Why I Participate: By Parent Partner Ivette Torres
Posted April 26, 2016 by Ivette Torres
|Ivette Torres had varying levels of support while learning to breastfeed in the hospital. Now she's a parent partner at the Texas Ten Step Star Achiever Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative and working to improve postpartum breastfeeding support.
Ivette Torres shares why proper support is key for positive breastfeeding outcomes and how her experiences led her to join the Texas Ten Step Star Achiever Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative as a parent partner.
I participate with the Texas Ten Step Star Achiever Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative because postpartum breastfeeding support at the bedside is imperative to success. We may have every intention to breastfeed, but postpartum support is critical. Hospitals are the front-line in prevention for newborns and it starts with breastfeeding.
I am a public health professional working in a medical school environment conducting clinical research and managing clinical service projects. There is ample evidence on the benefits of breastfeeding, and I breastfed out of the conviction to do what is best for my babies.
Breastfeeding may be natural but it is not an automatic process for some of us, no matter how much we read. I made sure the hospital I chose to deliver my first baby at had a lactation consultant, I took a class, and I assumed there would be a supportive environment in the mother-baby unit. It did not go as planned.
My First Birthing Experience
I gave birth in the evening after a stressful 24-hour labor and vacuum assisted delivery. I never thought that I would be separated from my baby and I was too exhausted to advocate for us and did not know any better. My baby was returned stressed and hungry over an hour later. I did not know how to get my baby to appropriately latch, and night shift nurses did not know how to support us in our breastfeeding effort. We had a terrible night.
In the morning my seasoned lactation consultant became my new superhero. She helped me latch; she taught me the “pinky finger” as pacifier technique; and she coordinated skin-to-skin contact with my hubby and baby so that “mom and baby could get some sleep“—I was in love with her! She was my breastfeeding mentor and coach for about two weeks. My baby, Joaquin, was exclusively breastfed for six months and in total for 15 months.
Second Time Around Improvements
My second birthing experience was with twins at 40 weeks. There was no lactation support at either hospital in town, but I thought with all my experience from my first baby, why would I need one? The birth, again, did not go as planned with one vaginal delivery and one cesarean section. The nurse had breastfed her own babies and her support made all the emotional difference to me as I struggled. I was too exhausted to care for my babies; she brought Marielle and Marisol every 2-hours for feedings that night. I could not properly latch Marielle who was in distress. Under duress, I formula fed her to calm her. At discharge my husband drove me to the next county for assistance from La Leche League. I never saw my own error pushing her (stressed and tired as I was) versus letting her head bob at latch; we recovered quickly. They were both exclusively breastfed for six months; Marisol weaned at 12 months and Marielle at 15 months.
Third Time’s the Charm
I am happy to report that Andres, my fourth baby, was an easy delivery and an amazing breastfeeding initiation experience. My success is attributed to a seasoned nurse (and perhaps mom wasn’t green any more)! The nurse told everyone else on the care team that I was breastfeeding and immediately after birth placed that baby with me. She kicked everyone out because I was going to breastfeed at the bedside. Imagine that, as it should be! The baby roomed with me the whole time and all my children talked about mother’s milk at the bedside.
Ironically, there was no lactation consultant hired by the hospital but supportive nurses make all the difference. My attending physician and this wonder-nurse, set the tone for breastfeeding support. Therefore, changing hospital culture and sensitizing all staff serving mothers and babies is a huge deal. I was overjoyed to learn that Harlingen Medical Center was participating with the Texas Breastfeeding Collaborative and specifically focusing on improving its maternity care practices to support breastfeeding moms.
Finding My Advocacy Voice
I later found the Rio Grande Breastfeeding Coalition and asked, “Where have you all been all my life?” I served as secretary for two years and now serve as president. Change is here with my hand-selected board comprised of motivated abled-women. Time is the most valuable asset and challenge still. The Texas Breastfeeding Collaborative is my newfound network, which provides me with inspiration and support to lead locally.
This is a transformative year for my area of Texas. There is a convergence of factors right now, including a bill allowing time and space for mothers to breastfeed at work, the Texas Breastfeeding Learning Collaborative and the new University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Medical School in our U.S.-Mexico border region. The school is integrating a prevention curriculum. This means that preemptive action such as breastfeeding may actually be valued as a practice and taken more seriously by our medical establishment. This year, I finally have local physicians who are clinical faculty for the school asking the right questions, ready to provide advisement and willing to present on our breastfeeding coalition’s behalf.
The reason I participate in the Texas Breastfeeding Collaborative is simple. This network at the state level allows us to leverage our knowledge, our advocacy and our collective effort at the community level to improve the health of mothers and babies.