For anxious first-time mother, Dudu Njapha, having a breast-feeding expert on hand was like manna from heaven when Lisu, her one-day-old son, struggled to latch. Dudu, was determined to give her baby the full health benefits of breast-feeding.
Little Lisu Njapha turned one-year in March 2019. “He’s growing and crawling so well,” says his mom Dudu. “I love that he’s so energetic! He’s a very curious little busy body and opens all doors, cupboards, drawers – so much so that my kitchen is his favourite playground and the Tupperware his favourite toy. Lisu’s lifting himself up and holding onto all sorts of items to stand and soon the little man will be walking. I credit his health and excellent development to the fact that I have been able to breast-feed him,” adds Dudu. “It’s crazy to think that I came close to missing out on giving my child breast milk from the get-go.”
Dudu’s Emergency C-section at 35 weeks
33-year-old first-time mom, Dudu Njapha gave birth to her son Lisu at the Netcare Parklands Hospital in Overport, Durban in 2018 - chosen carefully through her internet research for its reputation and full Discovery Health Medical Aid Scheme maternity cover.
Dudu was intent on giving birth naturally. Yet all her diligent preparation and reading failed to prepare her for the whirlwind of an eventual emergency, premature caesarean-section birth.
“On Wednesday, March 14, 2018, when I was 35-weeks and three days pregnant, my doctor said the baby was lying in breech - not in itself a problem because babies do turn into the right position - but my amniotic fluid levels were also low. In light of that, he immediately booked me in, a month before my due date, with a C-section scheduled for two days’ time. My hospital bag was only half-packed – it all really caught me on the back-foot,” she admits.
With her mother flying down from Johannesburg and her husband, Nhlanhla, at her bedside (with the missing maternity bag items soon to hand) she was wheeled into the operating theatre at 08:50, on Friday 16 March. Adding to her anxiety was hearing that once-born, her baby would go straight into the neo-natal ICU, as a precaution taken for premature babies. “With that news and the steroid treatment Lisu was on in-utero, all of it was mildly freaking me out,” she says.
With husband Nhanhla at Dudu’s side throughout the epidural and C-section procedures, baby Lisu entered the world healthy and weighing a robust 2.49kg – obviating the need for neo-natal ICU care. After being placed on Dudu’s chest for brief bonding, Lisu was whisked off and brought to a cot alongside her ward bed an hour later. Lisu then stayed with her until their discharge two days later.
But, a huge blow for Dudu was that when Lisu was first brought to her, she’d been told by a nurse, to her consternation, that she needn’t bother feeding him right away as he’d had been formula-fed already.
A determined Dudu pressed on with her plans to breast-feed him, but not before some very anxious moments as Dudu uncertainly held her precious tiny bundle to her breast and watched what seemed to be only minute amounts of the very nutrient and antibody-rich colostrum express.
“I got quite panicky. I wasn’t sure if it was right or enough, whether Lisu was actually latching or even if I was holding him correctly,” she says.
Lactation consultant overcomes Lisu’s formula-feeding
The next morning, the doctors came to see me and were very happy with his progress but I was too afraid to share my breast-feeding concerns with them. After they’d gone, with Lisu trying to latch, a guardian angel appeared. "The next morning, the doctors came to see me and were very happy with his progress but I was too afraid to share my breast-feeding concerns with them. After they'd gone, with Lisu trying to latch, a guardian angel appeared. Her name was Hannah Visagie and she was a lactation consultant. This sort of consultation is covered under the Discovery Health Medical Scheme’s Maternity Benefit. I was blown away. I don’t think I've ever been so happy with my medical aid," Dudu says.
“Hannah, herself a mother of three, approached me at a human level - there was no technical jargon. She showed me some comfortable positions with a pillow, so both baby and I had support in the different feeding positions, especially around his head. For the first time I thought, ‘I can do this’,” Dudu remembers.
“I told Hannah I didn’t have milk and she said ‘Yes, you do’ and began expressing fluid from my breast with her fingers. She even took out some little containers, explaining how tiny the baby’s stomach was and how little colostrum he needed. When Lisu suckled, Hannah told me that he was latching because his cheeks were so nicely rounded. It felt so natural. The assistance meant the world and was very big for me. I was so affirmed in my decision to do exclusive breast feeding,” Dudu enthuses.
Hannah, left her with a helpful pamphlet about how to express and store milk for feeding by a child-minder, when Dudu – a market researcher - was back at work. She also gave Dudu her cell phone number for support at any time, telling her a colleague would visit her just before her discharge two days later. Sure enough, several hours before she was due to be discharged, a colleague - Rebecca Graham - arrived to watch her breast feed and give her tips about that and the non-crying cues Lisu would give when hungry. She also made sure Dudu knew how to use her breast pump.
Dudu goes home, but support continues
A week after returning home, with Lisu sleeping well in the day but far less at night, a worried Dudu called Rebecca, expressing concern about waking Lisu to feed and that she was not feeding him too little because he wasn’t passing stools. Rebecca reassured her, explaining that new-borns excrete very little initially and checking that Lisu was passing urine regularly. Dudu was contacted by Rebecca again just before Lisu’s routine two-week check-up. She remembers celebrating Lisu’s weight gain to 2.8kg – he had now surpassed his birth-weight and was thriving.
“It just seems like there were moments when I just needed somebody to intercede at a particular time. Hannah and Rebecca were there at exactly the right moment, every time. They were also available for advice after I got home, either through WhatsApp or on their cellphones. It was just amazing,” adds Dudu.
Breast-feeding has given Lisu a firm foundation
“Lisu’s still breast feeding but he’s also on solids now and eating very well. He loves mashed sweet potato especially. I want to wean him off breast milk by the age of two, and while I want my body back, I am conflicted and have mommy guilt as there is comfort that comes with holding onto mommy and being able to breast feed. I express milk and leave a stash behind for his child minder to give him while I am at work,” adds Dudu. “For now, my son has made the world of difference to his excellent health.”
We're on your pregnancy journey with you:
With Discovery Health Medical Scheme, you have access to comprehensive maternity and post-birth benefits supported by access to 24/7 support, advice and guidance through the My Pregnancy and My Baby programmes on the Discovery app and website.
The healthcare services are covered from the Maternity Benefit at the Discovery Health Rate. This cover does not affect your day-to-day benefits and depends on the plan you choose.
Nausea and vomiting is the most common complaint in pregnancy. We chatted to Dr Natalie Odell, who qualified with a Fellowship in Obstetrics and Gynaecology from the College of Medicine South Africa and a MMed from WITS, to better understand its causes.
This is the second of a two-part feature in which a financial writer at Discovery and father of twins, offers honest and tongue-in-cheek advice to expecting and new dads. The article was first published in Men's Health in February 2018.
This is the second of a two-part feature. A financial writer at Discovery and father of twins offers honest and tongue-in-cheek advice to expecting and new dads. The article was first published in Men’s Health in February 2018.