Sonia's Breastfeeding Journey - Fort Pierce Breastfeeding Photographer

Sonia agreed to meet with me first thing in the morning for a casual breastfeeding session, just as the Fort Pierce Farmers’ Market was opening.

Vendors were still putting out produce and placing plants precisely in rows upon their tables. Grilling gyro meat and dark roast coffee thickened the air as the new day’s sun shimmered over the Indian River Lagoon. A cool breeze whipped over the water and kept me cool as I waited for her under the shade of a royal palm.

Fort Pierce Breastfeeding Photography - Ebb and Flow Photography -  Babywearing at the Farmers Market.jpg

I was exited to meet her since we had been chatting over emails since before her baby was born. I finally got to put a face with a name. Our session was super mellow as we wandered around the vendors in the early morning sun. We met at the perfect time since the market was really picking up by the end of her session.

Fort Pierce Breastfeeding Photography - Ebb and Flow Photography -  Ring Sling at the Farmers Market.jpg

After her session, she had these words to offer about her breastfeeding journey.


“It had been 11 1/2 years since I had my last baby and I had 7 years of breastfeeding under my belt! I thought I was a seasoned professional but after so many years it was literally like being a first-time mom all over again! I was caught off guard so bad it was like I didn't even know myself. On day two baby was taken to go under bili lights in the hospital and for whatever reason, I just agreed to what any doctor said.

The day after we came home I fell (nearly fainted and lost balance and vision) and had to be rushed to the hospital. I had developed postpartum preeclampsia and spent over another week in the hospital trying to get my blood pressure back under control. Between all of the IV's, BP cuffs, vitals, testing, doctors, nurses, medications, worrying about pets and older siblings at home we were off to a very rough start.

Fort Pierce Breastfeeding Photography - Ebb and Flow Photography -  Ring Sling shopping for flowers at the farmers market.jpg
Fort Pierce Breastfeeding Photography - Ebb and Flow Photography -  Ring Sling shopping for sunflowers.jpg

I felt like I was failing my older kids at home, my baby, and my partner for being stuck in a hospital bed attached to IV's and monitors. My supply struggled, I mentally struggled with the fact that I now relied on medication to stay alive and I was climbing an uphill battle. We spent our first month of life in and out of the hospital and the next 2 months worried about supply, taking supplements, counting diapers, watching the clock, power pumping, lactation cookies, oatmeal, YOU NAME IT until finally after about a 3 month fight I surrendered to the reality that I needed to do all of this just so I can feed my baby.

Fort Pierce Breastfeeding Photography - Ebb and Flow Photography -  Ring Sling sunrise at farmers market.jpg

And then it happened, no sooner than I accepted having to go through all of this extra work, I woke up to an oversupply and found myself having to wake the baby up just to get some relief!

The pain and worry were suddenly gone, the baby was fattening up and I finally had my peace of mind.

This baby was a lesson on just how difficult breastfeeding really can be for some mothers, giving me so much respect and empathy for those struggling to figure it out with little support. It will ALWAYS be worth the struggle and brushing off every unsupportive comment made by those that don't understand why we fight so hard to do what we feel is best for our babies. I still can't believe how close I came to giving up, but so thankful I didn't!”

Fort Pierce Breastfeeding Photography - Ebb and Flow Photography -  breastfeeding by the water.jpg
Fort Pierce Breastfeeding Photography - Ebb and Flow Photography -  breastfeeding by the marina.jpg
Fort Pierce family Photography - Ebb and Flow Photography -  mother daughter by the marina.jpg

Thank you Sonia, for sharing your breastfeeding journey so that other parents can learn and connect with your story.



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Nursing Orion - A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Vero Beach Breastfeeding Photographer

Alex is a beautiful mother of three and an advocate for breastfeeding. When I learned that her youngest had Down Syndrome I wanted to know more, understanding that infants with DS have weak muscle tone and often struggle to develop even the simplest motor skills. Breastfeeding an infant with DS is a challenge for both mother and child, but it can be done!

I asked Alex if I could document her nursing relationship with Orion for two reasons. One, so that I could gift her photographs to commemorate the challenges she has overcome and celebrate their nursing bond. And two, to share her story so that other mothers and parents of children with DS may be informed and inspired. She advocated for the benefits of breastfeeding her son when she was surrounded by professionals that suggested it wasn’t beneficial or even possible. I know that her personal experience will shed light for some and help others gain perspective. At the time of this session, Orion was 9 months old and THRIVING. Given that October is National Down Syndrome Awareness Month I think our paths crossed at the perfect time.

