Channing’s Milk-Sharing Story

February 25, 2015 in Adversity, Breastfeeding, Gratitude, joy, Loss, Love, Motherhood

By Channing Parker

Before the birth of my daughter, my pregnancy daydreams focused heavily on nursing my new baby while she slept in my arms. With each feeding, she would snuggle in close to me and drink until she was satisfied. I would pull her close, take in her sweet baby goodness, and drift off in blissful mommy vibes. When the time came for her to be welcomed to this side of heaven, I just knew that everything was going to go perfectly according to my plans. She settled in for her first feed, she latched beautifully, ate, and snuggled into her first newborn sleep.

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Does it sound like a dream? I think those were my post-delivery hormones talking. The harsh reality outside of the delivery room was that my daughter had a very difficult time nursing. My dreams of peaceful rocking chair feedings came crashing down when we got home. Each time I nursed my toes curled as I offered my raw, cracked skin over and over again trying to help my daughter successfully latch. Every feed ended with both of us soaked in tears and milk. I was so frustrated! I had milk to give and a hungry baby to eat it, but something went wrong between point A and B and we failed to fill her tummy. We were just one week in and I was ready to give up until I stumbled upon a solution that was perfect for us – bottle-nursing. Bottle nursing consists of pumping breast milk and feeding it to baby via a bottle. My first pumping session produced more milk than could be eaten in one feeding, and for the first time since my daughter was born, I felt a sense of relief.

I hoarded any extra milk I had in the freezer. Within a month, my little freezer was bursting with frozen breast milk. It was at this point that I realized my body produced abnormally large amounts of milk – enough to fill about three babies per feeding. I went back and forth considering dumping all the extra down the drain when I was inspired to look into informal milk donation. I prayed and poured my heart over my decision to donate my milk to a mother who adopted her baby, born just a few weeks after my daughter. I moved forward and met this mom and her baby.

We talked for a while and got to know each other and cooed over our babies. I joyfully packed every bag of milk I had into her cooler. She gave me a hug walked away with a huge smile. At that moment, I realized she was carrying away 120 ounces of me. My tears. My milk. My heart. I felt lighter. Over the next ten months, God lead three other women just like her to my tiny freezer. Each time they came, they chipped away at the raw pain inside me and took those pieces away in bags of breast milk. Those parts of me that ached to be acknowledged and loved were wrapped in hugs and grateful smiles from fellow mothers. Eventually, the place in my soul that once housed a gnawing emptiness began to be filled with hope, love, and friendship.

God turned my dream of feeding one baby into something even more beautiful and fulfilling. He took my fiery determination to breastfeed and passion for my child and softened it into a passionate compassion for His children. The Lord knew that the joy of feeding just one baby was not enough for me, so he allowed me to feed four more. I look back on my experience as a milk donor and joyfully praise Him. How great His wisdom and His love!

My experience with milk donation is that an ounce given is received back one hundred times over in the the joy of selfless service. For both donor and recipient, an exchange of freely given breast milk is about so much more than filling bellies. It is about finding healing and bringing peace to the hearts that long for love, and that is a treasure that cannot be measured in ounces.

DSC_0114Channing Parker is an LDS wife and mother who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. She is a passionate student and teacher of yoga and loves to share her love of life and learning with others. Find her at The Little Blog Of Awesome and let some of her radiance and joy rub off on you!

Breast is Best… Unless You Can’t

October 14, 2013 in Breastfeeding, Guest Post

Michelle sent this story to us and said she felt very prompted to share her story about breastfeeding her four children. I very much appreciated her experiences and her honesty. I hope that her story will reach the people who need to hear it. My one addition to her story is to say, “Don’t feel guilty! Don’t feel guilty about how you need (or want) to feed your baby. Just do the best you can. That is all God expects of any of us.”

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My first pregnancy was very easy. The only unusual thing about it was that my breasts didn’t grow, but since it was my first, I didn’t notice. After a traumatic delivery with 4th degree tearing, I struggled getting my baby to latch but she eventually did. 72 hours postpartum, my milk came in and we started our nursing relationship.

At five weeks postpartum, my milk supply suddenly dropped. I thought it was because of two reasons– the first being that at two weeks postpartum, I had gone back to school to finish my last year of college and, since I didn’t have a breast pump, instructed the babysitter to feed my daughter formula when she was hungry. The other reason, I thought, may have been because my daughter was going through a growth spurt.

After two weeks of near-constant nursing and lots of crying, I realized I needed to supplement. I had been co-sleeping, drinking a lot and taking brewer’s yeast (the solutions suggested to me by my lactation consultant) but I simply wasn’t producing enough. I started supplementing a lot but continued nursing a little until we weaned at eleven months.

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My second pregnancy was also easy and this time my breasts did grow a little. I had a much easier labor with very little tearing and nursed almost immediately after. My milk came in at 48 hours and all seemed to be going well until I got mastitis twice the second week postpartum. After that my milk never recovered and I started supplementing at three weeks postpartum. I also experienced postpartum depression, which negatively impacted my milk supply and my daughter weaned herself at 7 months. I was very sad, but my daughter was finished.

