breastfeeding superstars

BREASTFEEDING SUPERSTARS: JENNIFER AND EMILY

Emily and her mom, Jennifer.

Emily and her mom, Jennifer.

Beautiful Emily and her mom, Jennifer, are the definition of breastfeeding superstars. They fought every challenge they encountered and now have the sweetest, most loving relationship. Their story will put a smile on your face and is a testament to the strength of mothers. 

Emily was born at Memorial Hospital in Pawtucket, Rhode Island but was quickly transferred to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Women and Infants in Providence, Rhode Island with pulmonary hypertension, a ventricular-septal defect, an atrial-septal defect, anemia, thrombocytopenia, and congenital hyperthyroidism. After she was born, she stayed in the NICU for 16 days. Because of her health challenges, Emily was lethargic at first and didn’t wake up to feed. She would get tired easily while breastfeeding and her low tone made it tricky for her to get a good latch. She just needed some support—literally and figuratively (lots of pillows were used to help prop her up)!

Jennifer worked every day with an occupational therapist and lactation consultant to help Emily establish a latch, because she believed nursing Emily was a huge gift to her daughter. She wanted to breastfeed Emily to help them bond, for the antibodies to boost Emily’s immunity, and for the speech therapy benefits, since breastfeeding improves tongue coordination and strengthens the jaw and tongue.  

Emily was first able to direct nurse at two months old. Jennifer found holding her in a “dancer hold” the most helpful in breastfeeding her. Jennifer help Emily in a clutch, supporting her head with one hand and using her other hand to support Emily’s chin and cheeks. After sticking with this hold for awhile, Jennifer was able to improvise and find something even more comfortable for both of them. She rolled a small towel and placed it under Emily’s chin, which helped to support her lower jaw.

Jennifer’s most helpful strategy was to breastfeed at the beginning of a feed, since Emily was most alert during that time. After she began to get tired, Jennifer switched to a bottle of pumped milk so Emily didn’t have to work as hard. Each feeding took an hour and a half between nursing, pumping, bottle feeding, and cleanup, but Jennifer said the reward of being able to breastfeed Emily made it all worth it!

Though Jennifer was committed to breastfeeding, some people were not encouraging of her goals. Two nurses told her it would be too difficult for her to breastfeed Emily and that Emily wouldn’t grow fast enough, which “fueled the mama bear” in Jennifer and made her even more committed to success. 

Finding support systems was critical to Jennifer and Emily’s breastfeeding journey. At one point, her supply seemed to drop, so she asked her family to help with her older children so she could focus on pumping and nursing Emily, which helped increase her supply. She also attended a local breastfeeding support group.

“The support has been amazing,” Jennifer said. “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”

Breastfeeding superstars like Jennifer show that challenges can be overcome. “My biggest advice would be to go for it,” Jennifer said. “There could be bumps in the road but there is support out there and it can be done."

Aimee & Cate
Michele & Harper
Cristina & Mae
Beth & Rian
Shu & Lewis
Timna & Rory

BREASTFEEDING SUPERSTARS: Timna & Rory

nicole starr photography-42.jpg

When you see the photos of Rory and his mom, Timna, from our breastfeeding photo shoot you can’t help but notice how much fun they are both having. They clearly delight in their relationship with each other and the happiness is palpable. You would never imagine that these two had a very difficult start.

Rory was born right on time, a much-anticipated younger brother. His family was surprised to find out that the doctors believed that he might have Down syndrome (DS). Timna had decided against prenatal testing for personal reasons. She understood that DS was a possibility but she never thought it would happen to her. Thankfully Rory did not have any heart issues and did not need to be admitted to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He was able to try to latch and nurse right after he was born. He had some early breastfeeding success but then he became sleepy and started having problems keeping his oxygen saturation and heart rate up. He was moved quickly from his mother’s bedside to the Special Care Unit (SCU). Timna, who had successfully breastfed her older son, found it very challenging to try to nurse Rory amidst the confines of the SCU. She was not able to try a side-lying position, which is often very helpful for children with Down syndrome. She also found trying to initiate a breastfeeding relationship while managing the oxygen, wires, and monitors that he was attached to very difficult.

