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Breastfeeding in the ER

Lisa Grile
Belmont MI USA
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 24 No. 2, March -- April 2007, pp. 63-64

I've always thought of myself as a regular mom. My husband and I have three children: twin boys, Thomas and Christopher, who are four-and-a-half years old, and our singleton son, Cameron, who is now 16 months old. When I gave birth to the twins, I tried breastfeeding and lasted a week. There were many factors that lead me to quit, including overwhelming fatigue, lack of adequate help and support, and jaundice. While I made that decision to stop breastfeeding, I was never okay with it. As I found out more and more information about the obstacles I faced, I realized I could have done things differently that might have helped me preserve that breastfeeding relationship. When I was lucky enough to become pregnant with our third baby, I was more determined than ever to make breastfeeding work. Little did I know how committed I really was!

In March of 2006, while my youngest son, Cameron, was six months old, I came down with some sort of intestinal flu. It came on suddenly, and I was watchful of dehydration, since I was exclusively breastfeeding my son. Somehow, in between trips to the toilet every 20 minutes, I was able to breastfeed Cameron. I guess I didn't have much of a choice, since he never took to a bottle. Overnight, I was still quite sick, but kept drinking fluids. By morning, however, I was truly miserable and decided to call the doctor.

I was advised to take anti-diarrheal medication, and keep drinking fluids, including electrolyte drinks. I tried to be upbeat about it all, thankful that at least I hadn't been vomiting. Well, that was about to change. I got up to nurse my son around 1 am, but soon had to put him down and make my way to the toilet because I was so nauseous. I wondered how I was going to keep going.

By the next morning, I was worse. I wasn't thinking clearly, could hardly keep my eyes open, and felt so tired. Yet, I was still nursing Cameron. My husband spoke to his mother over the phone about our situation, and she replied, "Why is she continuing to breastfeed? She's far too sick to be doing that." I admit that her comments angered me at the time. What were we supposed to do? Cameron wouldn't take a bottle, and we couldn't let him starve. It was as simple as that. So, we called the doctor again, and he advised us to go to the emergency room (ER). My mother arrived to take care of the twins and asked us what we planned on doing with Cameron. My husband's reply was, "I don't think we have much choice. He's coming with us."

The doctor determined that I was severely dehydrated, and I also had very low blood sugar. I had to stay in the ER for several hours to be treated. Meanwhile, I was still breastfeeding my baby on demand, every couple of hours. I was truly amazed at how I was hardly able to function, and yet my body was still making milk to feed my child. It was quite the scene in the ER, being hooked up to IVs and nursing my child. I went home from the ER feeling much better.

I always knew that I wanted to breastfeed. What I learned after those few days of being sick was that I was more committed to breastfeeding than I ever thought possible.

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