A First-Time Mother Overcomes Breastfeeding Challenges

By Evan Koch

Ashley Bingham was looking forward to breastfeeding her daughter, Cydnee.

A prenatal breastfeeding class at Memorial Hermann Northeast Hospital reinforced what Bingham had read about the health benefits of breast milk and why it was the globally accepted standard for nourishing infants.

As a first-time mother, Bingham was especially optimistic that breastfeeding would further strengthen the special bond she hoped for with her daughter.

“I know the nutrients from my breast milk can help Cydnee grow and keep her healthy,” Bingham said. “I wanted that for my daughter.”

Bingham made sure she had the contact information for lactation consultant LouAnne Wischer, BSN, RN ILCBC, before she and Cydnee were discharged from Memorial Hermann Northeast the day after birth.

But the reality of breastfeeding in the days that followed was far from ideal. Bingham, who had developed carpal tunnel syndrome during the last month of pregnancy, was in pain and had trouble holding Cydnee to feed. Cydnee often fell asleep after expending all her energy while attempting to breast feed.

Is Cydnee getting enough milk? Is this nipple guard even helping Cydnee latch? Am I holding her the right way? Is it supposed to be this difficult?

Breastfeeding was not going as planned.

Mounting challenges present a difficult decision

Though breastfeeding is a natural relationship between mother and child, it’s always a learning process for newborns and oftentimes even for experienced moms. The learning curve can vary from newborn to newborn in the same family.

“It’s difficult because every mom and baby has their own separate set of challenges,” Wischer said.

Bingham’s frustration reached a crescendo on Cydnee’s first appointment with a pediatrician when she was 4 days old. While it is normal for newborns to lose weight, Cydnee had dropped from 5 pounds, 7 ounces to 4 pounds, 9 ounces in a matter of days.

It was too much weight lost, too fast.

“When they told me Cydnee had lost all that weight, it took everything for me not to break down and cry,” Bingham said. “I felt like I was failing my baby.” 

The pediatrician suggested feeding Cydnee formula to give her the best chance at gaining weight and the nutrition she needed before her health was compromised. How a mother nourishes her newborn is a personal choice, but there is a large body of evidence pointing toward breastfeeding as the healthiest option for most mothers and newborns following birth.

Bingham was at a crossroad.

“I had a decision to make. As much as I wanted to nurse, I had to do what was best for Cydnee,” Bingham said.

Turning to a lactation consultant for help

Bingham had already reached out to Wischer to address her breastfeeding challenges. Seeing how important breastfeeding was to Bingham, her pediatrician supported her but had a contingency plan in place if things didn’t progress.

Wischer and Bingham talked about the normalcy of challenges, and about holding Cydnee in a different position to relieve some of the pressure on Ashley’s wrist. They determined that getting Cydnee to consistently latch would be a work in progress but there was a workaround.

“That gave me back my confidence,” Bingham said. “LouAnne told me not to get frustrated, to stay calm. Just speaking to her reassured me that it can be done and that each day was a milestone.”

The plan was for Bingham to continue pumping breast milk when Cydnee de-latched to help stimulate consistent production. Bingham and her husband would then try to feed Cydnee breast milk in a bottle.

“All of our moms need extra support,” Wischer said. “Just finding a mom who has had the same type of challenges can be very assuring. Support is a huge part of this and Ashley’s husband was very supportive.”

Cydnee is growing

Bingham and her husband followed up with Cydnee’s pediatrician and put the plan she devised with Wischer into action. In addition to ensuring Cydnee was receiving breastmilk, bottle feeding afforded Bingham’s husband increased opportunities to interact with Cydnee.

On their second return trip to Cydnee’s pediatrician, she had eclipsed her birthweight by an ounce. 

“I’m still able to bond with Cydnee and I know that my daughter is getting what she needs to stay healthy,” Bingham said. “I think we’re both happy. Things are going great.”

Memorial Hermann Northeast is one of 10 Memorial Hermann Health System hospitals recognized as a Texas 10 Step Facility. The Texas 10 Step program uses evidence-based practices proven to increase breastfeeding exclusivity and duration.

For more information about Women’s Health and Maternity at Memorial Hermann, click here or call 713-222-CARE (2273).

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