Today’s Podcast

137: Bedrest during pregnancy and newborn with a weak suck and early hospitalization did not deter Betsy from persevering with breastfeeding.

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Betsy Furler

The biggest wall I hit and it was actually a very serious wall.  Henry was hospitalized at 3 weeks the first time  and he has been hospitalized 100 times or more in his lifetime.  He was hospitalized for failure to thrive  and while we were in the hospital it was very stressful of course and I immediately learned that I was the most important person in this child’s life and I had to fight for him. 

Her Story.

Background: Betsy is a Native Texan and was born in Dallas, Texas. Her dad is an episcopal minister and her mom is a Christian betsy-furler-baeducation director. She has 1 sister who is 22 months older. Betsy describes her family as a very loving and very supportive family for which she is grateful for. She had a great childhood and was always told that she could do anything in the world that she wanted to. Betsy said that she always knew she loved babies almost from birth. She played with a lot of babies and babysat a lot when she was a teenager.

Betsy tell us that when she was younger, she wanted to have 10 kids and be a Part Time scientist. She would probably have 10 kids now if it was not for her husband who has said they can hold handle what they have. When I was a teenager I thought I would be a psychologist and I majored in psychology and sociology in college. She then decided to keep the major but not get a Phd psychology. She tell us her reasoning was that she is the kind of person that a lot of people tell their problems to anyway and she realized she did not want to do that for a living. Not sure what she wanted to do when she graduated from college. She took a year off and worked for a professional photographer. She moved to Dallas and and found out that University of Texas at Dallas had an excellent Speech Pathology program and she decided to sign up for it. She did not know anything about the field, but it turned out to be an excellent fit. I have worked with a lot of young children over the years and counseled a lot of parents in my years as a Speech Pathologist.

Was she breastfed: Yes, she was for about a year. Her mom did try and wean her onto formula at about 4 months, but said Betsy wanted nothing to do with it, so she just kept breastfeeding. both she and her sister and her were both breastfed.

Breastfeeding History: She planned on breastfeeding. She worked with babies as a Speech Pathologist. She knew the benefits, was breastfed herself and just planned on breastfeeding. She did have her own plans on how things would go. She was practical and assumed she would give birth on her due date stay home for a short time and return to work when her baby was 4 weeks, taking her baby with her. Her plans were derailed when she went into labor at 28 weeks. They could not stop it, so she was hospitalized and then so she went home on monitored bed rest. She did make it to 36 weeks. She was super happy to have her newborn and not be pregnant anymore. She immediately started nursing Henry however, it was difficult. She was followed up by the hospital lactation consultant because he was a very difficult feeder.

She did not read any books. Henry was born in 1998, so access to the internet was not that great and she was spending so much time flat on her back so was limited in what she had. She did read a lot of books on pregnancy and parenting. She spent a lot of her time on bedrest ordering products from catalogs, read a lot of books, watched a lot of TV.

Her birth started with her water breaking. She went to the hospital and was induced and she had 28 hours of labor. She dilated to 5 cm. and they told her husband to go home and go to sleep because her labor was so long. Shortly after he left,she dilated to 10 and her husband and Dr. made it back just in time after just a few pushes. Henry had low blood sugar and they did not want her to breastfeed. She was very determined and so they reluctantly let her breastfeed each time they brought Henry to her room as he stayed in a separate nursery. He weighed 6 lb. 7 oz.

She did not suffer with postpartum depression, however, she describes being completely sleep deprived. Henry was not breastfeeding well and he had not gained well. After meeting with the hospital lactation consultant and a private lactation consultant,they all decided he needed supplementation so he did get some formula. She had a routine which was every 3 hours breastfeeding and bottle feeding and pumping. This was incredibly tiring and she credits her super supportive husband, who along with her sister in law, provided much needed help and support. She also had a house cleaner, however, even with all this support, it is very tiring being a new mom. Henry was a very fussy baby and she did a lot of babywearing. Betsy says that either she was holding Henry or when she was pumping her husband held him. His latch was not good and his suck was not good and she was also not producing enough milk.

Since she was was a speech pathologist who specialized in speech therapy. This kept her going because she knew it was not her. It was not anything she was doing wrong. She knew she just had to persevered. His suck was very dis coordinated and he had weak muscles. She did check for ties and he did not have any. The physical support that she received from her husband. He never said to stop breastfeeding. He also did not have to say you have to keep going. He was neutrally supportive and was hands on with Henry. Her motivation was she wanted him to get the antibodies from her. She had a gut feeling that this was important. . She did find out much later that both her kids have immunodeficiency so it was very important for them to get all the breastmilk they did get into him.

Hitting that Wall: Henry was hospital at 3 weeks for the very first time for failure to thrive. and he has been hospitalized at least 100 times since then. She immediately learned that she was the most important person in his life and she had to fight for him. At one point the GI Dr. came in and said that you have to try harder to breastfeed, to which Betsy replied that she was trying. She discontinued officially the use of formula because at that time she listened to the Dr. When her husband came up and found Henry unresponsive, he said that Henry had to have formula. Because he was not taking the bottle well, her husband squeezed the milk into Henry’s mouth. It was at this point that Betsy hit the wall. She realized that : Oh my goodness my child might l literally die if I don’t get enough milk in him. She decided to keep providing breast milk while she also supplemented with formula. She did not use donor milk with Henry but did with Sam.
Henry does have a metabolic disorder which was the reason for all his trouble. It affects his central nervous system. Henry is a very interesting kid. He has severe epilepsy, however, is now off to college and managing his life himself and is doing well.

