We all have our own unique breastfeeding challenges. Overcoming those challenges and persevering can greatly empower you on your breastfeeding journey. April learned about her aggressive cancer just 11 days after giving birth to her fourth child. Determined to breastfeed her baby, April pumped and dumped her breast milk throughout her chemo treatments in order to keep her milk supply. This is her amazing story of strength and determination.
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The Boob Group
Successful Breastfeeding Stories April King
Episode 119, July 15th, 2015
Please be advised, this transcription was performed from a company independent of New Mommy Media, LLC. As such, translation was required which may alter the accuracy of the transcription.
SUNNY GAULT: This episode of The Boob Group is brought to you by RuminaNursingwear. Hands-free pumping and nursing tanks and bras to support your breastfeeding goals. Visit www.pumpandnurse.com and save 20% with promo code BOOBGROUP20.
LEILANI WILDE: We all have our own unique breastfeeding challenges. Overcoming those challenges and persevering can greatly empower you on your breastfeeding journey. Today, you'll hear from April King, a cancer survivor whose illness was discovered just 13 days after giving birth to her fourth child. After receiving her chemo treatment, April persevered and was able to successfully breastfeed her baby. This is The Boob Group.
LEILANI WILDE: Welcome to The Boob Group,broadcasting from the Birth Education Center of San Diego. The Boob Group is your weekly, online, on the go support group for all things related to breastfeeding. I'm your host, Leilani Wilde, I'm also an IBCLC and owner of Leilani’s Lactation and Doula Services.
If you enjoy listening to The Boob Group each week, please share our episodes with other breastfeeding moms via Facebook. We post links to all our new episodes on our Facebook page. For a complete list of all the episodes we've released, visit the episode guide on our website at www.newmommymedia.com . Want to be part of The Boob Group? Sunny is here to tell us some ways you can get involved.
SUNNY GAULT:Hi everybody, so I'm on Facebook and twitter right now and those are two great resources that you can use to connect with us, as we're going to record our show here I'm going to be posting some of the questions and issues that we're talking about here in the studio, and we want your input. I usually try to post some stuff to Facebook before we start recording as well, so check us out, The Boob Group on Facebook and Twitter, and I use the hashtag #BoobGroupVP, VP stands for Virtual Panelist. It's a great way to get involved.
SUNNY GAULT:All right, so before we kick off today's show I do have an announcement for you guys. World breastfeeding week is coming up, I'm not sure if you guys know what that is, but it's always at the very beginning of August. It's obviously a very important week that helps raise awareness, and this year they're talking about breastfeeding and work.
I know we've talked about that on The Boob Group from time to time, how important it is. That moms have the resources where they can breastfeed their babies or pump for their babies, and so I love that the organizers for World Breastfeeding Week are really bringing this out and making this a focus for this year.
Real briefly I just wanted to go over what some of the objectives are for world breastfeeding week. Sometimes it's called National Breastfeeding Week, it's called a bunch of stuff but basically, the idea is to empower women, to really get the word out there about the importance of breastfeeding during this time.
So here's some quick objectives if you guys do want to get involved, and how you can support breastfeeding during this week. I'm taking this from their website, which is worldbreastfeedingweek.org. You can certainly go on their website and learn more. They say there are basically 5 steps you can do.
The first one, galvanize multidimensional support from all sectors to enable everywhere to work and breastfeed.
Number two, promote actions by employers to become family, parent, baby and mother-friendly, and to actively facilitate and support employed women to continue breastfeeding.
Number three, inform people about the latest in global maternity protection entitlements. Raise awareness of the need to strengthen related national legislation and implementation.
Number four, strengthen, facilitate and showcase supportive practices that enable women working in the informal sector to breastfeed.
And number five, they say engage with target groups, for example trade unions, workers' rights organizations, women's groups and youth groups to protect the breastfeeding rights of women in the workplace.
Leilani, I know you know as an IBCLC, you have a lot of clients and they have to go back to work, and so really tackling this issue and raising support for women in the workplace is really important, this World Breastfeeding Week.
LEILANI WILDE: It is. More power to the organization trying to help everyone, every mom be successful at a continual breastfeeding experience, and supporting her milk supply. Because when she goes back to work, everything starts to decline if she's not supported in her work environment. There are a lot of companies out there that still don’t understand that.
They're still giving moms little time to pump, or telling them they have to pump not quite in the right place, perhaps a bathroom stall. Unfortunately that's still happening. But this is great, great awareness and I'm excited that they're promoting that this year.
