Thrive by IU Health

August 08, 2023

Lactation team helps mother-of-three reach breastfeeding goals

IU Health North Hospital

Lactation team helps mother-of-three reach breastfeeding goals

By Emma Avila,, writer for IU Health’s Indianapolis Suburban Region

Nikki Wolfe persevered through a NICU stay and an infection, maintaining her breastfeeding journey with the support of the IU Health North’s lactation team.

Nikki Wolfe cherishes spending time with her children. She has two boys, ages four and three, and an eight-month-old daughter. The boys love being big brothers.

“They love to just talk to her, and she smiles from ear to ear,” Nikki said.

Nikki Wolfe holding her daughter and smiling for a selfie

For the first two months of her daughter’s life, she wasn’t able to be home with her family.

Nikki gave birth to her daughter, Kenna, prematurely at 32-weeks pregnant. Kenna spent 55 days in the Riley Children's Health neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at IU Health North.

Breastfeeding was always important to Nikki. That was how she fed her boys when they were infants. The hospital’s lactation team connected with Nikki while Kenna was in the NICU.

“I think with Kenna being in the NICU, I knew breast milk was and is better for her, that it would help with her immune system” Nikki said.

Since Nikki couldn’t be at the hospital around the clock with her daughter, she used a breast pump to help keep up her milk supply and feed Kenna, even when Nikki couldn’t physically be there. It was also helpful since Kenna had a nasogastric tube, a small tube to help feed babies who can’t take enough calories by mouth. It went into Kenna’s stomach through her nose.

“Since she had the tube, for me personally, it was easier to pump. That way we could know how much milk she was getting,” Nikki explained.

During Kenna’s stay at IU Health North, the NICU’s lactation team helped Nikki with her breastfeeding journey. Abigail Roark, a lactation consultant, formed a bond with the Wolfes and checked in on Nikki often.

The NICU location team, left to right: Abigail Roark, Michelle Pace, Demitra Minetos
The NICU location team, left to right: Abigail Roark, Michelle Pace, Demitra Minetos

Toward the end of Kenna’s stay at the hospital, Nikki noticed an area that became irritated on her left breast. Roark suggested Nikki see her doctor to get the area checked out.

“The redness around it and the pain she was having with it, these were definitely signs it was more than a pimple,” Roark said.

Nikki’s doctor examined the area and told her it was Methicillian-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, an infection caused by a type of staph bacteria. It can be associated with mastitis and breast abscesses, which is what Nikki experienced. The doctor drained the abscess right away, but it would take some time for Nikki’s breast to fully heal.

Despite the pain, it was important to Nikki to continue pumping, and she was determined to make it happen. When she needed help or had questions, the lactation team was on hand to assist.

She is grateful to Roark and the rest of the team, who not only helped alert her that something was wrong, but also helped take care of her afterward.

“Honestly if it weren’t for them catching it so quickly, I don’t know what would’ve happened,” she said. “They were constantly checking to see if they needed to change the dressing or have it looked at again.”

August is National Breastfeeding Month, an annual recognition dedicated to the protection, promotion and support of breastfeeding. Nikki hopes sharing her story will help encourage other moms struggling with their lactation journey to persevere.

“Pumping is exhausting and a fulltime job, but you honestly can do anything you really want to. You just have to push through and figure out what is going to make the situation better,” she said.

“The biggest thing I want for these moms is for them to able to enjoy their time with these babies,” Roark added. “If breastfeeding is something they are struggling with, I try to find a way to help them accomplish it. I just want to support them in the best way possible while making sure they absolutely enjoy their newborn.”

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