Betsy continued this routine for about 3 months… breastfeeding, pumping and supplementing. At that time, he had many medical issues, he was on monitors, he had sleep apnea. She did not go back to work until he was 3 months. She was in a private practice, with no income, but stayed home as long as she possibly could. Her husband quit his job stayed home with Henry for 2 years as we could not put Henry into a daycare situation.

Planning for her second baby, Sam: She purposefully waited 4 years to conceive as she needed to get over Henry being a baby.She did have trouble conceiving with second one, but on the day she went to discuss fertility treatments, she realized she was pregnant. So the boys are 6 years apart. Betsy totally prepared for this pregnancy, for being on bed rest for getting disability.

She quit her job and got a job with a good company with great health insurance. She took a job at a school system and signed up with disability insurance. She assumed she was going to be on bed rest with Sam, which she did not mind because she was prepared for it this time and this also gave her plenty of time to spend quality time with Henry. At 20 weeks she started. he hung on to 35 weeks and she had gained 25 loubs in one week and the whole lower part of her body had blown up like a balloon. She had ecampsia and they decided to go to L and D. Her blood pressure was sky high so they put her on magnesium, waited for her pressure to come down and she was then induced. They wanted to do a c/section and she bargained for 8 hours of labor before having a c/sec. She had lots of medication on board until the baby was born. She had an epidural but not feeling much of it because of her medication. She gave birth 8 hours and 20 minutes later, in the window of time she said she would.

She had about 8 people in the room, a team of nurses, and after a few pushes and a cord wrapped around his neck, he was born and he was 6 lbs 10 oz at 35 weeks. She wanted to avoid having a cesarean section because she did not want to have surgery and felt it was better for the baby. Everyone was very happy that Sam was born normally. They saved his cord blood which ws the first one done in Houston, because they had Henry which they did not know what was wrong with it. She said she spent 5 glorious days in the hospital. She was fed well and taken care of well and she was very happy and satisfied with the stay.

She did nurse in the hospital, it went well. Her supply was still not as good, but breastfeeding was going better. She came home with and left her baby with her family and went off and went Christmas shopping. She said she was feeling good and Sam did well. Pediatrician said that he was the fussiest baby he had ever seen in his career.

At 6 months, he was gaining well, but he was not a big gainer. At 6 months he had blood in his stool, he was hospitalized for allergic colitis. Before this she was using donor milk and pumping, but the stress level was a lot less then with Henry. She cut out everything from her diet and it did not help. The donor milk was not going to work well with her because she could not tell her she had to change her diet. So she weaned him and he went on Elecare hypoallergenic formula and he ate that until he was 2 years old. Since this is a very expensive formula. Betsy felt very fortunate that someone donated enough milk to her that it lasted the whole 2 years that Sam was on this formula. Once he was weaned from it, he did fine with cows milk. His allergies have never reappeared.

She returned to work at about 9 weeks. When she was on bed rest, a school asked her if she could come in for just a few hours a week. She was asked to work for them after the birth and they welcomed her baby. It worked out great and she worked there for a year. The occupational therapist brought her baby to work also. Once the babies got to big to be at work ( not safe with all the wheelchairs), She and the other mom “nanny shared” for another few years.

As hard as her life was, she still looks back fondly on the early newborn years as she just loved it so much.

Words of encouragement to new mothers who may struggle with breastfeeding: Betsy feels that it is such a great bond and encourages moms to breastfeed for however long they can do it. It does not have to be an all or nothing. You can supplement with formula while you pump and breastfeed. Sometimes it is not perfect but you can make the best of it.

Pearls of Wisdom to the newly postpartum mom: Do you best and let that be that!

Funny nursing story: Perhaps not a funny story, but a heartwarming story. She did enjoy breastfeeding when in the hospital because you got free food if you were breastfeeding. It was a nice perk because when you have a baby in the hospital ( after you have already been discharged), it is hard to get down to the cafeteria and they just delivered it to you.
When Henry was 5 and about to turn 6, he was very aware of the new babies needs. He was constantly telling her that she needed to feed the baby, wear the baby and really liked when she nursed the baby.

What is Betsy currently doing in her career: She has been a Speech Pathologist for 25 years specializing in feeding therapy, then transitioned to specializing in autism therapy then using computers and tablets for people who are non-verbal. so they can use technology to speak. She is now involved in the tech community. The company where she works does computer consulting with tech development and app development to make their products more usable and accessible for people of all needs. She also has a speech therapy practice where she has 4 employees and they specialize in teaching kids and adults to talk. She explained the amazing technology of apps that uses text to speech or icons so they can communicate. Pretty amazing stuff!

Email: [email protected]
Additional details:

[email protected]
Twitter: betsyfurler
Facebook Communication Circles
Instagram: Betsy Walling Furler

Lori J. Isenstadt, IBCLC
Lori j Isenstadt, IBCLCLori Jill Isenstadt, IBCLC is a huge breastfeeding supporter.  She has spent much  of her adult life working in the maternal health field. Once she became turned on to birth and became a childbirth educator, there was no stopping her love of working with families during their childbearing years.  Lori became a Birth doula and a Postpartum doula and soon became a lactation consultant.  She has been helping moms and babies with breastfeeding for over 25 years.  Lori founded her private practice, All About Breastfeeding where she meets with moms one on one to help solve their breastfeeding challenges.  She is an international speaker, book author and the host of the  popular itunes podcast, All About Breastfeeding, the place where the girls hang out.  You can reach Lori by email at: [email protected] or contact her via her website:

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