Natural not easy – breast-feeding and excess milk . . .
Breastfeeding might be natural but that doesn’t make it easy. Lindsay learned that with her first son Tucker. After a challenging birth, she struggled with breastfeeding. Tucker had some anatomical issues that made latching difficult. And Lindsay struggled with excess milk supply, although no one explained that to her initially. In fact, despite multiple attempts to reach out for help, her concerns were dismissed. As a result, Lindsay’s oversupply took quite a while to diagnose. And so, with Tucker, she never really got the help and support she needed. The help and support every mom needs – and deserves.
Committed to providing a breastmilk diet for her son, Lindsay ultimately ended up pumping and bottle-feeding Tucker. It was not how she hoped their breastfeeding journey would go but she persevered for 14 months, giving Tucker all of the incredible health benefits an exclusive human milk diet offers.
Forging her own path . . .
While Lindsay had lots of excess milk with her firstborn, she had no bandwidth to pursue milk donation. She describes those early parenting days as, “bobbing alone in the ocean, trying to get back on the boat.” All her energy went to staying afloat. She had nothing left over. We get it.
Before her second child Duke was even born, Lindsay knew she was likely to need help. Receiving little lactation support from the hospital the first time around, she began pursuing other resources. She suspected her milk would come in as an oversupply again and she wanted to be prepared. She wanted more support for herself. And she really wanted to be able to feed Duke at the breast. Second time parenting is a different ballgame.
The gift of excess milk – it’s complicated . . .
Reaching out to Healthy Babies, Happy Moms, Lindsay began working with Kathy (Kathleen Moren, RN, IBCLC, President) who was wonderful. But, as Lindsay notes, she paid out of pocket for the privilege of that support. While some did, her insurance at the time didn’t cover lactation support. And fighting for a reimbursement claim isn’t an appealing option for anyone, never mind a busy and exhausted mom. Today, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, most insurers are required to cover lactation support. Unfortunately however, this doesn’t apply to “grandfathered plans” which differ by agency. Of course, you can’t help but wonder why ample lactation services were not part of Lindsay’s hospital birth experience in the first place.
“We have work to do!” Lindsay exclaims, referring to our need for a truly supportive parenting village where everyone gets what they need to care for themselves, their babies, and perhaps even other babies in need. She explains, “With proper support, a milk oversupply is entirely manageable. We are missing a huge opportunity to care for moms who have an oversupply. A huge opportunity to provide more education and introduce topics like milk donation so everyone can benefit.”
Healthy Babies, Happy Moms suggested that Lindsay reach out to us to consider milk donation with her excess supply. “It was so easy”, she tells me. “Breastfeeding is a lot of work, but onboarding as a donor and milk donation? That’s a breeze.”
The blessing of the milk . . .
Before connecting with Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast, like most people, Lindsay didn’t know much about donor milk. She didn’t know that many premature babies can only safely digest human milk and often their own mother’s milk supply hasn’t developed yet. She didn’t know that donor milk saves lives. Working with us, she learned just how valuable her donations are. And sharing her milk became even more meaningful.
“The milk, it’s a part of me that I gave. That’s why it’s so powerful and emotional. I donated a part of who I am. When I packed up the boxes of milk, I said a little prayer over it to bless and hopefully strengthen the babies in the Northeast. I think about the mothers too. Being in the NICU? It’s hard just being a parent! It makes me emotional to think how hard it must have been for these families. I hope that I gave them some solace, some peace-of-mind, knowing their baby is being nourished.”
Lindsay leaves us with this thought, “It’s kind of trite but as parents, as women, if we all chose to support each other and our children and we all become that village we so desperately need, it WOULD be better.”
We all have our struggles in life but the good news is, we don’t have to face them alone. That said, we understand that finding the support you deserve can be difficult. That’s why we’ve created a short list of trusted organizations and materials you may find helpful. Remember, everyone needs a little help sometimes and that’s okay. Take care.