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My third pregnancy was a joyful one and healing in many ways. My breasts grew a lot and I had an easy, natural delivery. My third daughter latched easily and nursed well. My milk came in well at 48 hours. I was determined to do everything right and nurse full time, so I obtained a hand pump and for the first six weeks, I would pump one side while nursing on the other–even in the middle of the night. I got mastitis but caught it early enough that it didn’t affect my supply.

At six weeks I figured that I had established a good supply and stopped pumping. At around four weeks my daughter had started crying every night for hours and was growing slowly, but I felt like I had enough. When I stopped pumping however, I saw a very fast decrease in my supply. At seven weeks, I began taking fenugreek daily to help my supply, which I did until she was about four months old. At that point I had to start supplementing, in spite of the fenugreek. Once I started supplementing, my daughter stopped crying at night and started growing faster. We supplemented and nursed until she was 14 months old. Supplementing brought about a huge personality change in her and she turned into a happy, easy baby.

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My fourth pregnancy was harder. There was a lot of stress, some antenatal depression and I had incredible hip/sciatic pain. I would crawl to the bathroom in the middle of the night because it was too painful to walk. I was determined to breastfeed, but I started getting concerned when I couldn’t express any colostrum one month before her birth. My breasts grew, but not nearly as much as my third pregnancy.

Her birth was an amazing, unassisted home birth. She started screaming as soon as she was born and didn’t stop for 30 minutes. I tried to get her to latch and finally she latched at 30 minutes postpartum, but didn’t nurse well or frequently the first 24 hours. I kept her at the breast for nearly 36 hours, but she struggled with her latch and bobbed on and off. She figured out her latch around 72 hours. My milk also came in about then, but I wasn’t engorged. I never suffered any engorgement at all.

At 6 days postpartum, we received a call from her pediatrician stating that her newborn screening results had come back abnormal. We spent the next 3 days meeting with doctors and specialists, with a huge amount of stress and very little sleep. She was diagnosed with MCADD, a rare but fairly easy to manage metabolic disorder. One of the management techniques was frequent feeding, every three to four hours. She was a good sleeper, so I had to set alarms throughout the night to wake up to feed her.

By the time she was 10 days old, I was on Reglan to increase my supply. We were in the middle of selling our house and the stress of that, combined with the stress of her diagnosis and lack of sleep, impacted my already tenuous supply. My supply had dropped the few days we were learning about her diagnosis and I simply couldn’t keep up.

In order to build my supply back up after taking Reglan, I started sleeping nine to ten hours a day, consuming about 100 ounces of fluid and about 3000 calories. I put on weight. I obtained a double electric breast pump and pumped in between nursing sessions. I co-slept, took my Reglan prescription (even convinced my doctor to give me a refill) and began taking the MoreMilk Plus tincture. I nursed her as frequently as she wanted, often sitting for three to four hours in the evening just to get her to sleep. I continued this regimen of milk-increasing tactics until she was 9 weeks old. By this point, we were getting ready to move and she was so hungry she screamed all day in my arms. I would nurse her every 45 minutes for 20 minutes, pump during or in between and do all the other things I had been doing. She would bob on and off, cry the whole time we were nursing and was not satisfied after. She would scream most of the day and nursed constantly at night. I was completely exhausted, mentally and emotionally.

In order to make our move easier, I began to pump instead of nursing so people could feed her while I was packing. I have an overactive letdown reflex and can easily pump. It was then I realized that I was only producing seven to ten ounces a day in spite of everything. I had only been supplementing with four to six ounces of formula a day up to this point. I realized her crying wasn’t because of colic, but because of hunger. I was basically keeping her fed just enough to avoid a metabolic crisis.

So at eleven weeks old, six days before our move, I stopped nursing. The first day on the bottle, she ate five ounces every two hours. I wasn’t even engorged. We realized that she was starving. We also realized that as part of her metabolic disorder, she was only able to use a certain amount of her food as calories and needed to eat twice as much as my other children in order to get enough calories. Even now, at four months, she is very petite but eats voraciously.  I wasn’t producing enough to feed a regular baby, much less one who needed extra calories.

That decision proved to be the right one. We were able to move much more easily. She started putting on weight. She hadn’t smiled much but she began smiling more. I could finally take a short shower without her screaming. I could even put her down to do the dishes!

The biggest difference was her personality change. When we bottle fed her, she stopped screaming. She was still a needy baby, but she was actually content in my arms or a carrier. She slept peacefully. She cooed at me. She was a different baby.

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In the midst of the challenge with my fourth daughter, I came across some articles that talked about lactation failure and insufficient glandular tissue. I don’t have all the physical characteristics, but I do have very wide set and small breasts. I found that there were almost some genetic markers in my family that could have clued me in too. In talking with my father’s mother after the birth of my fourth daughter, I learned that her breasts never changed during pregnancy and her milk never came in with any of her three children. My grandmother has three sisters, and none of them had their milk come in. My great-grandmother and great-great-grandmother were also unable to nurse and relied on other things to feed their babies. My great-great grandma had 13 children and gave them all meat broth!

It has been two and a half months since we weaned. I so desperately wanted to nurse all of my children, and, despite exploring every option, I simply can’t nurse. The realization that I will never be able to nurse a baby successfully has been excruciating.I truly love nursing. I treasure the moments of closeness. Cuddling skin to skin in the middle of the night. I miss the peace that comes from nursing.

I also feel guilty. Looking back on my third daughter, I realize that I wasn’t producing enough for her. I feel a lot of guilt over my selfishness in wanting to nurse her and being unwilling to see she wasn’t thriving. I feel guilty knowing that I’m not providing antibodies for my fourth daughter. I feel guilt that I’m using formula.

I pleaded with God to change my body, to help me nurse my babies. I pleaded that He would give me a miracle. But it seems that this experience has been one to humble me.

Breast is best and I love to breastfeed. I am grateful for the times I was able to breastfeed my daughters. I will always cherish those moments.

Ask and it Shall Be Given You

July 26, 2012 in Breastfeeding, Heather

“For they cannot bear  meat now, but milk they must receive; wherefore, they must not know these things, lest they perish. Learn of me, and listen to my words; walk in the meekness of my Spirit, and you shall have peace in me.” (D&C 19:22-23)”

My nursling is going through a growth spurt and it seems like I have been nursing non-stop the last few weeks. Sitting with him, staring into his trusting eyes, has given me some time and I have been thinking a lot about the spiritual symbolism of nursing.

The first thought that has impressed itself upon my soul, so strongly, is the fact that breast milk is sweet.  (And yes I know this because I have tasted it. Don’t get too grossed out, sometimes you can’t help but taste it when it is spraying all over you! ) Breast milk is high in lactose (natural milk sugar), and is actually the most sweet when a baby is first born.

The Lord has told us that “… all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal, and things which are spiritual” (Moses 6:63)  and that He has specifically designed this earth and our mortal life to teach us valuable lessons. When we know that it makes even simple things, like the fact that breast milk is sweet, a beautiful testament of God.

How precious is that God designed it so that the first taste of life that every child  gets– is sweet.

Breast milk, and a mother’s role in delivering that milk,  is a precious reminder of God’s love for us.  A mother gives her milk freely, requiring nothing from the child and likewise our Savior invites us, “… every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and …  buy… milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1) He offers us his milk, his precious sweet milk, of forgiveness, love and mercy with the tender charity of a mother. God is no respecter of persons and it doesn’t matter if a child is born to royalty or to a prostitute, if their birth is celebrated or despaired, or if their body is perfect or flawed; their life was designed by God to be sweet.

His love for each of us is the same.

The other thing that I have been thinking a lot about is something Robyn quoted me as saying in her essay  in our book about how breastfeeding is symbolic of the relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ.  In her essay I said:

It has always really impressed me that a baby has to work pretty hard to get its milk. It has to learn how to latch on and then they have to suck and suck for a while before anything gets flowing. It can be frustrating and slow at the start. Yet the more they suck the more milk their mother produces. If they were to stop sucking, the milk would go away, but when they ask for more, it comes in abundance.

I think that is just like our Father in Heaven. He has told us “ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you.” He has living water for us, but we have to be willing to ask Him for it, over and over again. Sometimes we even have to work, and it takes a while before anything comes.

If we give up and scream and cry because what we want isn’t coming fast enough, then we miss out. We have to keep working and asking, and soon His living water begins to flow—like a river. It amazes me that this is one of the very first lessons that we are taught when we come to this earth. God could have made breastfeeding a much different process, but I think He knew that His children needed to learn this right away.

I have been wrestling and pondering some spiritual questions lately and have been feeling so frustrated that I don’t understand. I want, so badly, to see and understand more than I do right now. Yet it seems like there are some things that just don’t make sense to me. I lack understanding, and I hate it. Really, hate it.

Then as I was watching my little boy tug at my breast I was reminded that the Lord does not always teach us everything we need, or want to know, all at once. Learning in this life comes line upon line, precept upon precept and we can’t rush it or demand more until we are ready for it. If we want more understanding, if we want to see the glories that God has prepared for us, we need to come to His breast– several times a day– and ask for His precious milk.  It is just waiting there, sweet and nourishing, and He is  yearning to take us in His arms. We just have to  ask for it.

And ask.

And ask.

And Ask.

I can bear testimony that the Lord has beautiful truths to teach us, the mysteries of the universe are not beyond our grasp, but just like a child we must learn how to nestle ourselves into His arm, and look up into His face with perfect faith, and ask until we receive.

“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you” (Matt. 7:7)