                  Rory was in the SCU for 12 days. During that time Timna pumped and gave him expressed breast milk with a bottle, knowing that initiating and protecting her milk supply was the only path toward a successful breastfeeding relationship. She felt pressure for Rory to consume enough calories so that he would get bigger and stronger, which the doctors told her was the only way that he would manage to keep his oxygen saturation up and go home. All babies have a “car seat” test before they are cleared to leave the SCU. This is a test where the baby is placed in a car seat for approximately one hour while they are monitored. In order to pass this test their oxygen saturation above a certain percentage. Rory did not pass but his family took him home in a car bed, which he had to use every time he was in the car, for several weeks. 

When Timna and Rory got home they continued to have several breastfeeding challenges. Rory would have a difficult time latching and even if he did latch he would fall asleep while nursing or would be too tired to nurse after a few minutes. Ten minutes later he would be hungry again so Timna had to supplement with bottles of breast milk. At around four weeks old Rory seemed to start really hate to nurse. He would scream and cry every time she tried to put him to the breast, and he often refused to latch. She thinks that he realized that the bottle was easier and began to prefer it. She began giving him a few ounces of milk by bottle, to take away the edge of being so hungry, and then would nurse afterward when he was more able to focus. As with many babies with Down syndrome, Rory had a difficult time nursing and breathing and so, in the beginning especially, Timna had to be very careful with positioning him in such a way that it was easy for him to be able to do both.  They also used a breast shield to help make latching and staying latched, easier.

                  Timna pumped 5 or 6 times a day to provide enough breast milk for Rory. At first, she attempted to nurse him at every feeding session but eventually pumping, feeding, and nursing became too much and she would just give him a bottle of breast milk. Sometimes she would go a whole day without attempting to nurse Rory and she was becoming more and more discouraged that they were losing their opportunity to develop a nursing relationship. She had a lactation consultant come to the house, which she found extremely helpful and supportive. The lactation consultant was very encouraging but mentioned to Timna that perhaps the pumping, bottle feeding, breastfeeding routine was having an effect on her mental health. Timna knew that she could stop pumping, and sometimes wanted to, but describes feeling a determination to make it work, despite wanting to throw her pump out of a window! Her lactation consultant gave her several good tips, including not spending too much time trying to position and latch. She suggested that Timna try to approach breastfeeding Rory very casually, allowing him to initiate. This can be extremely difficult for mothers who are so invested in trying to make their breastfeeding relationship work but Timna reports that’s ultimately what happened with her and Rory. One day, when he was about three months old, “We were in bed, and I put him next to me and was very calm about it. He didn’t completely crawl over and do it on his own, but he just had his head there and he was the one who was initiating and turned his head to do it and it finally worked really well.” She let him nurse without the nipple shield and realized that his mouth had developed in such a way that he was strong enough to nurse without it. Within a few days, they had left not only the nipple shield but also the pumping and bottles completely behind!  

When you’ve established a breastfeeding relationship with your child, it’s easy to look back and think that it was inevitable but, for many, there are dark and depressing moments, where giving up seems like the only reasonable option. Timna says, “definitely a few weeks into being at home and trying to nurse Rory and exclusively pumping, things went from ok, to worse and worse. The nursing sessions got more and more challenging. I had plenty of moments where I thought we were never going to get there, and I‘m just going to have to exclusively pump indefinitely, and it’s exhausting. I had my days when I started to lose hope, and I didn’t think we were ever going to get there, and this was our reality.” She was worried about what she would do when she had to go back to work. She knew that she could not exclusively pump and work, it just was not manageable for her. To help keep her sanity she set a goal. If Rory was not able to breastfeeding by five months old, she would stop trying. She reports feeling surprised and relieved when he was finally able to nurse. “I didn’t know he had it in him,” she says. When asked what guidance she has for other mothers she suggests having a supportive lactation consultant come to their home and says, “I think I was under the impression there was some kind of window, for all babies. Like, if they haven’t figured out nursing between 6 or 8 weeks, they probably won’t ever figure it out, and I guess that’s not true. I wish someone had told me it was possible that he could learn to breastfeed much later. It might have taken some of the pressure off.”        

Even though Timna’s journey to breastfeeding Rory was extremely difficult for her and she often wanted to stop pumping she continued because she really wanted to have a breastfeeding relationship with Rory, as she had had with her older son. She talks about the hours she spent, frustratingly trying to get her little nursling to breastfeed properly. She admits that sometimes they both ended up in tears. But the joy and relief she felt when they finally nursed well together was such a blessing, it solidified their bond and brought them even closer together. Rory became such a huge fan of nursing, by 4 months old you would never have known he had struggled in the beginning. In retrospect, after having nursed Rory until he was 22 months old she says that all of the difficulties were worth it.

