Why I Participate: By Parent Partner Jennifer Ferrieri

Posted August 18, 2015 by Jennifer Ferrieri

This is one of a series of posts for National Breastfeeding Month about NICHQ's work to improve breastfeeding-related maternity care practices in hospitals.

Jennifer Ferrieri, a mother of two, shares her breastfeeding experience and why she joined the New York State Breastfeeding Quality Improvement in Hospitals (BQIH) Collaborative as a parent partner.

Jennifer Ferrieri and FamilyI knew nothing about babies or breastfeeding before becoming a mom. I wasn’t a breastfed baby, and I never had any cousins or immediate family members or experienced mom friends who breastfed their babies.

During my first pregnancy, I read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” along with practically every single article on BabyCenter.com, I started researching the benefits of nursing. And as I was reading, one of the key benefits that IMMEDIATELY got my attention was that it lowers the risk of breast cancer. This was huge for me. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 5 years after my father passed away. I was her caretaker and brought her to chemotherapy, radiation, surgeries, you name it. Thankfully, today she is 15 years in remission and declared cancer-free. So you can imagine that by reading how nursing can lower your risk of cancer, I was all over it. I was determined to nurse my baby.

During my first pregnancy I had a partial placenta previa, and by the time I hit 37 weeks the baby was getting so heavy that my doctor recommended a Cesarean section as soon as possible to minimize hemorrhage during delivery. My surgery was scheduled at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset, N.Y., for Jan. 28, 2011, but my son had other plans. He decided to put me into labor during pre-surgical testing the day before. Thankfully we had a smooth C-section delivery though it would be hours before I got to hold my baby.

In recovery, I spoke to the nurse about nursing. She told me she knew the basics and would help me get started. It was very late at night by this point and there weren’t any lactation consultants on duty. When Mason finally was brought into recovery she immediately helped him latch into a football pose (all of my research came in pretty handy), and we were nursing!

Watching my baby nurse for the first time a wave of emotions came over me. I loved the attachment and bonding it gave us, not to mention I was blown away that this was even happening (remember when I said I wasn’t very maternal?) At about 2 a.m., I finally got into a hospital bed and asked that Mason go to the nursery and be brought to me for feedings so I could sleep for at least an hour or two. The on-staff nurses said yes, no problem. After three hours I woke up expecting my baby to be brought, and there was nobody answering the call. When someone finally answered I was told that he couldn’t be brought to me because they were short staffed. I strongly insisted my baby be brought to be fed and finally a nurse brought him in. From that point on, I was not going to depend on anyone to bring me my baby, and that he would room in with me.

Meeting a Life Changer
The next morning, I met Dawn Frank, a lactation consultant for the hospital. She was life changing. What she showed me and shared with me I will never, ever forget. During my four night hospital stay, I constantly called in lactation consultants to check my latch multiple times a day, because like I said, I was determined. By the time I was discharged I was a pro at breastfeeding, but even in the first month or two of being a new mom with a new baby I still called Dawn for advice and support. It wasn’t long before we were in a groove and I started being the one that my new mommy friends went to for support and advice. I exclusively breastfed my son for nearly 10 months and combo fed until he was a year old. He weaned himself a week before his first birthday. I was and still am so proud that I accomplished this, and have seen both my son and I reap the benefits breastfeeding has to offer.

My daughter Sophia was born Dec. 17, 2012, and I was so excited to nurse another baby. I “thought” I was still a pro at breastfeeding, but apparently not nursing for one year in between kids you forget things. After that first night I woke up with sores because Sophia wasn’t latching properly. So my first morning at the hospital, who comes into my room? Dawn. Immediately she showed me the best way to latch again, and of course gave me even more amazing breastfeeding advice and solutions. Even with me nursing my first child so much longer than many, I still needed help from a lactation consultant. Lesson learned.

Nursing the second baby was such a different experience. There was no stress. I knew to listen to my body and baby’s cues, and we literally just nursed on demand. There was never a schedule for Sophia. With her, I surpassed my goal and nursed for 25 months.

A Voice for Other Moms
Being asked to participate as the North Shore University Hospital’s parent partner is a huge honor for me. I will forever be grateful for the way Dawn and the entire staff helped me to successfully nurse both children. It is such a pleasure to offer my thoughts and feedback to the team from the perspective of a “real mom.” I have a straightforward, outgoing personality and I don’t hold back when it comes to offering my opinion or insight. I’ve helped link the team with tons of experienced mommies to give even more feedback when it comes to formula vs. breastfeeding verbiage, rooming in tips, and also helped to strategize their first ever breastfeeding café, which I can’t wait to participate in.

I feel my input has been an asset with implementing new strategies for getting women to breastfeed. If I, the (once) non-maternal, no experience at all new mommy can breastfeed not once, but twice lasting a grand total of 3 years, then I truly believe anyone can nurse. And I’m glad to help the North Shore University Hospital team achieve this.

Intrigued? Learn more about NICHQ's breastfeeding initiatives, the value of parent partners and read other "Why I Participate" stories.


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