Thank you Alex, for sharing your time and words.

A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography

Growing up I never really knew what I wanted to be as an adult, except one thing - be a mom. I loved how my mom could always make everything seem right, even when it wasn’t and I still truly admire her for that. 

When I was pregnant with my oldest, I knew I wanted to breastfeed because it was what my body was made to do and of course it’s basically free! After he was born he latched immediately and nursed amazingly! It was such a relief and I felt empowered. It was then that I became incredibly passionate about breastfeeding and really began to advocate for normalizing breastfeeding. 

So of course, when I became pregnant with my second son (and still nursing my first) it was no question of if I would breastfeed - but more so for how long. My oldest son was 2 1/2 and there was no end in sight, so I wanted to provide that same comfort and nourishment for my second son. 

A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography
A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography

We had a beautiful and successful breech home birth with an amazing group of midwives. And after six pushes I was now the mama of one beautiful girl and two amazing little boys. 

Orion came at 37 weeks + 5 days and was considered a late term preemie. So when he didn’t latch right away it didn’t shock me - he was tired and this is a whole new big world for him. But there was something different about him that I didn’t know yet. Orion was born with Down Syndrome. As things began to wind down and visitors left, I told my husband to go across the house to Orion’s room and get him a hat so his little head would stay warm. It was then that our midwives told him they believed Orion had DS due to several markers. When he came back with the hat I knew something was going on. Then he said it: “they think he has Down syndrome.”

I took a deep breath, looked at my little rainbow baby and said, “okay.”

A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography

We talked for what seemed like forever before my midwife gave me a make shift SNS (supplemental nursing system) and told me to use it if needed. We did not need to rush since his oxygen levels were good, but we did need to get him to his pediatrician for a referral to have his heart and gut checked and to have his diagnosis confirmed. He nursed a handful of times from Saturday to Monday and never for more than a few minutes before falling asleep. It was totally different than the first 48 hours with my first - Orion just could not stay awake for very long, so I spoon fed him my hand-expressed milk to keep him nourished between nursing sessions.

A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography
A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography

Our pediatrician appointment turned into a four day hospital stay. During this time, the hospitalist was adamant that Orion stay under the lights and would only allow him out every four hours for 30 minutes. Thirty minutes was not long enough to get him aroused and ready to eat, so they insisted I bottle feed him. However, I refused. I had worked so hard to nurse my first son and to advocate for the acceptance and normalization of breastfeeding; I was not going to let his diagnosis prevent him from the benefits of nursing. I was so frustrated with the doctors and nurses for so quickly deciding that he couldn’t do it. I had been pumping after every nursing session and we were helping them administer it through an NG tube. 

We had a lactation consultant come see us and recommend we use the dancer hold - holding your breast with one hand and supporting baby’s jaw with the other. This helped Orion keep up his endurance, but she was still insisting we use a bottle after a 20 minute nursing session.

I couldn’t do it. She handed me a bottle and asked me how I felt.

I felt like a failure.

I asked to have them help me with an SNS, if I could syringe, spoon or cup feed him instead and the only reply I was given was “it’s not our policy.” The hospital would not meet me in the middle and I was not willing to bottle feed him - even if it was my milk! If he didn’t try he’d never learn. The nurses argued with me that we didn’t know how much he was getting by only being on the breast, so we suggested weighted feeds ... alas this was still not good enough for the hospital pediatrician (even though the scale proved he was gaining each feed) and she told us we could only be discharged if we fed him a bottle. I was so hurt. He was doing it and it still wasn’t good enough for them. We signed our discharge paperwork, my husband drank the bottle & we were sure the door didn’t hit us on the way out. 

A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography
A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography

Once we were in the comfort of our own home, Orion’s feeds went much smoother.

I was still using a nipple shield and the homemade SNS, and after each nursing session I would syringe feed him 1/2-1 ounce. We did this for a week or so until I received my SNS in the mail. WOW! What a game changer that was! It took some getting used to, but once we had the hang of the SNS it was a breeze. I would let him latch without the nipple shield and nurse until he unlatched before putting the shield on and inserting the SNS into his mouth. This became the new norm. My toddler was still nursing, so I’d make sure Orion emptied at least one breast before allowing his brother to have the other. This led to them each having their “own side”, which you could see in my milk when I pumped! One side was fattier than the other - it was amazingly cool!

