Archive for the ‘WBW 2008’ Category

Ecological Breastfeeding: Its value for childhood leukemia

Friday, August 8th, 2008

I discovered ecological breastfeeding from reading Sheila Kippley’s book, Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing, while still pregnant with my first child.  At the time I had no idea how much the information and lifestyle and practices would come to mean to me.   With my first son, I put the Seven Standards of Ecological Breastfeeding into practice.  We enjoyed a happy, healthy breastfeeding relationship and realized all the many benefits, included extended natural breastfeeding infertility.  My first son nursed for nearly 3 years – until he weaned on his own during my second pregnancy.
As the years passed, my second son came along, nursed for 3 years, until HIS baby brother, Jonathan, was born.  We enjoyed the closeness, the warmth, the attachment – not to mention the health benefits.  All went well and by the time our third baby was born, we were pretty much in a rhythm.
My third son, Jonathan, nursed easily right away, just as his brothers had.  But something we never expected happened to him when we was just 2-and-a-half years old.  He was diagnosed, at that young age, with leukemia. 
The leukemia diagnosis was a huge (and awful) surprise to our family.  Up until that time, Jonathan (a champion nurser like his brothers before him) had been perfectly happy and healthy.  He had never had so much as an ear infection, never been hospitalized (not even for his birth – his was a normal and healthy homebirth!), never taken an antibiotic, not even once.  It seemed to creep up quietly – over the course of a few weeks, he seemed tired, just a little under-the-weather.  He didn’t want to run around so much, wouldn’t climb up his play structure, wanted to be carried up and down the stairs.  But there was no dramatic change in his health.  We were sure it was only a virus – a “bug” going around.  Finally though, after a week or so, I decided to call the pediatrician “just in case.”  As soon as we arrived, the doctor performed some blood work and told us that Jonathan was very seriously ill, and we would need to be transported immediately from her office by ambulance to the main teaching hospital in our region.  I asked if Jonathan was going to be okay, and she replied, “I don’t know.” 
Terrified, we climbed into the ambulance.  And while the EMTs were starting Jonathan’s IV, he asked to nurse.  I looked at the EMT to see if it was okay, and he said, “My wife is still nursing our 9-month-old, and no telling when she’ll quit!  Please – do nurse him.  It will be the best thing for both of you.”  We nursed in the ambulance, then in the Emergency Room, then through the ordeal of being told by the doctor that our baby had leukemia.
We nursed day and night, in the hospital (where I was blessed to be able to stay 24-hours a day due to the support of family and friends who stepped in to care for my older children full-time) where his condition was stabilized and his chemotherapy started.  Except for when he needed to fast in preparation for a surgical procedure, Jonathan nursed frequently, almost like a newborn again.  My milk supply, which had been waning, began to rebound.  As the medications and the process of his body eliminating the dead leukemia cells made him feel sicker and sicker, nursing became his main comfort – and mine too. 
In the first days of having a child diagnosed with cancer, the worst feeling I think for a mother is one of helplessness.  You feel that this thing has attacked your child, and that there is NOT ONE THING you can do about it.  But the good thing about breastfeeding is that you ARE doing something.  Even if your child is very, very sick, you are providing him with the stability and comfort that he has known all his life, even in the midst of great upheaval and pain and fear.  You are giving him some (even if only a very little bit of) nutrition and fluid, and plenty of closeness and comfort – not to mention all the good hormones you stimulate to make him (and you!) feel calm in the midst of the storm.  In one of the worst and scariest moments of mothering, nursing my critically-ill toddler turned out to be the one thing I COULD do for him.  And I thanked God for this blessing.

After his initial intensive treatment, Jonathan’s continued treatment suppressed his immune system and made him vulnerable to infection.  After he came home, we continued to nurse, still day and night.  And his oncologist commended me, telling me that the antibodies my milk was able to pass to him were probably really helping him avoid fevers and infections common to leukemia patients. 
Now his treatment has continued for six months, and he is through the worst.  We are in a long-term maintenance phase, in which he still receives chemotherapy. His prognosis is, so far as we can tell, excellent.   And in July, he turned 3, and he is still nursing.  We will let Jonathan lead the way in weaning, as we have done for his brothers before.  But this time, we see him nurse and we see how even in a critical time, the nursing relationship has infinite value. 
I hope that no other breastfeeding mothers ever have to see their children suffer with a cancer diagnosis or any other serious illness.  But I do have to say that as much as I have always appreciated the general benefits of breastfeeding, I have never appreciated them more than I have in the past six months.  I’m so glad that I had the information and support to continue breastfeeding past the first year of Jonathan’s life –  I never knew what nursing would mean to both of us in the future.
I hope that the World Breastfeeding Week celebration will encourage and embolden many mothers to nurse their babies, and to stick with it for a long time!!

Pam Pilch, founder of Catholic Nursing Mothers League

Regular weekly blogs begin August 10.

Sheila Kippley
Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood
Natural Family Planning


Ecological Breastfeeding: The Need for Support

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

The Need for Support by Heather Stein
   #7 in WBW series
I was fortunate to hear of Sheila Kippley’s book Breastfeeding and Natural Child Spacing before I was even married. Envisioning myself as a wife and mother, I enjoyed reading the book even though it would be a couple years before I could put the Seven Standards into practice. The concepts outlined in the book were so refreshing to hear and seemed so natural to me. From that point, I was committed to ecological breastfeeding…even though I hadn’t met my husband yet!

