liz said. “Most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding,”
And if there’s any question, Liz is happy to check them out for you.
Myth 5: All moms love breastfeeding.
Emily Gelman always thought she would love breastfeeding. She had the perfect pregnancy and delivery. And her baby, Lily, now 7 months, latched on immediately with no problem.
“Then at day 4, I became engorged and Lily had problems latching on,” Emily said. “I had a lot of pain but continued to breastfeed because I knew it was good for my baby, not because I loved it.”
Emily credits the breastfeeding support group with helping her find the strength she needed. “They helped me to ‘buck up’ and now I do love it,” she said.
Myth 6: If your baby can’t latch on, pumping milk is not feasible.
Amy Stewart is a living example of this misconception. She delivered her baby Nora by C-section at 34 weeks following prenatal hypertension and pain from an abdominal hernia.
Nora spent 2 weeks in Akron Children’s NICU and had difficulty latching on. Over the past year, Amy has exclusively pumped and has had no problem with milk supply.
“So many people tell you NICU babies can’t get enough milk through pumping,” Amy said. “With support from Liz’s and groups like this, you can make it work.”
Myth 7: If your baby’s not gaining weight you should supplement formula.
According to Amy, there are so many reasons people will give you as to why you should supplement formula and a low milk supply is at the top of the list.
“Supply is not always the best indicator of whether your baby is getting enough,” Liz said. “You can tell by wet diapers. The rule of thumb with newborns is 6-8 wet diapers a day.”
Myth 8: You can’t work and keep up your milk supply.
A newer member of the group, Carrie Gardner, enthusiastically dispels this misconception.
“You can work full time and pump successfully if you do it frequently enough,” said Carrie, a nurse at Akron Children’s maternal fetal medicine center. “I’ll be in a meeting and when it’s time to pump, believe me, my co-workers know I’m out of there.”
Britt travels from school to school teaching deaf and hard-of-hearing children and has to pump in her car. “They have wonderful lactation rooms set up in the schools but I don’t have time to use them, “she said. “Whatever works, you just have to find the time.”
Another member, Rebecca Horvath, a nurse in Mercy Medical Center’s nursery, finds pumping at work challenging even in a nurturing workplace. “You can never have too much support,” Rebecca said. “Lactation consultants are so important.”
This is apparent as each member hugs Liz goodbye and vows to return, same time next week.
For more information about Akron Children’s breastfeeding support group, contact Liz Maseth at 330-543-4531.
Note: An educational conference, “The Breastfeeding Family of 2015: Rethinking the Paradigm,” will be Friday, Sept. 25, 2015 at Akron Children’s Hospital. For more information, contact Deborah Mayer at 330-543-4543.