This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Blog Carnival for 2012. For more information on the Breastfeeding Cafe, check out this site. If you would like to participate in this year’s carnival, just post on your personal blog and put a link in the comment section below.  To receive email updates for next year, contact Timbra landslidephotography {at} hotmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about breastfeeding in special circumstances. Please read the other posts in today’s carnival listed in the comments section of this post. The Carnival runs July 16th through the 31st!

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Today’s Topic: Have you nursed in special circumstances? Did you feel supported or like you were paving your own path? If your circumstance included a lot of medical procedures and staff, did you get interesting, strange or just BAD advice from medical staff? Family members? Or did you have support? Where would you encourage moms to go if they were in a similar situation?

PLEASE NOTE: Today we have TWO guest bloggers with very different “special circumstances”. There are so many “special” circumstances that can surround breastfeeding experiences, so we thought two different stories would be a really great way to cover this topic. Our first blogger writes about breastfeeding in an adoptive situation, and our second writer talks about nursing through difficult medical circumstances (for baby).  

Breastfeeding an adopted baby by Kendy Anderson

Kendra is wife of 1, mother of 6, grandmother of 3. Based out of Northern California, you can find information on her pain management phone coaching business at http://www.beyondpaincoaching.com/ and she and her husband write personal posts over at http://ourplace-makeadifference.blogspot.com/ .

After two miscarriages and a ruptured tubal pregnancy my husband decided it was time to grow our family through adoption. I absolutely loved the nursing relationship I had with our oldest and started researching the how to’s of nursing an adopted baby. My doctor was not encouraging at all, even though I had heard other doctors were helpful. He told me it could not be done without being pregnant. Well, don’t tell me something can’t be done! I used a manual pump for several months before our daughter came home and joined my local LLL. Although I was never successful with the breast pump I just stayed at it. LLL was very encouraging and the leader was also in the process of adopting a baby girl! I purchased a supplementer and tried to get comfortable using it. One of my close friends was very very encouraging and helped transition baby to breast in the first few days my daughter was home. My daughter was 3 months old when we picked her up. I continued to use the supplementer for about 4 months and by that time my milk had come in and she was totally breastfed!! Other than LLL and my friend my only other support was my husband. My daughter and I enjoyed our nursing relationship till she was 18 months old. So even if support is not overwhelming it can be done! Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Breastfeeding a child with physical and health challenges by Kathleen Moore:


I would like to tell you a little about myself.  I was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama; most of my family is still there.  My husband, Josh, & I were married there and later moved to Tallahassee, FL. Josh attended graduate school (chemistry) there and I was accredited as an LLL Leader. We have three daughters: Hannah (12), Lacy (8), and Kelly (5). Josh works as a chemist, he works in Provo. Currently we live in Spanish Fork; though we have lived in Holladay & Orem since moving to Utah 8 years ago. Answering Help Forms (online) and helpline calls keeps me rather busy as an LLL Leader. I enjoy reading, volunteering at my daughters schools, Girl Scouts with my girls, learning new things, traveling, playing with my girls, and taking in the scenery (where ever that may be). 

My husband Josh and I have three girls, Hannah (12), Lacy (8) and Kelly (5). As the second child, Lacy was born in August of 2003 and was soon put to breast, unsuccessfully. After examining her mouth, the nurse told us that she had a cleft palate, probably would not be able to breastfeed and would need surgery. We also learned that Lacy had also been born with craniosynostosis and a heart murmur. Craniosynostosis means that several of the “soft spots” (all but one in Lacy’s case) had closed to early, requiring another serious surgery. I had so many questions: Why did these things happen? Did I do something wrong? How would she be able to nurse? Would she be OK? How would we tell the family? Josh was right there offering support at each turn, though at times he was a little unsure too. (Hey! Who wouldn’t, right?)
I began pumping breast milk once I got to my hospital room, initially, 8-10 times (and later (as Lacy grew and for longer increments) 5-6 times per day. Using either a double electric or a hand pump I could read to Hannah or even pump with an adaptor in the car! My pump was my “friend”, going with me everywhere I went. Saying that, though; pumping is hard! Getting those parts connected just right, especially when you’re sleepy. Positioning them right while trying Not to spill milk while also playing with an older child. It’s also emotional, “if only she could latch on” or “if only she were healthy”…..

While still in the hospital, the staff tried to be helpful, constantly offering cleft palate nursers, storage bottles and information pamphlets. Several doctors and surgeons visited, saying: “Don’t feel bad about giving her a bottle. Few mothers are able to successfully breastfeed a baby with a cleft palate.” I was also, several times, told Not to breastfeed, essentially I was told “It’s too difficult, don’t do it.” This seemed to be the general consensus, with the exception of the Lactation Consultants.

