"I'm Sam (left). I gave birth to Finnick in July 2014. We struggled a bit with nursing at first. By eight days old, he was dehydrated and hospitalized for rapidly rising bilirubin
due to ineffective nursing. At two weeks old, he was still losing weight, down almost a pound from his birth weight. But with the help of an IBCLC
and his pediatrician, we got it worked out without supplementing, and he began to thrive. The two of us struggled through a nursing aversion he developed after being given bottles when I returned to work at six weeks postpartum, and through a huge supply dip following my heart surgery when he was three months old, to correct an arrhythmia I developed during pregnancy. Everything smoothed out after that, and I almost forgot that we'd ever struggled -- he's 22 months old now, and still nursing.
My wife is Phoenix (right). She gave birth to our youngest baby, Shelter, in November 2015. He came at 31 weeks via emergency C-section for severe pre-ecclampsia and the beginning stages of HELLP
Syndrome. She pumped for him because he was tube fed and on IV nutrition. To say pumping was hard for her was an understatement. She has autism and Borderline Personality Disorder, panic and anxiety disorders, and pumping took her at least 45 minutes, sometimes up to 90 minutes even with a hospital-grade pump. She was hooked to a pump for about 8 hours each day, and she had D-MER -- dysphoric milk ejection reflex
. She had severe nausea and feelings of panic and depression during pumping and afterward. It got to the point where she was going into panic attacks just looking at the pump, and she was thinking things like, 'If I cut my wrists right now, I wouldn't have to pump.' There's no fix for D-MER. There are distraction techniques and other things, but none of it worked. The only other fix is time ... a lot of women will have their hormones even out over a number of months and stop experiencing it. She didn't have that kind of time. At six weeks postpartum she was diagnosed with severe PPD, at risk for PPP
. At that point, in consult with her OBGYN and an IBCLC, she made the very difficult decision to stop pumping for him and stop trying to get him to latch. She went on medication for the PPD, and the end of the D-MER gave her enough relief for it to begin taking effect, and she was no longer at risk of self-harm.
The plan was for me to take over. I'm still nursing our older boy, so we didn't think it would be too difficult. But it turns out I no longer respond to a pump. Phoenix's milk lasted Shelter until he was nine weeks old, and I used those three weeks to start re-lactating. With medication and supplements, a lot of pumping and a nipple shield to work on latching him, I went from pumping droplets to pumping about two ounces per day, sometimes three. Since that was only a fraction of what he needed, we started looking for women willing to donate breastmilk to him, and we were blessed with several amazing women willing to help us out. For about a week, I was able to get him to latch and tandem nurse the boys, and I had a lot of hope that my supply would come up. But I was at work full time and in nursing school full time, and with me being gone so often, he stopped latching. I had to take over supervising my shift at work -- I'm a 911 dispatcher -- and supervising made it nearly impossible to pump as many times a night as I needed, to try to get my supply up. And then I had an emergency dental surgery, and the two to three ounces I was getting a day went back down to nothing. I've not had any success on getting my supply to come back up and start responding to pumping, or in getting Shelter to latch, since.
But with the help of almost two dozen amazing women so far, Shelter has been able to stay almost exclusively on breastmilk in spite of all of that. We find our donors through women we know or through a nonprofit called Human Milk 4 Human Babies
and we are so grateful to all the people who have made it possible for us to keep our preemie breastfed." -- Samantha McMillan