By MELODY STONE, The Eureka Reporter
When Jenni Masaki’s daughter Charlotte was born, Masaki didn’t consider the possibility of having trouble breast-feeding.
“I was so concerned with how scary labor was going to be no one told me how difficult breast-feeding could be,” said Masaki. Charlotte was having trouble latching, breast-feeding was painful for Masaki, and after two weeks of struggling and crying, Masaki phoned Star Siegfried, a lactation consultant and obstetric nurse.
Siegfried met with Masaki and her husband and talked the couple through the issues they were having. Siegfried suspected an infection was causing a lot of Masaki’s discomfort, and her suspicions were confirmed by a doctor. Masaki was given antibiotics.
Siegfried taught Masaki to feel the correct latch and helped her find the best way to hold Charlotte. Masaki said it was important for her husband to be there as support and an extra set of ears.
Masaki and her husband took over ownership of Kyoto, a Japanese restaurant in Old Town Eureka, last July and became pregnant shortly after.
“I didn’t realize that most people had problems breast-feeding,” said Masaki, “It’s OK to ask for help. You kinda feel like an inadequate mother when you can’t do something as natural as breast-feeding.”
Masaki said that throughout her pregnancy, no one told her that breast-feeding could be problematic.
Siegfried told Masaki to relax and let her body do a lot of the work. “You just need your body and your baby and read the cues between the two of you,” said Masaki.
“After about two weeks of seeing Star, I got really brave and just started doing it on my own and we are happy breast-feeders.”
Charlotte has gained 3.5 pounds since her birth in April and eats regularly and heartily, Masaki said.
Siegfried said breast-feeding is a sensitive subject for women who have problems breast-feeding. While some women identify their feeling about not being able to breast-feed as guilt, Siegfried said, she sees it as grief. “If someone loses a limb, they go through the stages of grief,” Siegfried said. “Not being able to breast-feed is like losing a limb.”
Siegfried said she helps women work through their grief and come to acceptance.
“What I do is help mothers to find their own success.”
For Siegfried, this doesn’t always mean ending up breast-feeding, but she said she believes that one day of breast-feeding is better than none at all.
As a teenager, Siegfried contracted a sexually transmitted disease that left her fallopian tubes scarred. She eventually had to have both her tubes and one ovary removed. When she got married, she had eight in vitro attempts at fertilization and one pregnancy.
Siegfried said being able to do something so natural as breast-feeding after so much trouble getting pregnant inspired her to help other women breast-feed.
Her passion stems from her experience and her expertise stems from hours in the field. She is the lactation consultant for St. Joseph Hospital and has been a nurse for 20 years.
In addition to being at the hospital and helping women get started breast-feeding, she also helps mothers with premature babies and runs a private consulting business.
On Tuesdays, she hosts a free lactation group for women to come together and gain support from one another. Siegfried said support from a woman’s family, friends, partner and workplace is key to her success breast-feeding.
Masaki said that without a lactation consultant, she would have given up. “I needed someone to help me feel the correct latch.”
While lactation consulting is still a very small industry, Siegfried said eventually she believes it will be a four-year college program. Right now, to become a certified lactation consultant, one has to have a certain number of hours working in the field.
Jacquie McShane, lactation consultant at Mad River Community Hospital, has worked at Mad River for 25 years as a nurse and was doing consultation part time, but now does it part time exclusively.
“It helps the nurses out because lactation problems take time. Lactation problems in most time studies aren’t factored into nurses’ roles,” said McShane. “By having consultants who are dedicated to that problem, they can be most effective in dealing with lactation issues, and we have special skills.
“When I nursed my first child I had major problems and I was a local expert. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through that.”
McShane hosts a free clinic Mondays and Thursdays to help with follow-up.
“The hospital feels it’s a valuable service, so they pay me and let me do it.”
Of her breast-feeding experience, Masaki said, “The intimacy and the awesome bonding, I was blown away. It’s truly an amazing thing.”