One Lactation Consultant suggested that we finger feed her using a syringe with feeding tubing taped to my finger. Lacy happily “latched on” and started to eat, until milk began leaking from her nose. The next Lactation Consultant suggested using a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) as a supplement to the breast. The gravity flow it provided was just too slow for Lacy. Next, I combined the two techniques myself and attached a large syringe of breast milk to feeding tubing taped to the breast. This arrangement, while a bit tricky, worked very well. Lacy began feeding at the breast with the help of a supplement! I applied pressure to the outside of the areola between my index finger and middle finger with a light squeeze to help Lacy remain latched on. My other hand was for the syringe. It took a few days before I was able to accomplish it alone, without the help of my husband; even longer before I felt comfortable doing it.

I found kangaroo care (also known as skin to skin) very helpful Lacy’s first few months, often snuggling with her as she’s grown. Skin to skin/snuggling has especially been helpful as she healed from various surgeries. I also found, research helpful; arming myself with information to have on hand when seeing her specialists.

Several weeks later we had her first appointment with her Craniofacial Team in Gainesville, FL. Her weight had dropped severely and members of the team told me to stop offering breast, concentrate on getting her weight up and maybe she could start breastfeeding after her surgery. We met with many experts and doctors, and were told again that “these” cleft-affected babies were not able to successfully breastfeed because of their inability to generate and maintain suction. They only knew of a few women who had even partial success. This was very upsetting to hear. We were told to take her in for weight checks twice a week. We were also told to begin supplementing with formula every 4hrs, to help her gain weight more quickly. Faced with the fact that she was not gaining well, we chose to continue doing what we had been doing (offer the breast & use a homemade SNS), but to supplement with an ounce or 2 each day of formula & increase pumped milk. It was at this visit that we learned that Lacy’s soft spots had completely fused, she now had no soft spots and required immediate surgery. We also took her to the pediatrician for more frequent weight checks (every other day) and as she gained little by little, we eliminated the formula but stuck with the increased amount of expressed milk.

We quickly scheduled Lacy for the first surgery on her head. A few days later she had the surgery and within several months she had made significant weight gain. Once this happened, Lacy’s craniofacial team was much more open to breastfeeding. Lacy has had two more successful surgeries on her head. On the morning of each surgery, she nursed “one last time” around 4 a.m. Interestingly, according to the guidelines given to us by the surgeon, Lacy could be fed human milk as little as four hours prior to surgery, but formula had to be 6 hours prior to surgery. During each recovery from surgery, I was so thankful I was nursing her. As were her doctors, even ones that told me not to nurse; they repeatedly told me “she’s healing so well” and “keep nursing her, it seems to be ease her pain”. They were surprised (following her first skull surgery and her initial palate repair) that she was able to keep her food down, took less pain medication and generally seemed “ok”. Now this could have been Lacy and her “happy go lucky” attitude she usually has, I think it was at least partially breastmilk.

Lacy had her palate repaired and tubes put in her ears when she was about 8 months old. In the recovery room she latched on briefly and then fell asleep. The first days after surgery were rather painful, but Lacy eventually learned to nurse on her own, began eating solid foods and making vocal strides. After palate surgery, we changed from a 2 ounce syringe to a 1 ounce syringe because it seemed she wasn’t “wanting” as much to eat. This a common side affect of oral surgery – not wanting the extra pain and, other surgeries, having an upset tummy due to medications.

A few weeks after her surgery, I stopped supplementing at the breast and later, stopped pumping altogether. Stopping the supplement (the timing of it) was completely Lacy’s idea. We were at one of Hannah’s friend’s birthday party and I was getting ready to feed Lacy. ( I helped her latch on, holding both Lacy and the breast a certain way to help her. Upon hearing her start to swallow, I began to look around and watch what the other kids were doing it was at this time that I noticed my leg was wet. Ok Ok, gotta fix the tube so it stops leaking, was my thought; then I heard Lacy was still swallowing (which just didn’t happen for her, the tube needed milk in it). I held the tube up, then pulled back the milk into the syringe (stopping more leakage) and saw something beautiful – Lacy was nursing. On her own. Not only that, milk was dribbling down her chin!

For those mothers wishing to breastfeed their babies though they have health problems, take heart it’s a long tough road ahead of you; but, it reaps many rewards. For those mothers who tried; but, were unable to breastfeed, take heart still…you’re doing the best you can however you can.

Lacy is now 8 years old. She’s had multiple surgeries on her head and multiple on her mouth. Each surgery brings with it yet another difficulty to over come. She’s been diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (Basically, she seeks out various stimuli for her senses.), she has mild scoliosis and has a heart murmur. She’s a growing girl who loves the world around her, loves hugs, doesn’t like having her hair done (Too many surgeries and people touching her there, for her to find comfort in it.), enjoys being outside, Loves to swim – but, yes…she does have health problems and we deal with them day to day.

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2 Comments

Filed under Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival, Community

2 responses to “

  1. Amazing stories of encouragement! Thank you ladies, for sharing. Our story is from our week in the PICU at Phoenix Children’s Hospital with our three-month old son. It pales to the challenges faced by Kathleeen and Lacey, it is our little story nonetheless…
    http://www.sweetpeabirths.com/blog/2012/07/29/Nursing-Under-Special-Circumstances.aspx

  2. Yolanda

    What a lovely story! I commend you for your courageous choices and your husband for his unwavering support and help.

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