READ ABOUT OUR OTHER BREASTFEEDING SUPERSTARS
Aimee & Cate
Michele & Harper
Cristina & Mae
Beth & Rian
Shu & Lewis

BREASTFEEDING SUPERSTARS: Shu and Lewis

Lewis, and his mom Shu, are our latest breastfeeding superstar! Photo credit to  Nicole Starr Photography.

Lewis, and his mom Shu, are our latest breastfeeding superstar! Photo credit to Nicole Starr Photography.

You can’t look at a picture of our breastfeeding babies without noticing this guy’s adorable mohawk. Meet Lewis, affectionately called Lewi by his mom, Shu. This pair is our latest in our Breastfeeding Superstars and we think you’ll love their story!

Lewis was born with several heart issues including a ventricular-septal defect, an atrial-septal defect, and a vascular ring. In addition, he has chronic congestion, making it hard for him to breathe through his nose and thus maintain a sustained suck, which is required to successfully breastfeed. Shu had hoped to have an opportunity for skin-to-skin time directly after Lewi was born in order to bond and initiate breastfeeding. His doctors, though, understandably had other ideas due to his heart issues. Shu and Lewis were only given about five minutes before he was taken away to be examined by a host of specialists. The next time Shu saw her son was several hours later in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). He was having difficulty sustaining his blood sugar, which is a common problem in children with Down syndrome. For hours, or sometimes even days, after birth, babies with Down syndrome (DS) can be too tired to sustain any sort of sucking, whether at the breast or from a bottle. This sleepiness makes it difficult for them to stay awake so they can eat enough to keep their blood sugar in a healthy range. This is often managed by giving glucose (a type of sugar) through an IV. Glucose is necessary for energy to help a baby’s brain and body function. If a baby is too tired to eat, his glucose will go down, and if his glucose goes down he will be too tired to eat. This can be a very dangerous feedback loop for new babies but is easily detected and managed. IV glucose is usually a temporary measure until the baby can take in enough calories on his own. If baby is not able to take in enough calories orally within the first several hours the medical team will usually suggest placement of a nasogastric (NG) tube and this is what Lewis’ doctors recommended. This would allow Shu to provide breastmilk through a tube that would go in through Lewis’ nose directly to his stomach. They would also be able to wean him off the glucose IV. Shu and her husband were hesitant, as they had heard stories that an NG tube could make feeding issues worse and Shu was absolutely adamant that her ultimate goal was to breastfeed her son, Lewis, just as she had his older brother. Eventually, Shu and her husband trusted the doctor’s decisions and allowed them to place the NG tube. Thankfully, the NG tube ended up being a temporary but necessary part of Lewis’ feeding plan. Within a week this Superstar was taking in all of his calories at the breast!

Many babies with congenital heart defects are unable to breastfeed at some point before their heart repair due to worsening heart failure, which leads to weakness and fatigue. But not Lewis! Lewis was able to breastfeed right up until his surgery. He had a few days of recovery but was back to nursing as soon as the doctors cleared him. He and his mom never missed a beat. Shu understands how lucky they are that Lewis was strong enough to nurse directly.   

When asked what advice she has for new mothers attempting to breastfeed their babies with DS Shu says, “Seek out your community for support!” Shu and Lewis’ story is a tribute to this philosophy and demonstrates how important it is to have the support of those close to you to help with breastfeeding success. Shu’s husband took on the heavy lifting of caring for their older son, allowing her to focus fully on getting Lewis to the breast. She spent as much time as she could in the NICU, patiently working with the nurses and lactation consultants to get Lewis nursing exclusively. Friends also visited the pair in the hospital, bringing food and support and cheerleading her efforts. Shu was absolutely convinced that she could and would give Lewis the same benefits of her milk that her older son had. She says, “Having breastfed my older son, I experienced the wonders that breastmilk does for the immunity and general health. I read that breastfeeding strengthens the muscles around the mouth, which helps with speech development.” She wanted those benefits for Lewis. The lactation consultants in the NICU showed Shu how to use a nipple shield. When used correctly it makes it much easier for babies to latch. It is usually a short-term tool and most babies can be easily weaned from using the shield after a few weeks and this was the case for Lewis. It helped him while he developed the skills and strength needed to nurse.

