Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Nursing Against All Odds

I'm honored to share the story of Tami Caudill and her determination to breastfeed her daughter, against all odds:

My son who is now 3 was breastfed for 7 months, then was given pumped milk until 13 months. I thought I had challenges with him! Yeah, not so much. I had mastitis, oversupply ( which I liked) he was tongue tied and had a highly arched palate which caused my nipples to be hamburger for a month until the frenulum stretched and he matured/grew and the high palate wasn't an issue. At 7 months, after returning to work, he refused to nurse anymore. It was like he was mad at me.

When my daughter was born I decided I would try harder and that she would actually nurse for 18 months.

A few days after going home I had what I thought were symptoms of a UTI (nope) and mastitis (nope) and numbness tingling and weakness in hands and feet that got worse - higher. I had trouble walking and and was looking like a cow with mad cow disease. I went into ER and they said I was fine and that it was post partum depression and go home. That night I was falling and couldn't stand from sitting and couldn't go up stairs. I called clinic and a very smart receptionist squeezed me in for an MRI and to see my doctor. MRI showed no MS (woot woot!). Dr. examined me and thought that I had Guillain-Barre syndrome. He transferred me to an ICU that could infuse the IVIg I needed. During all of this I had my baby with me and was breastfeeding. I even brought her with to the ICU and she could stay with me. (We later determined that IVIg is not safe for breastfeeding infants and I would have to pump and dump while on it.*)

About 5 hours later the paralysis had reached my chest and I was not able to breath - the vent was started and Cambria went home with family. I was ventilated and paralyzed from the eyes down, but I insisted on being pumped every 2 hours (nurses or family had to do it since I was unable to hold them) during the day and every 4 hours at night.

After a week of treatment I came off the vent, but within 8 hours I developed preeclampsia (didn't know it at the time) at 3 weeks post partum. I went blind from swelling on my brain and shortly thereafter had eclamptic seizures and a mild stroke. I was medicated with things designed to make me forget things during this time and put back on the vent, but even through that I was asking to be pumped. I was in tremendous pain - makes natural labor look like a hang nail, would have taken that willingly and smiled about it - partially paralyzed needing to pump and dump for 4 weeks while on IVIg, doing intensive inpatient rehab for weeks and I still was determined that I would breastfeed when I got home - never even questioned that it would work.

By 5 weeks in my daughter (and son) could visit and when she did I breastfed her.

When I could have her at home 3 weeks later we never skipped a beat and she breastfed perfectly - cluster fed a lot at first, but that was no biggie.

She is now 13 months and still breast feeding. She only got formula for 10 days, because other moms found people to donate milk** to her when I was dumping. I literally nearly died twice in those 7 weeks (doctors didn't even leave my bedside for 2 days each time I was vented, and if you know doctors you know that's a HUGE deal) but I never gave up on breastfeeding my baby!

Editor's Notes:
* It is important to note that most medications and treatments are compatible with breastfeeding and it is very rare that a mother will need to "pump and dump". Many mothers are incorrectly told they cannot breastfeed on a medication when it is actually very safe. My review of the literature does not find an IVIg that is not compatible with breastfeeding, though it is possible there are some that are not. A reliable source to determine if breastfeeding is safe with an particular medication or treatment is InfantRisk Center
**There are risks involved in informal milk sharing and mothers are encouraged to research the risks and benefits before using donor milk. A good resource is Should Milk Sharing Among Mothers Be Encouraged?