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On November 1, 2012, a Middle Eastern couple and their two-week-old baby came to a Fresno EOC WIC office to enroll. Shortly after arriving, the child began to cough and appeared to have difficulty breathing. Parents spoke nervously in their native language and picked up the newborn with hopes that the coughing would subside.

The face of the child began to turn red and the child’s limbs turned blue. Experienced WIC Nutrition Assistant, See Lee, calmly patted the child’s back to open the child’s airway. It was evident that thick saliva or mucous was blocking the child’s airway. The newborn appeared to be very weak and could barely open her mouth to breathe. See quickly called 911 as Mary Clare Ovalle, registered dietitian supervisor and IBC lactation consultant, hurried over to assist the family. Mary Clare explained that the top priority was to get the baby breathing. The newborn was in desperate need of liquid to clear her airway. Relying on her lactation expertise, MaryClare asked the mother to breast feed.

Despite cultural modesty, a language barrier, and lack of time, the parents trusted Mary Clare’s suggestion.

As the newborn latched onto her mother’s breast, tears began to stream down the mother’s face and her husband’s voice began to quiver. By breastfeeding, the mother provided fluid to clear throat of the baby which allowed her to breathe out of her nose. As she continued, the baby calmly suckled at the breast and her color was restored.

At this moment, both the mother and father had complete confidence that their newborn was going to be ok. The life of this newborn was saved by breastfeeding.

“We were trying to find the best solution for this child in such a short amount of time which seemed like forever.” said Lee. “We had never experienced such an urgent situation, some part of me felt helpless.”

The paramedics arrived shortly after to check the newborn’s vitals. The parents felt that it would be best to go to the hospital for a full examination.

The following day, the father returned to thank staff members for their guidance and assistance through such a scary time. He told staff that the doctor explained that the newborn’s airways were clogged because of the granular nature of baby formula and he recommended that they exclusively breastfeed.

Emotional experiences such as this show us how important it is for a child to be breastfed. At Fresno EOC we are thankful for our knowledgeable WIC staff who are continuously supporting our clients!


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