When asked about resources that Shu found helpful she says, “Sadly, the literature provided by the lactation consultant was very outdated. It had grainy photos of babies who, for lack of a better description, looked impaired. Had I received the DS diagnosis at birth, those images would have made me terribly upset. This is part of why I wanted to participate in this project.” Her experience gets straight to the heart of why we at Julia’s Way are so dedicated to developing an up-to-date, comprehensive breastfeeding resource for mothers of babies with DS. In order to help her process the diagnosis, Shu sought out other families like hers on Instagram and other social media sites. She found searching #theluckyfew, #nothingdownaboutit or #downsyndrome to be helpful. You can find other inspirational stories, posted by Julia’s Way, under #nursingdownsyndrome and #nursingT21. Share your story and tag us to help inspire and encourage other moms. 

READ ABOUT OUR OTHER BREASTFEEDING SUPERSTARS
Aimee & Cate
Michele & Harper
Cristina & Mae
Beth & Rian

BREASTFEEDING SUPERSTARS: BETH AND RIAN

Photo courtesy of  Nicole Starr. 

Photo courtesy of Nicole Starr. 

This is the fourth in a series of eleven breastfeeding superstars that we will feature in the coming weeks. Links to the others are at the end of this article. 

Welcome Beth and Rian to our latest edition of Breastfeeding Superstars! At five months old, Rian was the youngest participant of our photo shoot, which took place in June. Even at that young age, he had overcome a pile of medical challenges, including congestive heart failure at two months and open-heart surgery to repair a complete atrioventricular canal (CAVC) defect at three months old. Despite his challenges, he and his mother worked together to build a successful breastfeeding relationship.

Beth has two older boys who she breastfed successfully. Armed with previous experience and knowledge, she was confident she would be able to breastfeed Rian as well. With support from a lactation consultant at UMass Memorial Hospital, Rian was able to latch on to the breast and start nursing right from the start. The two were discharged home from the hospital when he was four days old and they continued to have a successful breastfeeding relationship for several weeks.

However, at five weeks old, Rian’s doctors determined that he was not gaining weight at the rate he needed for his upcoming heart surgery. Beth began to exclusively pump at that point in order to give Rian fortified breast milk by bottle, a common way to provide extra calories, in the hopes that he would be big and strong enough to come through heart surgery optimally. Beth attempted to keep their nursing relationship alive by putting him to the breast after each of his bottle feeds but Rian fairly quickly went into heart failure and was unable to stay awake even though his bottle feeding. Nursing became a rarity, much to Beth’s disappointment. She was committed to pumping and feeding Rian fortified breast milk with the hope that they could continue a normal nursing relationship after Rian’s heart surgery.

At three months old, Rian had heart surgery to repair his CAVC defect repair. An AV canal defect is a large hole in center of the heart, affecting all four chambers and making it impossible for the heart to pump efficiently. When the heart functions normally, it pumps oxygen-rich blood from the lungs to the rest of the body and oxygen-poor blood from the body to the lungs in order to “refuel”. However, a CAVC defect allows the oxygen-poor and oxygen-rich blood to mix so the body never becomes fully oxygenated. It also allows a larger volume of blood into the right side of the heart, placing pressure on both the heart and the lungs. Untreated, this disease can lead to both heart failure and lung failure. In general this heart repair needs to happen within the first six months of the baby’s life in order to prevent permanent damage and to save the baby’s life. Ideally, the baby will grow well and the heart will be a good size for surgery. However, this is difficult due to the combination of heart failure making the baby quite sleepy with poor endurance and the heart and lungs taking up excessive amounts of energy and calories attempting to keep up with increased blood supply. 

As you may begin to understand, it was critical to Beth to help Rian gain as much weight as possible as quickly as possible before his heart surgery. However, he was struggling to breathe and even drinking a few ounces of milk was a challenged. Beth recalls felling extreme anxiety and stress during this time. Rian’s feeding and breathing issues were getting worse every day and she was concerned that he would require surgery before he was physically strong enough. A few of days before his scheduled surgery, Rian completely refused his bottles and, out of desperation, Beth attempted to nurse him. It worked and Rian picked up where he had left off like he had never stopped nursing. Beth’s relief was palpable. She had been craving the closeness and bond of nursing with her sweet boy before handing him over for open-heart surgery, and she was grateful that she got her wish.

Beth continued to pump throughout Rian’s recovery so that he would have her milk to drink as soon as he was well enough. He did so well with pumped milk that doctors gave Beth the all-clear to begin nursing him. Much to Beth’s relief, he did an amazing job. Now, three months later, Beth and Rian are still nursing and have never looked back. “Every time I nurse Rian I get to look into his eyes and he’ll look back, sometimes giving me a big smile. I love the way he wraps his little fingers around my thumb and holds on, creating memories for me that will last a lifetime."

