When my daughter was a year old I battled a horrible breast infection of some kind. I say of some kind because in spite of multiple doctor’s office visits and dozens of different treatments including antibiotic, antifungals, herbal, topical over the counter etc, none of the doctor’s I talked to could track it down. I was desperate for a local lactation consultant. But when I talked to the local hospitals I was told that I could only see their lactation consultants if I was being treated in the hospital. So eventually I gave up. After almost two months of fighting pain so bad that I felt like someone was crushing glass inside my nipples after every nursing session and losing days of my life to crippling pain, I quit breastfeeding. The pain stopped almost immediately. But I was disappointed that no one really knew what was wrong. My doctor was wonderfully supportive and while she was breastfeeding friendly, she was a family doctor and her knowledge was limited. We tried everything she could think of.
When my son began losing weight at around 5 months, I headed to my doctor’s office for blood work to check my iron and thyroid levels to see if there was a chemical reason for my low milk supply. I asked if she could recommend a lactation consultant locally and this time she gave me a pamphlet for Mahala Mama. Mahala Mama was initially based out of New Jersey, but they now have a consultant based in the LehighValley, Amy Nansteel. While Amy was unable to give me a full consultation immediately, she got me a hospital grade pump the day after I talked to her and came to give me some informal instruction on how to use it. She and Beth (one of the NJ based consultants) came to see me as soon as they could and their visit made all the difference.
One of the great things about Mahala Mama is that their consultants come to you. Beth and Amy visited me in my own home and worked with me in my living room. They showed me how I could change the position in which I nursed my son to help with his reflux and thus make him more willing to nurse again. (Part of the issues with my low supply were caused by his refusal to nurse for long because of severe reflux). They recommended a more ideal bottle that I could use for feedings so that he wouldn’t get too used to the bottle and then refuse the breast. (They weren’t the most expensive specialty bottles on the market either). Most importantly they encouraged me that I was doing the right thing and that with a little help I had a very good chance of rebuilding my milk supply. On their recommendation I began taking fenugreek and the Mother Love Plus and Mother Love Special Formula several times a day in addition to my pumping efforts. Within two months he was back on my breast milk via nursing alone without any supplemental bottles of my sister’s breast milk. (It was so nice having a sister whose baby was the same age as mine who had a massive oversupply and a freezer full of milk).
Later, when I had to give my son formula during a nursing strike, Amy didn’t condemn or ridicule me. She gave me tips via phone and email the best that she could but ultimately encouraged me to take my baby to the doctor to make sure there wasn’t anything wrong. Amy’s primary goal as a lactation consultant, and the goal of all the members of Mahala Mama is to give you the nursing experience you want. They helped me push through because I wanted to keep nursing as long as I could. But I ultimately decided to wean my son at 12 months because I was ready to be done nursing for a number of physical and emotional reasons, Amy didn’t think any less of me. In fact, she applauded all the hard work I had put in to make it as far as I did.
I’ve heard horror stories from friends about some lactation consultants who would rather see a baby lose weight than supplement with bottles. Amy always considered my son’s health and my needs first, never letting her own opinions or agenda get in the way. However, most lactation consultants are wonderful, caring medical professionals who are there to help you and your baby through a difficult time. I wish I had called Amy sooner, rather than waiting until my son lost weight. Next time, I think I’ll call her right after the baby is born if things are not getting well established. My son was never a very strong nurser because of his laid back personality and severe reflux. I also found out that my milk comes in unusually late, which can sometimes be a problem, but now I know in the future what I need to be prepared for.
If you are looking for a lactation consultant, or are having any struggles with nursing don’t wait, call a lactation consultant. If you are an expecting mom or a new mom and you feel unsure of yourself when it comes to nursing, don’t wait, call a lactation consultant. If you are from the Lehigh Valley/Eastern NJ area, call Mahala Mama. They love what they do and they’ll help you every way they can.