A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography
A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography

As Orion grew the pounds packed on, we got a scale and weighed him every 3 to 5 days. At one point he gained 2 pounds in TEN DAYS and it was around that time he self weaned from the shield.  He’d refuse to latch if it was on. He eventually did the same with the SNS, which was a relief because the bigger he got, the more he wanted to play with it. He had longer sessions and still fell asleep a lot, but he was doing it and the scale proved it.

A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography
A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography
A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography
A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography

Nursing a baby is not easy. Nursing a baby with Down syndrome isn’t easy either - but it is worth it. Orion has amazing control over his tongue, can drink from a straw cup and is saying “mama,” “dada,” and practicing “bubba”.  Nursing has improved his mouth muscles and helped set a solid foundation for when we need to start speech therapy. I am shocked by the amount of mamas I talk to who have a baby with DS and are told their baby can’t nurse! Who has any right to tell you what your baby can or can’t do? Down Syndrome or not, your baby can do anything you help them achieve.

—Alex

A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography

DOWN

RIGHT

PERFECT

A Down Syndrome Breastfeeding Story - Ebb and Flow Photography
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For more information and support about breastfeeding a child with Down Syndrome:

JULIA’S WAY + KELLY MOM + LA LECHE LEAGUE



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Using the Last of the Donor Milk - a Special Milk Bath Session - Treasure Coast Breastfeeding Photographer

When it comes to breastfeeding, I don't think I've met a single person that has "had it easy."

This wonderful gift we give our children is often one of the hardest to give. Due to archaic social stigmas, lack of support (or really, not knowing where to go), and the actual blood/sweat/breastmilk/tears it takes sometimes... BREASTFEEDING CAN BE REALLY HARD.

Allie came to me with a vision to celebrate the stuggles she overcame to breastfeed her son. A breastfeeding milk bath with a twist. Some of the milk would be donated breast milk. LIQUID GOLD.

Her breastfeeding journey started out bumpy to say the least. Low supply issues sent her trying every pill, oil, old wives tale... everything. Nothing seemed to work. Using a Supplemental Nursing System and donated breastmilk, she was able to provide her son nourishment. Until one bittersweet day, after so long trying so many other ways to nourish her baby with breastmilk, he latched and it finally worked.

The last few pouches of donated breastmilk sat in the back of her freezer and expired.

She didn't need them any more.

 

Using the Last of the Donor Milk - a Special Milk Bath Session - Ebb and Flow Photography

She poured the last of the precious gift carefully into the bath as I adorned the surface with flowers. A tribute to her breastfeeding journey.

Using the Last of the Donor Milk - a Special Milk Bath Session - Ebb and Flow Photography
Using the Last of the Donor Milk - a Special Milk Bath Session - Ebb and Flow Photography
Using the Last of the Donor Milk - a Special Milk Bath Session - Ebb and Flow Photography
Using the Last of the Donor Milk - a Special Milk Bath Session - Ebb and Flow Photography

Another special treat and added layer of awesomeness: mother salts. Salts handed down from mothers and blended at a mother blessing. A gift from her midwife's mother blessing, shared from sister to sister. Mother to mother.

Using the Last of the Donor Milk - a Special Milk Bath Session - Ebb and Flow Photography
 

World Breastfeeding Week 2018 Mini Sessions

Each year, breastfeeding is celebrated world wide during the first week of August: World Breastfeeding Week. The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action partners with breastfeeding, health, and nutritional organizations to host events and bring awareness to the benefits of breastfeeding - poverty reduction, better nutrition for babies and children, and food security.

During WBF is the Big Latch On, a world wide event bringing breastfeeding parents together for community and support.  I have participated in every BLO since having children, except one when I was pregnant. My first BLO I didn't get to join a group, but I did nurse my easily distractible son in the back seat of our car in the dark basement parking garage of a Whole Foods. My husband took a photo right at the moment to be counted as virtual participant. We had latching issues for months and I wish I had broken through my social anxiety at the time to find a La Leche League meeting or other form of support. My second BLO, I nursed my daughter in a carrier while photographing the event. So so different than two years prior!

world breastfeeding week - breastfeeding portraits - ebb and flow photography

This year may be my last year nursing during WBF and being counted at a BLO - my daughter is 2.5 and is partially weaned. It's more than likely she's my last child. So I want to do something really special and offer mini breastfeeding sessions for parents wishing to commemorate their own breastfeeding relationships. The more breastfeeding moms I meet, the more important I realize support is. And any breastfeeding relationship - short term, extended, re-latched, bottle fed with donor milk, tandem, SNS, any number of struggles or joys we face when nourishing our children - they are ALL worth celebrating.

There are a limited amount of slots, so grab your nursling and save your spot!