READ ABOUT OUR OTHER BREASTFEEDING SUPERSTARS:
Aimee & Cate
Michele & Harper
Cristina & Mae

BREASTFEEDING SUPERSTARS: CRISTINA & MAE

Photo courtesy of  Nicole Starr Photography

Photo courtesy of Nicole Starr Photography

The first thing you notice about this week’s breastfeeding Superstar is her thick auburn hair that calls to mind a movie star from the 40s. Meet Mighty Mae and her mom, Cristina. Mae’s easy smile lights up her face and makes everyone’s day a little brighter. You would never imagine what she has battled, and won, to get to where she is today.

Mae was born full term and was a hearty 9 pounds. She spent the first 5 weeks of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit at Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center and then an additional 5 weeks at Boston Children’s Hospital. She was born with several congenital heart issues, including atrial and ventricle septal defects and a Patent Ductus Arteriosus. She had her VSD/ASD/PDA repair at six weeks old but the surgery was complicated by a complete heart block. A heart block is a condition where the electrical impulses that normally instruct a heart to beat are either partially or totally blocked and so the heart beats too slowly. This can be a life-threatening condition and required another surgery to implant a permanent pacemaker. The device is the same size for adults and babies so, due to limited space near a baby’s heart, the implement is actually in Mae’s belly. It’s a palpable and very concrete reminder of all she has been through. Mae also struggled with pulmonary hypertension, which is high blood pressure in the lungs and can lead to right-sided heart failure. At seven months she had a third heart surgery to repair her mitral and tricuspid valves.

After Mae’s initial 10-week hospitalization she was in and out of the hospital several more times and spent a total of 134 days as an inpatient in the first year of her life. Throughout it all Cristina provided Mae her milk, at first directly at the breast, then through a supplemental nursing system (SNS), and then fortified with formula through a nasogastric (NG) tube. Like many babies with Down syndrome, Mae latched and nursed well right away after birth, actually managing breastfeeding more easily than taking breast milk from a bottle, but she struggled to have enough energy to gain the weight that she needed prior to her first surgery. The NG tube allowed Mae to receive the nutrients she needed without expending the effort that would have been required to nurse or bottle feed.

After Mae’s first heart surgery, at six weeks, she struggled to re-learn how to breastfeed. Her mother worked with lactation consultants in the hospital and outside of the hospital to help Mae relearn the skills she needed to nurse successfully. Mae did better with nursing than with a bottle so Cristina persisted. She describes a particularly emotional weekend where Mae’s medical team approved a trial of breastfeeding only, to see how she would do. It was over Labor Day weekend and Cristina describes it as “an absolute labor of love”. She nursed Mae every 3 hours, around the clock for 3 days. She used something called a supplemental nursing system (SNS), which is essentially a flexible tube taped to your breast with the other end in a small bottle of milk. The idea is that the baby does not have to work as hard to get the milk and it creates a positive feedback loop that encourages them to keep going. Eventually, as they get stronger, they wean off of the SNS and they are just direct nursing. Cristina would pump before she nursed in order to induce let down and she would get rid of her foremilk, leaving the calorie-dense hindmilk for Mae. Unfortunately, after 3 days, she had to admit that Mae was not ready to get all of her calories from direct nursing as she was not able to sustain her weight. The medical team reinserted her NG tube. This was difficult for Cristina to admit but she knew that she had to do what was best for Mae and she believed that Mae would eventually be strong enough. Unlike Aimee and Cate, our previous breastfeeding superstars, Cristina does not have an ah-ha! moment when Mae was suddenly able to nurse. Her journey to nursing exclusively was more subtle. After Mae returned home from the hospital she was breastfeeding and then Cristina would supplement her efforts with fortified breast milk through her NG tube. Gradually, over time, Mae needed less and less supplementation until they were finally able to remove the NG tube and Mae could nurse exclusively.    

Cristina nursed her older daughter for a full year and was committed to doing no less than that for Mae. She had the help of several lactation consultants at Boston Children’s Hospital. She also went to a “mommy and me” breastfeeding support group that she had attended when she was breastfeeding her older daughter. This level of continuous support and encouragement helped her feel that she and Mae would eventually be successful. She thinks it is equally as important for any child to breastfeed and sights the bonding time and the antibodies Mae received through her milk as her two most motivating factors. She is proud to have overcome the hurdles that she and Mae faced to develop their breastfeeding relationship and believe that it was worth it for her to persist. Cristina encourages new moms to try breastfeeding their babies with Down syndrome. “It is possible!” she says, “It might require a bit of extra effort, but sometimes breastfeeding does for any child. Don’t give up; seek support if you need it. It is so worth it in the end.”

