Diana Hennessey became a mom on Sept. 4, 2016, when her daughter, Dahlia, was born. She was determined to breastfeed, but didn't know the challenges she would face.
With help from the breastfeeding support group at Sharp Chula Vista and the "Sisterhood of the Milky Mamas" — as she calls her support system of friends, family and community resources — Diana did what she set out to do for her daughter.
Here, in her own words, Diana shares her breastfeeding struggles and triumphs.
Baby Dahlia visits the Sharp Mary Birch nursing lounge at Petco Park.
As a first-time mom, I prepared myself as much as I could. Classes, workshops, books, blogs, Facebook groups — you name it, I studied it. When I found out I was pregnant, I was terrified. I'm scared of pain, so you can imagine what the thought of childbirth did to me. Nevertheless, I was determined to give my baby the best start in life. I took a course about natural childbirth and realized I wanted to breastfeed — no, I needed to breastfeed. I decided there would be no other choice (I can be stubborn). I took classes offered throughout San Diego, one of them at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center.
Flash forward to Sept. 4, the day my Dahlia was born (a few hours after her baby shower, but that's another story). Her first latch was perfect. "Look at her! She's a pro!" my nurses said.
Discharge day came and we went home. The struggle began a couple days later when she had her first pediatrician appointment. She had lost a lot of weight and had slight jaundice. The doctor put her on formula until "my milk came in." My milk came in a few days later, and that's when the real struggle began. My baby had gotten used to the bottle and was refusing my breast. She would work herself up so much that she didn't want to eat. I was struggling, too. I would cry with her — many times all day (those darn baby blues) — and the thought of quitting breastfeeding crossed my mind many times.
At two weeks postpartum, I reached out to La Leche League. They sent someone to my house to talk with me and give me resources. I pulled out the booklet of resources given to me at the hospital and at my baby's first checkup. There I saw the breastfeeding support group offered at Sharp Chula Vista. I was terrified and not ready to leave my house. Still, I knew I needed help.
The La Leche League support leader left my house that day having convinced me to attend a support group meeting; I was there the next day. Thank goodness my husband still had a few days before going back to work as he drove us there and waited. Bless his heart; he says he didn't know how to help, but he did just that by taking me. I got there late, but the lactation educators were so sweet. Kika (Sandoval) greeted me and assured me it was OK when I walked in late. Marci (Escobar) was there as well. They helped me settle in. After an initial assessment, they helped me get Dahlia latched.
That first meeting gave me a feeling like a ton of bricks had been lifted off my shoulders. My sister drove me to the next few meetings because I was afraid of driving with my newborn. Eventually, I drove myself; by then, I was attending the support group every day it was offered — three days a week. Day by day, week by week, nothing but progress. Dahlia was improving her latch, gaining weight and slowly weaning off formula.
The lactation educators are heaven-sent — so patient and caring. They gave me my confidence back, cheering for me and celebrating every time my baby gained a few ounces. I made friends with a few moms, all of whom were also first-time moms. We shared our birthing stories and talked about our lack of sleep, the struggle to latch, how we always felt hungry and how much we disliked pumping. We asked each other questions and laughed about missing being able to enjoy a beer. We bonded over how we loved having our babies, but missed our pregnant bellies. It was our own "Sisterhood of the Milky Mamas." We all looked forward to seeing each other. It's what kept us sane and was sometimes our only adult interaction of the day. Life with a newborn had become a little less challenging, and we were finally out and about without fear, and so our weekly trips to our "boobie class," as I referred to it, were over.
I am forever grateful for resources like these being readily available to all mothers, first-time or not. My breastfeeding journey is still successful at almost 11 months because of it, and because of them.
Sharp offers free breastfeeding support groups at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, Sharp Grossmont Hospital and Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns. Call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277) or visit sharp.com to learn more.