When medical issues posed some challenges to breastfeeding her baby, a New Jersey mom found a unique way to overcome the obstacles.
Mom and doula Kristen Bridgham was pregnant with her second child when she discovered she had an unidentified thyroid issue. Three months after giving birth to her son Elijah, she noticed her milk supply decreasing, so her pediatrician recommended she supplement with formula while working with an endocrinologist to find a specific diagnosis and treatment for the issue.
"I just remember going home in tears," Bridgham told The Huffington Post. "I felt like a failure that because of my health issues I couldn't provide the best nutrition for him." Though she said she's "by no means against formula," she felt strongly about feeding her baby breast milk, as she had breastfed her first child for 18 months.
Enter donor milk and a creative feeding contraption, and Bridgham has figured out a solution.
After realizing she would have to supplement her low breast milk supply, Bridgham reached out to her aunt, who was also postpartum and offered to pump milk daily for baby Elijah.
"At first, I was a little weirded out that he was going to be receiving someone else's breast milk," the mom said, adding that they soon got into a steady routine. When she wanted to travel for the holidays however, Bridgham realized she needed another way to get donor milk.
Unsettled by the high costs and unsatisfactory screening process at the milk bank she contacted, the mom reached out to breastfeeding groups and pages on Facebook. After explaining her thyroid situation and need for donor milk, she started receiving messages from moms offering to help out. In the past two months, about a dozen mothers donated breast milk.
"I made it a point when I started receiving the donor milk to talk with the mother for a while before taking the milk," she said. "I feel as though I have a special relationship with each of them."
Today, Elijah is 5 months old. His mom has received at least a few hundred ounces of donor milk and found a way to deal with another issue she faced in the process.
"For a while, I was giving him the donor milk in the bottle, but just felt disconnected from Elijah," she said. "I felt like I had lost all that 'bond' we once had while breastfeeding."
Bridgham did some research and discovered the "supplemental nursing system" -- a container for breast milk with capillary tubes that allow the baby to consume the milk while maintaining that bond.
"The tube runs down to your nipple and the baby latches onto your nipple and the tube," the mom explained. "The idea of using the tube is that the baby is still encouraging your body to produce milk while also receiving the [supplemental] milk. The device was perfect for Elijah and I because he wouldn't like nursing and get fussy because he knew I didn't have anything."
Surprised that her doctor hadn't mentioned the contraption (despite knowing how passionate she felt about breastfeeding), Bridgham decided to share her experience with others and sent a photo to breastfeeding-related accounts on social media. She received an overwhelmingly positive response.
"I was getting private messages from other moms sharing their stories and struggles and was able to provide encouragement and support to each of them," she said, adding, "I figured, If posting this picture could help one struggling mother continue her breastfeeding journey, then I have done my job."
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