READ ABOUT OUR OTHER BREASTFEEDING SUPERSTARS:
Aimee & Cate
Michele & Harper
 

BREASTFEEDING SUPERSTARS: Michele & Harper

Michele & Harper   Photo credit to  Nicole Starr Photography . 

Michele & Harper

Photo credit to Nicole Starr Photography

This is the second in an ongoing series of breastfeeding superstars featured in our photo and video to promote breastfeeding among children with Down syndrome. 

The first thing you notice when meeting this week’s breastfeeding superstar is how delightfully expressive she is. Looking through the photos from our shoot you can tell exactly what she’s thinking and she had us all laughing with her transparency! Meet Harper, and her mom, Michele, the second in our breastfeeding superstars series.

Harper was born three weeks early with Down syndrome, a complete AV canal defect, and transient myeloproliferative disorder (TMD), which is a condition found only in newborns with Down syndrome. TMD is a form of leukemia that usually spontaneously resolves but requires treatment in about 20% of cases. It can be fatal if intervention is not successful. Harper has been monitored monthly since birth to ensure that her TMD has not transitioned into leukemia and we celebrate because last week we found out that she now only has to have her blood checked twice a year!

                  Harper, who turned one in June, is the middle child in our “three of hearts” series, and was in the hospital for the first 10 weeks of her life. Even though Harper had a latched well from day one she had difficulty sustaining her breastfeeding sessions because of her weak heart. The doctors were concerned that she was not getting enough volume and calories so they suggested she switch to fortified breast milk. She was eventually diagnosed with failure to thrive because she was unable to gain the weight required to keep her healthy and even the act of suckling from a bottle was too taxing. Due to her lack of weight gain, her worsening heart failure, and her need to rapidly get strong enough for her heart repair surgery, Harper’s medical team placed a nasogastric (NG) feeding tube. Throughout her time in the hospital Michele continued to put Harper to the breast but also pumped milk that the nurses could feed to Harper through her NG tube.

Even though Michele’s obstetrician warned her that she should accept the fact that Harper she would need special feedings, bottles, and possibly tube feeds, Michele was determined to breastfeed her anyway. In one respect, Michele’s OB was correct, Harper did need all of those things in the beginning of her life but that’s not where the story ended. Due to Michele’s experience nursing her other children, the support of the nurses on the pediatric floor, and her dedication, Harper was eventually able to directly nurse at the breast and is a champion nurser a year later.

Michele relays the story of being told by her genetics counselor that her baby would likely never eat or drink like a “normal child”. Understandably, Michele cried for hours and left his office with a deep fear that she would not be able to nurse Harper. She struggled with her baby’s diagnoses of Down syndrome in the beginning and felt like a failure for not being able to have a healthy child. She was terribly afraid of losing Harper to her heart issues or to her TMD and she found it very difficult to bond with her baby at first. Thankfully, despite her worry and her negative early experiences with her medical professionals she remained committed to breastfeeding and found allies in Harper’s. They encouraged her by telling her that the babies with Down syndrome were often some of the best babies that they’d had in terms of breastfeeding. She says the nurses encouraged her and helped her feel as though providing her milk was critical to ensuring Harper the best start in life. As she nursed Harper she got into the familiar pattern of providing nourishment for her baby and started to bond with her like she did with her other children.

Michele and Harper left the hospital soon after her heart repair and Michele continued to pump and feed her through her feeding tube while bringing her to the breast to help her continue to develop those skills. Harper had her NG tube removed in mid-September and she has been strictly on oral feeds since then and nurses at the breast just like Michele’s other children did.

Michele admits that their road was a bit difficult and complicated but says that, for her, seeing Harper nurse successfully after trying for so long has given her the confidence that her baby can do anything she sets her mind to. She has this advice for moms who would like to breastfeed their babies but are afraid that they won’t be able to do it, “Do it! Get help if you need it, talk to other moms who have had positive experiences.”

 

READ ABOUT OUR OTHER BREASTFEEDING SUPERSTARS:
Aimee & Cate
Michele & Harper
Cristina & Mae