Aim With Mia Photography – Mia DeGreef, Photographer
To celebrate human milk in a big way, we worked with talented photographers in Indiana, Kentucky, and Missouri, to tell stories of breastfeeding in all it’s forms.
In St. Louis, Mia DeGreef of Aim With Mia Photography, met with three families to capture this special time on film. Here are their stories.
Special thanks to CareSource for sponsoring this project. To see images from the entire campaign, make sure to follow us @themilkbank on your favorite social media channel.
COURTNEY’s Breastfeeding support during a pandemic
Truly is Courtney’s rainbow baby after 4 losses, 3 of which were in the second trimester. Many women are not familiar with cervical insufficiency, a condition marked by weakening of the cervix. When the weight of the baby gets heavier, the cervix is unable to hold the pregnancy primarily in the second trimester. Due to cervical insufficiency, many women endure tumultuous pregnancies, long periods of bed rest and pelvic rest, premature labor, and recurrent loss, like she did.
After several losses, “I finally consulted with the renowned (now retired) Dr. Arthur Haney of the University of Chicago, who performed a surgery on me and inserted a Transabdominal Cerclage (TAC)” which enabled Courtney to carry Truly to term with zero complications.
From day one, her daughter Truly had a perfect first latch, and they have been on a breastfeeding journey ever since. Courtney’s goal was to breastfeed for 6 months, then it extended that to one year because things were going so well. At 15 months, they have surpassed that goal.
Breastmilk was particularly important to Courtney at the time that Truly was born. April 2020 was the beginning of the pandemic, and she thought it would be wise and beneficial to give her daughter something that was created specifically for her nourishment and development, breastmilk. She was sure that the antibodies would assist in the event that we had to face a COVID sickness.
In the beginning, Courtney mentions how eye-opening it was “as breastfeeding is an exclusive journey between mother and child. There are ways that dad can help, but ultimately, it’s all on mom – when exclusively breastfeeding.”
Courtney gained support from fellow breastfeeding friends, an exclusively breastfeeding support group on Facebook and her husband. She even rekindled a friendship with a high school classmate.
The Facebook group established a sense of community for Courtney. As she began to come into the understanding of the natural maternal force that breastfeeding is, “ it was nice to not feel alone.” Before deciding to breastfeed, she thought that breastfeeding moms were “a vibe”. But after tons of breastfeeding photos and pictures gathered in her phone, she began to understand the hype, and ate her crow.
Courtney’s husband has supported and praised her for doing what they think is the best thing for their child. He kept her set up with drinks and snacks to keep her hydrated and nourished.
Courtney and her high school classmate have been in and out of each other’s inboxes with questions for one another, venting, and advice pertaining to breastfeeding.
KRISTIN’s breastfeeding support from the Community
She didn’t know that she would become one of “those” moms. Courtney always believed breastfeeding moms to be peculiar, odd even, for no good reason, other than not knowing. She has learned just how beautiful and miraculous breastfeeding really is. It is literally nature’s answer to a great deal of infant issues. She expressed breast milk onto a diaper rash and it was gone within hours. Amazing.
Breastfeeding is a beautiful thing, and a great bonding opportunity for mom and baby. That said, it takes a great deal of sacrifice on part of mom to give of her body for a year or more. Lack of sleep, painful nipples, less opportunity for feeding and help from partner, and baby bites are a few drawbacks. The drawbacks aren’t nearly enough to make Courtney think twice about breastfeeding. She would do it again in an instant.
Kristin describes breastfeeding as an “interesting journey!” Nursing came naturally to her firstborn, Katalaya, who nursed for four years. Nursing with her second child, Azalea, proved to be a challenge. After correcting her Azalea’s tongue and lip tie, the healing phase took twice as long as expected. When Azalea’s latch felt better, Kristin found out she was pregnant again. Kristin’s supply dropped dramatically. “Azalea started solids at six months, much earlier than I would’ve liked but it’s been a journey. She still nurses throughout the day, just not a lot. It looks like I will be tandem nursing two babies here in a few short months.“
Kristin credits La Leche League as being her main support because no one in her family had nursed before. La Leche League provided knowledge and support when Kristin had lost hope. Now, Kristin’s husband is also her support person. He reminds her that everything works out and the tough patches will pass by. Kristin agrees.
Kristin’s goal is to nurse as long as both mom and baby are enjoying the benefits. In her mind, a year sounds good but she is willing to go longer if the situation works out.
“Human milk is not only nutritionally beneficial for the babies but it reduces breast and ovarian cancer in me and my daughter. There’s also research that shows longevity nursing increases intelligence. Beyond that, the bond is incredible. You understand your baby better than anyone else because you get to see her up close and personal and spend time with her throughout all her emotions. I feel fulfilled when I can provide for my baby’s emotional needs and breastfeeding is a tool to learn about her and do just that.”
“It has been difficult to let go of wanting this baby’s nursing experience to be as positive as the last.” She has to remind herself “each baby is different; each situation is different and it’s your love for your child that is most important.”
TRACY’s hope for breastfeeding mommas
Tracy’s breastfeeding journey has been filled with multiple ounces of spilled milk, decrease in milk supply, research on how to increase milk supply, adjusting to nursing positions, and hours of bonding with her baby boy, Tobias.
Tobias is 16 months old. She would love to continue breastfeeding until he’s 2 years old. Her current goal is to end the nighttime feeding.
She found support from Tobias’s dad, friends from high school and college, her mom and Facebook mom groups. “Tobias’s dad was simply amazing! He purchased a 100oz water bottle and made sure I was hydrated daily. He helped me keep caloric intake where it needed to be, and he constantly offered words of encouragement to keep me going.”
Tracy relied on friends to answer questions, provide comfort and offer confidence.
Virtually, she was a part of breastfeeding support groups and mom groups that were filled with great tips and uplifting posts from first-time and experienced moms.
Tracy is so surprised by how long she has lasted on this journey. “Sixteen months and counting. WOW! I’m impressed and proud of myself. The fact that I produce enough for his appetite amazes me.”
During her breastfeeding journey, Tracy has experienced the stress of working full time and attending school for her master’s program. Her stress caused a decrease in her milk supply. She didn’t have the support she needed from coworkers when she needed to pump at work. This caused anxiety and sleep deprivation which impacted her supply. Tracy found herself crying over not knowing if she would be able to supply her son with what he needed. But, through perseverance and support she was able to provide for him.
Tracy takes breastfeeding day by day. Tracy hopes “that all the mommas of the world, new and experienced learn to be kind to themselves and show themselves more grace.”