Recently on rounds in the neonatal ICU, I learned that a mother of one of the premature infants was refusing to wake from sleep and nurse her child. The small patient was losing weight and not very active. I immediately had the mother called in for a meeting.
As we sat down together, she seemed uninterested in speaking with me. I gathered my thoughts and prepared a mental outline on the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of giving the baby frequent meals. Fortunately, before the words left my lips, a light went off in my head. There was something different about this case.
Instead, I simply said “you seem to be having a difficult time with this baby, can you tell me about it?” I did not expect the response. She explained she was a 14 year-old with no support from her family and was alone in the world. I then learned that the child she carried was the result of a very brutal rape.
Immediately, our conversation took a new direction. Over the next 30 minutes, we discussed how her strength and maturity would keep this infant alive and healthy. Then, she suggested a plan. The nurse would wake her every three hours and assist her with breastfeeding. They would work together.
Over the following few days, the baby gained weight and improved clinically. The mother worked very hard and quickly became skilled at breastfeeding. She soon did not need to be woken-up by our staff and no longer needed assistance with positioning during feeding.
I think this young woman will make a good mother.