Christiana Hospital nurse Grace Ngamau thought she knew a lot about breastfeeding even before she had her first child. With family roots in Kenya, Ngamau came from a cultural background where breastfeeding was the norm. In fact, her mother breastfed Ngamau and her siblings for a full three years, a common practice in Kenya.
Ngamau ’s knowledge of breastfeeding expanded through her job as a maternity nurse, where she often helped instruct new mothers on breastfeeding basics. But, when she became a mother herself, she gained a completely new perspective on breastfeeding.
“When I had my first daughter seven years ago, I was suddenly the patient and not the nurse,” Ngamau said. “I needed to understand how to make breastfeeding work for me personally, and there were a lot of things that surprised me. I learned even more when I had my second daughter four years ago.”
With both babies, Ngamau relied on help from Christiana Care lactation consultants, classes offered at the hospital and additional support from her supervisor when she returned to work and wanted to continue breastfeeding.
Both of her babies were jaundiced when they were born, which required the girls to be away from her more often during their first days. Her second daughter ended up spending time in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Pediatric Unit.
“I was able to breastfeed them, and they had some supplements to keep them nourished until my milk came in,” she said. “The Lactation Consultants and the Christiana Hospital staff were very helpful. When I took my babies home, they followed up with me to make sure things were going well and to offer advice.”
Ngamau also attended a mother/baby class at Christiana Hospital. “It was fun to be with other new mothers, and I learned a lot of ideas for making life with a newborn go smoothly,” she said.
With both babies, she found that continuing to breastfeed when she returned to work after three months went easier than she expected.
“There is a Lactation Room in the NICU, and I can always find a comfortable, private room on my floor to pump,” she said. “Christiana Hospital provides a refrigerator for storing my milk, and my supervisor and co-workers are all very encouraging.”
She breastfed her first daughter, Vanessa, for 12 months, and her second daughter, Alyssa, for 15 months.
“It was a very emotional experience for me,” she said. “The way my babies and I could look into each other’s eyes was incredible.”
The closeness that she and her babies felt while breastfeeding has continued as Vanessa and Alyssa have grown.
“Even now, they just love to cuddle,” she said. “I think they still have a memory of breastfeeding and feel a sense of comfort when we just quietly snuggle together.”
Of special significance for her is the health of her daughters. “Both have been very healthy,” she noted. “But I did notice that Alyssa, the daughter who breastfed longer, seems to have had even fewer visits to the doctor than Vanessa. I think the extra three months of breastfeeding helped her to fight off colds and other common baby ailments.”
Through her own personal experience with breastfeeding and motherhood, Ngamau feels that she is now an even better maternity nurse and enjoys sharing her knowledge with new mothers.
“I tell them to definitely give breastfeeding a try,” she said. “It’s worth it.”