Let’s admit it— children are not born with instruction manuals. We can prepare for them as much as we can with our classes and videos, but nothing prepares you for a live moving, crying, loving baby!
When I had my first daughter, I felt like I didn’t need an instruction manual because I was an educated, strong, minority woman. Plus, I had more lactation training than the average woman because at the time I was a WIC nutrition assistant—which meant that I saw and was prepared to handle all the difficulties that might come my way in terms of breastfeeding, right? I knew about all the wonderful benefits of breastfeeding and trusted that I would feed my baby the most nutritious thing.
My first breastfeeding saga began when I had my first child. When my daughter Odyssey (like Homer’s Odyssey not like Honda Odyssey) was born I went directly from work to get an emergency C-section. My daughter’s heart rate was dropping because she was in distress; it turned out that her chord was around her neck and she had pooped, eek, before delivery. Once I recuperated from my surgery, the doctors informed me that my daughter needed to stay in the nursery because she might develop jaundice due to high bilirubin. That’s when some of my trouble began.
The doctor only allowed my daughter to come into my room for very short intervals of time.
Each time she came in, she struggled to latch and then it was time to go again. Even though she was fed minimal amounts of formula at the breast, by the end of a few feedings, she was starving. Also during that time, I had my mom and mom-in-law going back and forth to check on the baby. With their hands locked together in prayer mode, they literally begged me to give my baby a bottle and pacifier. But I did not relent. I had all the training, right? Or did I? Between the two of them they had thirteen children and many years of bottle feeding. Was I questioning what they gave their children (i.e. me) by insisting that I knew best? What if I hadn’t taken the lactation training? I know without a doubt that I would have started with formula.
After overcoming my situation at the hospital, I took a fully breastfeeding baby home. I still had sore nipples, but what the heck you can’t win every battle. My victory with breastfeeding got me thinking even deeper. What if didn’t have the proper support that I needed to continue breastfeeding? What if I hadn’t had that one nurse who came in and took the time to show me how to supplement at the breast (some of those nurses were meh…you know who you are)? What if I didn’t have my WIC colleagues come by my room to make sure breastfeeding was going well? What if the nurse would have showed me how to hand massage to get more milk? I suddenly began to see why so many women fail to breastfeed. It can’t all be blamed on the powers that be–aka Nestle/GoodStart– for over marketing formula. There is a certain element of support that is NECESSARY to the survival of the art of breastfeeding——–SUPPORT! If all healthcare professionals had the tools to support breastfeeding mothers then there would be more breastfeeding mothers.
My second breastfeeding saga ensued when I returned to work. I happily took off 4.5 months of work with my first daughter—thanks to FMLA and vacation time. But, when I ran out of money, I had to go back. It was good for the first few months until my daughter started eating solids and my milk slowed down dramatically. Toward the 11th month, I had to supplement with formula because I did not have enough milk. Wasn’t I given all the tools that I needed to not have to supplement? I had a breast pump, great support at work, time to pump, storage bags and the lactation consultants even taught me how to hand massage. What was up with that?
It wasn’t until 2 years later that I met Anna (shout out to an awesome co-founder) and she told me about another massage technique that she had witnessed in Brazil. It looked different from the massage technique that I had learned. We later discovered, through our searches, the many different ways to use the hands to massage. We were also surprised to see that hand massage can be used to help not only low milk supply, but also a list of other breastfeeding problems.
Rewind. I met Anna Sadovnikova, Samantha Koehler and Jeff Plott at the University of Michigan in a competition called Innovation In Action (IIA). We met up because of our common interest in breastfeeding. I knew from my experience at WIC and from the The Surgeon General’s Call to Action that the low breastfeeding rate among minority women was not okay. We knew that we needed to do something to get more women breastfeeding successfully. Initially, we approached our mentor with an idea to do a breastfeeding intervention. But, our mentor quickly gave us a rude awakening and said “And who is going to pay for that? The government can’t pay for everything.” So we began thinking of a sustainable business model to help address some of the barriers to breastfeeding. LiquidGoldConcept was born.
After seeing the need for more lactation training and support for healthcare professionals, we decided that we needed to develop and incorporate a standardized breastfeeding curriculum into medical, nursing, physician assistant, and lactation consultant training programs. And now we are obsessed with boobs. So stay tuned to learn more about what we hope to bring to increase breastfeeding rates in the U.S.
Thanks for reading,
Ileisha Sanders, mother of two, COO of LiquidGoldConcept