Brave Milk Making Mamas

Hi have some clients who really blow my mind.  Really.  They are awesome.  The stuff they go through just to give breastmilk to their babies is awe-inspiring.  Months and months of IVs and drains and repeated surgeries–and still breastfeeding.  Tongue-tie and lip-tie revisions on their babies and sore nipples and open wounds and nipple shield.  Flat nipples, hand expression and eventually nursing just one on boob (hey who said you need both of them!?).  Feeding tubes while nursing at the breast or on a finger.  Donating hundreds of ounces of breastmilk to babies who need it because their mamas can’t make enough.  Moms who are humble enough to accept donor milk because they know they aren’t making enough.  Mamas who spend lots of time and money on lactation support, pumping bras, different breastpumps to see which one works better, herbs, homeopathic remedies, coconut oil, herbal balms, Kinesiotape and castor oil compresses.  One of the moms I know even wore a vacuum drain on her breast for 8…weeks…straight…and couldn’t drive the whole time while her baby nursed on the other side.  Really.  A-mazing.

Nursing a lil' pumpkin in public (aka NIP) in a pumpkin patch!  Thanks to this gutsy mama for permission to use this photo!

Nursing a lil’ pumpkin in public (aka NIP) in a pumpkin patch! Thanks to this gutsy mama for permission to use this photo!

This is why I do what I do.  Some people work as a doula or breastfeeding counselor or lactation consultant because babies are so cool.  Not this girl.  I do it for the moms (and I usually love their partners, too, especially the involved and loving and supportive partners who are there through the thick of it to support mom).  I watch them develop into such gutsy women through this process.  And sometimes, yes, being a gutsy mama means knowing when to be at peace with making just 10% of the milk your baby needs or even quitting nursing or exclusive pumping altogether.  Breastfeeding isn’t easy for everyone.  And now, more than ever, more and more mamas who want to breastfeed are discovering they have underlying issues that prevent them (sometimes) from making enough milk. Or their babies have anatomical issues that prevent them from sucking or swallowing well.  Sometimes there are ways to work with what you’re given and improve it.  Sure, it’s “natural”, but hey, sex is natural but we all get better at that with practice, too, right?  [Correct me if I’m wrong on that one and tell me your secret!! Wink!]

Unfortunately, as you may know, there are many barriers for women who want to nurse (or one could say to babies who want to nurse).  What are the barriers? Medications in labor, surgical birth, uninformed staff in hospitals, necessary or unnecessary interventions on baby, mom’s past history with breast reduction or augmentation, mom’s medical history related to diabetes, thyroid, iron, polycystic ovarian syndrome, insufficient glandular tissue, baby in the NICU, pumps that suck (or rather, don’t suck well), pediatricians who are uninformed and push formula instead of quality lactation support…the list goes on.  In some moms there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable explanation for what happened.  And other moms have all the risk factors and are able to nurse successfully.  Oy.

Most moms, statistics show, quit within the first week.  In the United States, as of 2010 data, only 16% of babies were exclusively breastfed to 6 months of age (the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends all babies be fed exclusively breastmilk until the age of 6 months and continue to be nursed until 1 year of age or longer, as long as mutually desired…the World Health Organization recommends at least 2 years or longer).

Given that data and those barriers, it’s a wonder that American women continue to breastfeed their babies.  Did you breastfeed?  How long?  What helped you continue as long as you did?  What hindered you?  Share your comments below and by doing so, you’ll be supporting the other women that see your comments.  Band together, gutsy mamas!

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10 thoughts on “Brave Milk Making Mamas

  1. Hola Gutsy Mamás,
    Still exclusively breastfeeding at 15 months old baby boy :). And we still planing to keep going 😉
    My experience it’s been so Great, beside 1 of my boob it’s small, cause my little one it’s been breastfeeding in 1 boob 😉 sense 6 month … but it’s ok as long he’s Happy & healthy …. Also I Love Jeanette 🙂
    Thanks! For All your support, tips and soooo much more and of course ALL the Super Mamas at the Breastmilk & Cokies groups….. 🙂

