By Naeisha Rose
Month-old Mason Wheeler, of Astoria, was honored last Friday during World Breastfeeding Week at Long Island Jewish Forest Hills Hospital, which was recently designated as “baby friendly” by UNICEF and the World Health Organization.
There are only 22 hospitals in the state with the distinction.
Mason was delivered a week early in July via C-section because his mother, Gabrielle Wheeler, suffered complications from asthma and cholestasis, a condition which slows the flow of bile from the liver.
“It can transfer in the bloodstream and cause fetal distress,” Wheeler said of cholestasis.
Wheeler had to forego a natural birth at 39 weeks and spent 39 hours in labor until doctors stepped in. Mason was born on July 1, weighing in at 8 pounds. Unfortunately, he had fluid in his lungs and had to stay at the neonatal intensive care unit for six days, according to his mother.
Wheeler struggled to breastfeed following the stressful birth. At first, she only had a few drops of milk during lactation.
“He was so small and delicate,” Wheeler said. “I couldn’t get him to latch.”
The nurses at LIJ stepped in and got Wheeler a lactation expert to educate her on breastfeeding and the nutritional benefits Mason would receive from the process.
“The lactation specialist came in and helped me to learn that it is not an innate process, but a skill you have to learn and that he would get used to it,” Wheeler said. “I suffer from gastrointestinal and breathing problems, and I know that breastfeeding prevents that, so I really wanted him to breastfeed.”
Breastfeeding can help to reduce or prevent a lot of other health problems for individuals as they grow up, according to Jennifer Kurtz, the chief of neonatology at LIJ Forest Hills.
“Breastfed babies are less likely to have ear infections, respiratory illness, and digestive issues,” Kurtz said.
Mason is now 11 pounds and is able to latch and breastfeed. During his graduation ceremony, he was dressed in a baby-blue cap and gown. His father, Benjamin Wheeler, joined his mom by his side. Mason received a diploma with special honors in breastfeeding.
“Mason is doing great,” his mother said. “Most babies lose weight in the beginning, but he has gained weight and I think that’s because of the breast milk.”
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose