Thank you for giving my son life.
I don’t want to get crazy on you here, but let me be totally transparent: I can’t imagine what my family would look like without that liquid gold. Your gold. Your life-force alchemy.
I know what it’s like to hook yourself up to a pump every day, mulitple times a day, for months on end. Extracting that milk, creating extra steps, extra dishes, extra work while engaging in the most extra energy exerting time of your life with a newborn clutched to one breast as the pump cranks on the other. You never even hinted at the burden I knew it was for you. You handled it with an elegant grace I unreservedly admire.
Last year, I found myself stuck in a nightmare with my eight month old son. My sweet baby had severe food allergies (here’s what I want you to know about FPIES), and needed more milk than I could produce. My breasts, the ones that were meant to feed him, began to fail us both. Even after all of the nutrition and support and finally pharmaceutical medication, I could not raise my milk supply to keep up with his demand. Exclusive pumping, unimaginable stress, sick baby, hormone shifts, whatever. You name it, it contributed to the decrease in my milk.
Formula was a risky option for my son, even the expensive elemental ones that work for 99.9% of infants with food allergies. We had no guarantee my son’s compromised system could tolerate the pre-digested proteins, as many other babies with his syndrome are unable to. I prayed. I researched. I lit candles and called formula companies and looked into every conceivable way to feed my son that did not require actual food.
And then my phone rang and you were on the line, understanding with your medical knowledge and feeling it all with your tender heart, and asked if you could give my son your milk.
I cried. With my back literally against the wall, sitting on the floor of my bedroom, muffling my relieved sobs, I accepted your gift with the undeniable knowledge there was no way I could ever pay this gift forward, much less pay you back. With a newborn baby who needed your milk and a toddler who needed your attention, a full-time job and active community involvement, you offered to close the gap for us. You added one more thing to your very full plate and you did it with grace and strength and love.
Every few weeks, a box would arrive, overnighted from Texas to Oregon, dry ice all but disintegrated in a custom styrofoam cooler. (One of many coolers you recruited your friends to save for you to ship your milk to us.) You pumped your milk, froze it, picked up the cooler from your friend, loaded it all into your car, bought dry ice, carefully constructed the layers of dry ice and newspaper and milk inside the cooler, put that cooler in a box and took it to the shipping place with a hope and a prayer that all your hard work and irreplaceable milk would travel 2,000 miles and still be frozen when it arrived. You, who had a million and one things to do, found time and capacity to do one more (hard) thing. And you never complained.
I followed a strict elimination diet, and at one point I could only safely eat 11 foods without causing my son’s gut to bleed and his weight to drop. You altered your diet, too. You ate the same tiny list of foods because you loved my son that much. You restricted your menu and dilligently read every label and questioned every ingredient before eating a single bite in order to keep my son safe. You were full of encouraging words and creatively figured out what to eat when you couldn’t really eat anything and shared your food hacks with me.
Last summer, after seven months of pumping and freezing and shipping, you called me in tears. Your milk was almost gone, drying up to barely a trickle. I cried, too. I offered to send back what milk I had left in my freezer for your daughter. The milk belonged to her. YOU are HER mama. That milk was made for her. I was adamant.
You said no.
Unbeknownst to me, you had already tried other supplemental options and she responded well. “My baby is healthy. We can still nurse. And two more weeks of freezer milk will buy you time to find another way.” And you were right. We found another way. Another donor, (your sister). And another donor after that, (my best friend). And eventually, another supplementation my son’s body accepted.
- Two friends in Texas (including his main donor, Allison)
- One visiting friend from England (and sister to Allison)
- My BFF who supplied milk for several months after our main donor could not continue.
- My midwife who learned she was pregnant about an hour before my son was born and donated her baby’s colostrum.
- A friend of a friend I met only once, but for whom I feel much gratitude.
Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
by Jessica Martin-Weber
Recently I was reflecting on why I started Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference and I thought back on my different feeding journeys with my daughters, looking back and wishing there were things I knew when I first started out that I know now. I considered writing a post to my young self but then I realized that the ones I really want to know now what I wish I knew then about infant feeding are my daughters. Before they embark on their own motherhood journey, before they begin feeding their own babies (yes, I’m assuming that out of 6 girls at least one of them will have children and I will get to be a grandparent), there are so many things I want them to know, I could write a book and not just on infant feeding. Respecting that their journey will be their own, not some version or extension of mine, what I want to share isn’t a how to nor is it a manual, it is more just… my heart. Why am I starting an infant feeding conference? My daughters are why.
From time to time I reflect on the days when you were new to the world, newer than you are now, which is still pretty new. Those days when you were tiny and fit snuggled on my chest with your arms and legs tucked under you, my hand supporting your little bum. I think about the smell of your head, the feel of your skin, the depth of your eyes. I smile as I remember arguing with your father and sometimes others that it wasn’t gas, you were actually really smiling in your sleep. Like precious family heirlooms, from time to time I reverently unpack the memories of your daddy gently swinging you on his arm during fussy periods of the day, how one of your big sisters would interact with you, the way you calmed when I held you, the seriousness with which you would watch light dancing on the wall, and other fragments of the time when you were the smallest big thing in my world.
Some of those cherished mental keepsakes have little barbs on them. They sting when I unpack them, no matter how careful I am. How you were taken away from me just after I had the first chance to hold you because I was hemorrhaging, the time I screwed up and dropped you due to careless use of an infant carrier (Oh sweetie, I tried to call Child Protective Services on myself), hours and hours of screaming that nothing would soothe and the obvious pain you were in (heads up, colic is hell), the stint in the hospital with RSV, and so many more. I could keep these painful memories locked up and forgotten but I don’t, though I don’t linger over them too long, they are an important part of the story we share.
A good number of those treasured memories so carefully packed in my mind are around feeding you. You, as babies do, ate often. Satiated is but a temporary state of being and babies stay there only for brief moment of visitation. Some of these memory gems are truly sublime, shining moments that reflect the light of my love, your beauty, and our connection in sparkling bursts of color from ever angel and with every turn. Some of them are more like clunky chunks of rough rock, the weight and texture of which can make me raw. There is beauty there, beauty only appreciated when the whole topography is viewed. I cherish them all.
My baby feeding story journey isn’t isolated to just feeding you. All 6 of my children have impacted me and feeding each of them has had a hand in shaping me as a mother and directly impacting how I parented. And so, there are a few things I really want you to know about feeding babies. This won’t give you everything you need to know but these, my strong, intelligent, and courageous daughter, are the things what I want you to know from my heart about feeding babies and I hope sharing this now feeds you in a new way.
Feeding is important. Very important. Feeding our babies is the most basic, most essential, most immediate, and most elemental aspect of parenting. It can be said, without fail, that not feeding your baby is parenting failure. Neglect. Abuse. This may seem obvious and it is, but it is also important in ways you wouldn’t first see. In my experience, how our children come to us is a journey that shapes us much like rushing water can shape rock. Babies aren’t the only ones birthed, mothers are birthed through the arrival of their children into their lives. Likewise, how we feed our babies can lay a foundation for how we parent. Feeding can shore up our confidence as parents and it can tear it down.
But not that important. For as deeply as it can impact us, you’ll feed your babies so many times each day that it can become mundane. That’s ok. You don’t have to experience each moment feeding your baby as a super special time of bonding. That would be like expecting every meal with your significant other to be a candlelight dinner that you poured yourself into preparing and spent looking deeply into each other’s eyes. In the end, as long as the feeding happens, the important part is done. And because it has to be done so frequently, letting go of expectations as to how it happens can be freeing to enjoy each experience as much as possible without the stress.
You matter too. Before baby comes, everyone is all about the mother-to-be. After baby comes, everyone is all about the baby and the mom is little more than the easel holding up the masterpiece. With that comes all the opinions on how to care for, and certainly how to feed, the masterpiece. But you matter too. According to many, you’ll be doing it wrong. Even those who support the method you are using will find ways to tell you are doing it wrong. Everything is subject to such “support” when it comes to feeding your baby. Bottle feeding? You’re holding that bottle wrong, using the wrong bottle, giving a bottle at all… all wrong. Breastfeeding? You’re using the wrong position, the wrong pillows, the wrong place, the wrong timing, doing it at all… all wrong. Pumping? You’re using the wrong pump, the wrong setting, the wrong method, doing it at all… all wrong. With everyone focused on the adorable masterpiece, they will want to “help” you care for it “right.” In the process, some will forget about caring for you. Mothering may change how you see your body and how you feel about it, aspects you may not love may be the most wonderful to your child. Mothering will change your heart and how you feel about it, aspects you may not love about yourself may be the most wonderful to your child. Take care of you, your children will need you to, they need and love you. It may feel selfish but taking care of you is important in taking care of your baby. You matter. Find those that can genuinely support you and your goals in caring for your baby. Those who believe you matter too.
The system is broken. It is improving and I hope by the time you are embarking on this journey, the system will be in a much better place. Right now though, it’s broken. From uninformed health care providers to uninformed store managers, from predatory marketing to pushy breastfeeding supporters, from poor insurance coverage to poor maternity leave, from ignorant judgmental strangers on the internet to ignorant judgmental friends in person, the system of infant feeding support in our society is failing moms. It is imbedded in our culture and it is hurting people. That can change but only by addressing the system rather than individual parents. They, you, just need someone willing to support them as a person, not a conquest. There is a lot of hurt, anger, guilt, shame, fear, arrogance, and hope surrounding this and you will hear it but it isn’t really about you.
Science is cool. There’s a lot of it and you’ll want to take the time to be familiar with it before you head into feeding your babies. Not everyone agrees on the science, it’s worth hearing the various view points. Being informed and personally conscientious can help you tap into your own powerful confidence. Decide what makes sense to you, what works for you according to the information, resources, and support available to you within your personal context and individual circumstances.
But feeding babies isn’t science, it’s a relationship. At some point, all the information in the world, all the evidence, all the support, all the goals aren’t important any more. Because it is a relationship. You and your baby. You are the one who knows what that relationship needs, you are the expert, you are the one most qualified. Even when you feel like you aren’t. You taught me that what a baby really needs is a fully invested parent who lovingly cares for them. Listen to yourself and your baby and don’t let anyone else define your relationship, feeding or otherwise.
There is more, so much more about feeding I want to tell you but for now I’ll stop here. Except for this:
I believe in you. I support you. Whatever you need, I am here for you and plan to be there for you. Unless you ask me not to. But most of all, I love you. You’ve got this.
What would you say to your children about infant feeding? How will you tell them the story of feeding them? What do you want them to know?
I started Milk with MommyCon founder, Xza Higgins, with the goal to bring together health care providers, parenting advocates, infant feeding influencers, and parents for workshops, seminars, and connecting centered around conversation supporting feeding our babies.
Founded on the belief that infant feeding support makes a difference and can directly influence confidence levels in parents, MiLK focuses on information sharing and mindful support that builds parents up without tearing down, respecting the unique journey of each of us. MiLK aims to actively educate and support infant feeding by connecting health care providers and the families they care for discussing breastfeeding, formula feeding, breastmilk pumping, at the breast supplementing, bottle feeding, cup feeding, spoon feeding… FEEDING. This is not, to be clear, a breastfeeding conference. It is an infant feeding conference with a goal of bringing together health care providers and parents where we can learn from each other.
Most importantly, I hope we learn how to really listen and what support can really looks like.
I hope you can me join me in Los Angeles, California, July 31st and August 1st. The speakers and panelists are all people I greatly respect, people that inspire me not only in my infant feeding journeys but in supporting others in their journeys as well. Offering 9.25 CERPs (IBCLC) and 11.1 Contact Hours (BRN), MiLK is for the lay parent and the health care professional.
I would love to see you there.
We have a MiLK giveaway!
Prize pack 2: 2 general admission tickets to milk, 1 tekhni Nymphai ring sling, 1 Ergobaby nursing pillow, 1 Eat@Moms shirt.
Open to USA residents only.
Please use the widget below to enter.
by Kileah McIlvain
One of the biggest things we want to encourage each other to do is to MOVE. Whatever you’re doing! Not just sports or working out, but PLAYING, Hiking, having FUN with your family, making better choices that help you thrive in the season of parenting you are in! I hope you love these collections I’ve picked out for you this week! Don’t forget to show us YOUR #LeakyLooks this week on Instagram and Facebook! Tag us and inspire us (and I’d LOVE to feature your look!).
Day On The Lake
Our family spent a day at a local lake (we have a LOT of them here, in the PNW!) and gosh, it was GREAT! Here I have a GREAT adjustable Shake Maternity Nursing Tankini from Mommy Gear paired with one of my FAVORITE Ju-Ju-Be Tokidoki bags! Having a lightweight, easy to get on-and-off water sling from Beachfront Baby Wraps is a MUST for enjoying the cool water with your baby! Thinkbaby suncreen in SPF50+ has ALSO been an essential for our family! We all have pretty fair skin and BURN like nobody’s business and this is one of the ONLY non-toxic EWG-recommended suncreens on the market that works and doesn’t give my little ones rashes (a problem we’ve had with so many other “safe” brands!). I finished this look off with some fabulous Chewbeads and a pair of sunnies from H&M and voila! You’re ready for Sun, Water, Play and getting your #TLBMoves on!
I am so excited to feature this look based off of this Belabumbum Nursing Racerback Cami specifically designed to be nursing-friendly AND high quality activewear! I have short hair, which makes using a Bolder Band from Simply Carried a MUST-HAVE (did you SEE what it says? #wearallthebabies! Yes. I want 5 of them. lol.And yes. The carrier would be amazing, too lol.). Staying hydrated with Eyla’s insulated water bottles are such a great choice! Tons of options for both kids AND adults and come in a range of glass, non-toxic plastic, and stainless steel! I added in a great inexpensive duffle bag from Target for carrying both yours and baby’s things in! And I don’t know if you are aware, but LUSH has the most AMAZING anti-chaffing powders/deoderants ever. (okok, my personal opinion but seriously. One bottle lasts a looong time, and it makes your skin so silky on those hot days! And smells ah-may-zing.). ThinkBaby Sunscreen in SPF50+ because NOBODY wants peeling sunburned skin in summer. Ewe.