Soon after my husband Joel and I got married, we became pregnant. We were so excited. I read more about breastfeeding and attended a couple of La Leche League meetings. I was already anticipating the bonding with my child that I would experience through nursing.

I was induced early, at 36 weeks, due to complications. The labor and birth was not as I had imagined it (more complications), and the most difficult part was that our new baby, Lucia, had to be taken to the NICU right after birth. Exhausted from a long and difficult labor, groggy from medications, and feeling the pain of being away from my brand-new baby, I remember finally laying down in my postpartum room and wanting to do nothing but sleep. I saw the breast pump next to the bed and knew that I should start pumping as soon as possible so my preemie could begin receiving the benefits of my colostrum.

“Maybe I could just sleep a little,” I thought. No, I had no idea how long I’d be asleep, due to the exhaustion and the medications. I asked the nurse how soon I needed to begin pumping. She told me it was something like six or eight hours. I knew I needed to stay up and learn how to pump—I needed to do it for my little baby, who seemed so far away. The nurse helped me to pump and I think we managed to get a little colostrum. I was glad that I had stayed up, and soon fell asleep.

When I woke up in the morning, Joel and I went to the NICU to visit Lucia. She was premature, but probably the biggest baby there (6 lb., 10 oz.). She just needed a little breathing assistance—for a few days, at most. I was told that I could try to nurse her. I did try, but it was so hard to attempt under the harsh hospital lights, the impossibility of modest nursing in my hospital gown, and no privacy whatsoever. But she did nurse a little.

While there in the NICU, we reiterated our desire for Lucia to receive no formula, that we only wanted her to be given my milk. I remember the head nurse asking us why we wanted to “starve our baby.” It was obvious from the start that our nursing journey was going to be a tough one.

We were given instructions that if I wanted to nurse Lucia, we would have to adhere to the hospital’s strict three-hour feeding schedule. If we were late, she would be given a bottle. So, throughout that day, my husband and I traveled to the NICU (on a different floor in a different wing of the hospital), attempt to feed Lucia (I was only allowed to nurse her within a 30-minute window), go back to the postpartum room (where I then pumped), set the alarm for about an hour and a half later, took a nap, woke up, and then did it all over again. Our commitment to breastfeeding was met by the hospital staff with mainly bewilderment or even hostility.

However, in the middle of the night, we had a surprise. We were getting ready to make our way back to the nursery for another difficult nursing session when Lucia’s NICU nurse came in with Lucia in her bassinet. She had seen how badly I wanted to nurse Lucia and had gotten another nurse to cover for her while she brought Lucia to us. I still remember nursing Lucia that night. She nursed while I was laying in bed, with barely any lights. She latched on right away and we snuggled for quite a while. I’ll always be so grateful for what that nurse did for us!

The next day, Joel and I continued our ritual, sleeping for only one or two hours at a time. We met the attending doctor in the NICU, who saw our commitment to breastfeeding. He agreed to release Lucia from the NICU if she continued to do well that day.

Lucia was released that afternoon, and she stayed with us in my hospital room until we all went home the following day. Before we left, I met with a lactation consultant who was very helpful to us. We had gotten off to a rocky start, but things steadily improved once mom, dad, and baby were all together.

When we got home, things improved dramatically. My milk came in, Lucia learned how to latch on better, and I was much more relaxed. Lucia became quite the avid nurser! She is almost two years old now, and has grown so happy and healthy on mommy’s milk.

I’m very thankful that I had information and support for breastfeeding before Lucia was born. Without my convictions about nursing, I would have given up or caved under the pressure of the hospital staff. What helped me to persevere the most was knowing that God has a special plan for mothers and babies: ecological breastfeeding. What a beautiful plan it is!

Tomorrow: Another great story!

Sheila Kippley
Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood
Natural Family Planning

Ecological Breastfeeding: A Religious Search

Wednesday, August 6th, 2008

Ecological Breastfeeding: A Religious Search
   #6 in WBW series
I am a Catholic mom of two beautiful children. I have ecologically breastfed these children out of a desire God placed in my heart and not much more thought beyond that.
   I read Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood about a year ago and it brought so much peace as it reaffirmed my beliefs about the importance of this bond. Lately I have been trying to research my vocation as wife and mother so that I can cooperate fully with God in my vocation.
   I have been saddened by books by good Catholic authors, but they seem to be folks who have children sleeping through the night soon after birth, a modern common parenting theme. This seemed to influence their parenting advice which I didn’t feel fully comfortable with. In my continued research regarding my vocation I was excited to come across works on Theology of the Body and felt this should also be explored with regards to breastfeeding.
   I began to read some articles on this theology and ran across a stumbling block that caused me to research more. But after tears and frantic research, I pulled out Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood again and here Sheila so eloquently put into words all that God had led my heart to in my search to resolve this issue. And it seems to boil down to this: that an interpretation of the Theology of the Body which is not applied to Ecological Breastfeeding is certainly incomplete.

Tomorrow: The need for support.

Sheila Kippley
Breastfeeding and Catholic Motherhood
Natural Family Planning
(online manual)