  2. I loved the blog! I’m one of those mama’s who wanted to solely breastfeed but ended up having many difficulties. I nursed for the first 4 months with nonstop pain with every feeding. On top of the fact my daughter had issues with gaining weight. My supply never came in the way it should of. I didn’t find out til she was 11 months that lip and tongue tie would be the cause. However formula wasn’t an option as she didn’t take to it at all. So I have been traveling all over New England(at least 4-5 states) to pick up donor milk for my daughter. I’m still doing it and she is almost 15 months. I give kudos for every mom who breast feeds even a little, it is much harder then it looks, however the rewards of it are amazing. I’m very thankful for Lactation Consultants at the hospital we were at, Jeanette and the Breastmilk and Cookies groups, and my loving and very supportive husband who without all of these supporters I wouldn’t have made it past the first few weeks!

  3. Breastfeeding was so hard with my first baby. Thankfully I wasn’t given formula in the hospital. If I had, I would have quit! I almost sent my husband to the store but didn’t know what kind of formula to buy and didn’t know a thing about bottles. Then my mom stepped in and gave me a handout on the benefits of breastfeeding. I read it and from that minute on, I was determined to make it work! Six lactation consultants or so later, I never really got the help I needed, but we made it through for two years.

  4. Still exclusively breastfeeding at nine months, and while it’s been the most challenging experience of my life, it’s also been the most rewarding – – hands down. The beginning months were also the most painful thing I’ve ever been through (even more painful than labor with no meds. I’m not exaggerating). Nursing did not come easy for my lil’ trooper due to severe tongue and lip ties (which had to be revised twice each). So, our nursing challenges ran the gamut from excruciating pain to feeding tubes while nursing to days of tears on end when I doubted how either of us could tolerate more failures (the failures hurt in a place deep inside).
    But with a lot of hard work and determination [as much from me as from my baby – she was a hard-working nursing superstar ;-)], we came out on the other end of it. I’m even able to donate some of my milk to mamas who need it for their little ones. 🙂
    I love Babies in Common. The support I’ve received from Jeanette & the mamas I’ve met has helped me through some extremely difficult times. And, I love this blog post b/c, unfortunately, you do have to be brave to breasfteed in our culture.

  5. I am still breastfeeding my 18 month old. Initially, we had to overcome a c-section birth, NICU, multiple surgeries for my baby, IV only feedings, a feeding tube, and hospital bottle feedings, and (re)learning to breastfeed. I’ve been everywhere between exclusive breastfeeding and exclusive pumping and giving fortified breastmilk. Its hard work and we fought to be where we are now, but its been worth every bit of it.

  6. Go pumpkin mama!

    I really admire women who go to these lengths to give their baby the best possible start in life. I had an easy time breastfeeding; I produced a lot of milk and both my girls took to it right away (so much so that I had trouble getting them to drink from a bottle). The second time I was even able to donate a bit of milk. Unfortunately my breastfeeding days came to an end when my daughter was 7-months old due to the fact I had to go on some medication. My doctors were adamant that I should quit breastfeeding. So I did. Could I have carried on? Probably, but enough doubt about the safety of feeding my baby “contaminated” milk had been put in my mind. My daughter did just fine on formula (once she agreed to take a bottle). I wish I could have carried on, especially when I see the mamas of babies my daughter’s age still breastfeeding, but it wasn’t to be for us.

  7. Wonderful article. Breastfeeding has been the hardest yet most rewarding thing in my life. To see that joy my baby gets from my liquid gold is amazing. While the struggles may be tough the rewards are so worth it. Love Jeanette, BINC and the community of these woman.

  8. Yes! 9 months of struggles and now 7+ months of smooth sailing, still going strong and not stopping anytime soon. I could never have done it without BinC!

  9. I did. 9 months (exclusively for 3 after some help via supplemental nursing system and formula in the hospital) for my first who was born via c-section. When I went back to work, I couldn’t keep up and had no idea that milk sharing existed.

    For my second, 14 months, born via vbac. One day he just stopped. I wasn’t ready (so much so that I snuck in at night and tried to feed him in the middle of the night… he woke up and was like what the heck mom!). Letting my body go into labor, even more than a week late, with a broken back, helped. Having a doula helped. Knowing that I could do it and that lots of other moms did helped. I donated a bunch of milk to other mamas in need too. ❤

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