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First-time mom conquers breastfeeding challenges with help from NCH Lactation Services

August 8, 2018

Danielle Thurber receives advice from Karen Dickert, R.N., IBCLC, NCH Lactation Consultant.

Danielle Thurber, 31, of Arlington Heights knew she was going to breastfeed even before she gave birth to her son, Arlo Sol, in January.

“It was never a question for me,” Danielle says. “It was more of me hoping I was going to be able to breastfeed. Knowing all of the nutritious benefits that come from breastfeeding, I always really wanted to breastfeed my baby.”

Danielle was educated through a breastfeeding class led by international board-certified lactation consultants at Northwest Community Hospital (NCH). Right after Arlo was born at NCH, labor and delivery nurses and Karen Dickert, R.N., IBCLC, NCH Lactation Consultant, continued to help by showing Danielle how to feed him. Breastfeeding seemed easy and natural.”

“Karen was my breastfeeding angel and the first person who came and saw me in the room,” Danielle recalls. “She explained everything to me, including ‘proper latch’ and what I should be looking for.”

Like all new moms, she was dazed and a bit sleep deprived, but Danielle vividly recalls feeling fortunate that Arlo fed well from the very beginning as she learned the first of many breastfeeding tips: that mom needs to relax.

“My body was in this awful position,” Danielle says. “I remember Karen pushing my shoulders back and showing me how I was holding my body because I didn’t even notice that I was super hunched over. That always stands out in my mind.”

Much more help came over the next couple of months as Danielle called NCH Lactation Services periodically to work through engorgement (breasts that are painfully full) mastitis (a common condition caused by a backup of milk in the milk ducts) and thrush (a yeast infection of the tongue and mouth that can be passed to the breast).

 “I would call and Karen would walk me through everything,” Danielle says. 

Baby Arlo enjoys time with his mom at the NCH Baby Cafe Support Group.

For engorgement, a common problem with breastfeeding moms, “Karen told me to get in a hot shower and massage my breasts and then ice them after I fed the baby,” Danielle explains.

She also learned tips for keeping Arlo awake during feedings and how to correctly align, support and position Arlo at her breast. Danielle’s determination to continue breastfeeding despite challenges came from the education she received at NCH and seeking out knowledge about breastfeeding during her pregnancy. For her, the decision was an easy one. 

“I learned how breastmilk is the best option for baby compared with formula,” Danielle says. “There’s no comparison. Babies are less likely to get sick, and they get more nutrients and minerals from breastmilk compared to formula.”

Perhaps the biggest challenge for Danielle occurred when she returned to work full time. She decided to pump while at work so she could continue to breastfeed.

“We encourage mothers to discuss their pump selections and plans for pumping,” Karen says. “We emphasize the fact that first and foremost, the baby is the most important pump.”

About a week ago, Danielle started to experience signs of a plugged duct, but she quickly avoided it by applying a warm compress, a tip she learned at NCH. 

“The most important tactic for avoiding clogged ducts is to keep the breasts comfortably emptied after a feeding,” Karen says. “We encourage mothers to contact our lactation consultants to help them navigate what they are experiencing, and how to best handle and treat the problem.”  

Danielle is now part of the Baby Café, a newly formed breastfeeding support group held on Wednesdays from 1 to 2:30 p.m. in the Women’s and Children’s Services classroom on the fourth floor of the hospital, 800 West Central Road in Arlington Heights. It is open to all breastfeeding moms and their babies, whether or not they gave birth at NCH. The peer-to-peer sharing of experiences is proving to be powerful and empowering for moms.

“Current research shows that mothers are more successful with breastfeeding if they have a strong support system,” Karen says. “The Baby Café provides this. These women share the common bond of having recently undergone one of the most profound experiences of their lifetime – childbirth.”

Today, all is going well for Danielle and baby Arlo. He’s gaining weight, thriving and happy. Danielle says she’s happy too, that she gets to enjoy the priceless bond between mother and baby. “More important than anything else, though, and my main reason for breastfeeding, was the nutritional benefit of what I’d be giving to my baby.”

From prenatal classes to postpartum services and breastfeeding support, NCH offers everything new mothers need to care for their babies. Call Breastfeeding Support Services at 847-618-8545 for help with breastfeeding problems and concerns, or to schedule an appointment with one of four international, board-certified lactation consultants, available Monday through Friday. Learn more at 

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