Movies In the Park
One of Portland’s favorite summer pastimes is going out to the many outdoor movie screenings at dusk around the metro area! (Pretty sure there’s even a Portlandia episode that explains this. Seriously.) I centered this look around one of the most gorgeous lightweight nursing tops from Pink Blush Maternity paired with some simple skinny jeans. (bet you can guess what sandals I’d put with these! Yup. Birks. Big shocker there. :P) Unless it’s breezy when the sun goes down (sometimes this happens) You’ll probably be looked at as the local blood bank source for the local mosquitos so I added Badger’s natural bug repellant! DEET free and doesn’t make skin freak out or make you grow a 3rd arm. Bringing snacks and liquids for everyone is tradition here and Eyla has the perfect lightweight collapsible storage containers and double-insulated water bottles and thermoses! You may have to trek a bit to find the perfect spot to watch the screen so pushing baby in an Orbitbaby stroller is such a comfortable and posh way to go! Don’t forget to grab a great blanket throw from Target and BAM. Family night at the outdoor movie in the park is a GO!
by Kileah McIlvain
We’re gearing up for some HOT Independence Day celebrations this weekend here in the States! (Also, a shout-out to our Canadian Leakies today-July 1st! Happy Canada Day!) So much excitement going on around here that we decided to do a super patriotic #LeakyLooks theme as well as celebrate with Summer Magic Giveaway Bundle just for YOU! (Also, if you’ve joined our TLB Community on Facebook, I gave a super awesome hint about our Newsletter-exclusive secret code words for FIVE EXTRA ENTRIES for all running giveaways! Yeah. If you haven’t signed up for our Newsletter yet, you may just want to if you want to increase your chances of winning this super sweet bundle!)
This week we’re all about the patriotic stars and stripes and the good ol’ red, white, blue for our #BoobOutFashion! Take a look, see what we put together for you. Share, comment, repost on Instagram and Pinterest and show us YOUR patriotic #LeakyLooks this week! (and seriously. go sign up for the Newsletter. You won’t wanna miss this!). Scroll down to the bottom and enter that giveaway! Ready? Set? GO!
Grand Ol’ Flag Neighborhood BBQ
Here’s a great collection to help you feel put-together as you attend that neighborhood BBQ to celebrate the 4th festivities! I paired this GREAT Milk Nursingwear Contemporary Knot Top with a pair of cropped trousers from Old Navy! A beautiful Tula ring sling in Eclipse to show off your patriotic stars and a Bebe Au Lait nursing cover to give some shade for you and baby in that great July sun! A You!Lingerie bra and Babymel ‘Cara’ diaper bag complete this great red, white, and blue ensemble!
Patriotic Pool Party!
It’s ALL about the vintage and pinup bathing suits this year! Why? Because they’re so complimentary for YOU and they show how FABULOUS you are! I immediately went to Modcloth for this gorgeous pinup suit (and it’s easy boob access!) and paired it with a lightweight wrap skirt from Peace Love World for when you want some poolside sunbathing options! And since I’m a huge babywearing fan, I had to put TWO different carriers in-A great version of another Tula ring sling and one of the newest polkadot Ergobaby carriers! Pair these with some patriotic-themed chewbeads, some sunnnies, and a great Orla Kiely bag from Target, and you’re ready for a fantastic day on the lake, river or backyard pool!
Stars and Stripes Evening Gala
I couldn’t help but put this gorgeous evening look together for a beautiful evening dance set to the patriotic tunes of the night with fireworks booming in the background! I put this look together using this gorgeous navy dress from Modcloth paired with a fantastic pair of peeptoe vintage red pumps from them as well! A beautiful navy nursing bra from Cake and a small metallic clutch for the essentials. And I couldn’t resist finishing off the look with a beautiful silk ring sling from Sakura Bloom! Now you’re ready for an evening that is feeding-friendly and fashionably gorgeous!
Ready for our giveaway? Scroll down!!!
#Leaky Looks Summer Magic Giveaway Bundle includes items from AppleCheeks, Bebe Au Lait, and Naked Tank!!!
2 AppleCheeks Infinity Nursing Scarves – Retail Value: $64
1 AppleCheeks Swim Diaper – Retail Value: $19.50
Bebe Au Lait
For more information visit www.bebeaulait.com
Total Retail Value of Bundle: $251.45
Good luck to everyone! Please use the widget below to enter. The giveaway is open from July 1, 2015 through July 5, 2015. A big thanks to AppleCheeks, Bebe Au Lait, and Naked Tank for their support of TLB and all breastfeeding women.This giveaway is open to participants in the USA and Canada.