LEILANI WILDE: Yeah, I think moms can get involved by just posting stuff on social media, showing your support, I think that’s probably a big way that you can show your support. Also, The Boob Group, we're going to be doing a Rafflecopter giveaway for a bunch of breastfeeding products.
These are companies that we've worked with, that we really trust. We trust their brand and we know that they're out there to empower breastfeeding moms as well. I'm going to put some information on our Facebook page. Also if you go to our website there's going to be more information there, but tons of great products we're going to be giving away, and we hope that you'll be part of it.
LEILANI WILDE: All right, today we're continuing our ongoing series: Successful Breastfeeding Stories where we feature moms who have overcome major challenges in their breastfeeding journey.
SUNNY GAULT:Yes, and we want you to nominate your favorite breastfeeding moms. We're specifically looking for moms who have overcome major obstacles during their breastfeeding journey. So to nominate, all you need to do is visit our website at newmommymedia.com, go to The Boob Group section and look for the banner. It says Successful Breastfeeding Stories.
Click on that banner, and it will take you to another page where you can submit online, and the moms we feature on The Boob Group are going to have their own episode, and our friends at RuminaNursingwear are going to give them a free tank and bra from the Pump&Nurse collections, so be sure to send us your recommendations today.
LEILANI WILDE: Today we're talking with April King, a mother of four children who has been successful in getting her baby back to the breast after chemo treatment for cancer. April is now in remission. Thank you for joining us, April, and welcome to the show!
APRIL KING: Thank you for having me!
LEILANI WILDE: April, how did you discover that you had cancer?
APRIL KING: Actually, I started having a little discomfort in my chest whenever I would take deep breaths in. I called my OBGYN's office and they recommended for me to go to the emergency room, just to be on the safe side because they thought maybe it was a possibility that I had found a blood clot.
Once we got to the emergency room it was myself, my husband and our baby who was 13 days old. Once we got to the emergency room, the ER doctor wanted to do a CT scan to see, just to be safe, I think everybody just thought "Oh, you probably pulled a muscle, it's not really a big deal, but just to rule anything out." Probably about 30 minutes after they did the CT scan was when the ER doctor came into the room and told us that their radiologists have found a large mass covering my heart, so we just kind of went from there.
LEILANI WILDE: What was your first reaction when they told you that?
APRIL KING: Initially my first reaction was "How is my husband going to raise four kids alone?" We have two girls and two boys, and I was just terrified at the thought of him being alone to raise these children, and then of course I had this new baby at home. I thought he's not going to know me. He knows nothing of me, he's not going to remember who I am. The other kids were a little older, my son was 12 and my daughter was 10 at the time, and then our youngest daughter was three. So I thought they’ll have memories of me, but he won't.
LEILANI WILDE: What did the doctors tell you about continuing to breastfeed your new baby?
APRIL KING: I initially had to pump and dump for the CT scan they did, for 24 hours. We were not prepared in any way. I had nursed all three of my other children, I worked with all three of them, but I didn't start pumping milk for storage to go back to work until they were about four weeks old.
So I had no milk saved up, I hadn’t even started that yet. I had no bottles, we had nothing so my husband had to run out of the hospital. We had to call my mom to come to the hospital instead. My husband went to the store and bought bottles, water and formula because we weren’t prepared in any way.
So I pumped and dumped for that initial 24 hour period, and then I nursed him up until I started my chemo treatment. I did have a scan done in-between, in which I also had to pump and dump for about six hours, but that was the only other time that he had to take any formula. I actually nursed him in the waiting room before they called me back to start my first chemo treatment.
LEILANI WILDE: When did they start that treatment?
APRIL KING: Actually they did my first chemo treatment one year ago today.
LEILANI WILDE: How old was he when you had to start the treatment?
APRIL KING: He was one day shy of being four weeks old.
LEILANI WILDE: Well that happened right away then, from the very beginning.
APRIL KING: Yes, but the type of cancer that I had was very aggressive, so my oncologist... Things rolled very fast. As soon as the tumor was discovered I went to my family physician's office, who then referred me out to a cardiologist. Because of where the tumor was located, there was some fear that maybe it had damaged my heart, and so we went to the cardiologist, they did a biopsy and referred me to my oncologist. I've seen my oncologist on a Monday, and I started chemo that Friday.
LEILANI WILDE: Okay. Were there any resources you could find, that could help you format a plan of action?
APRIL KING: Not really. To be honest I couldn’t find anything online. I did find a couple of stories of moms that had attempted to pump and dump during chemo, and I found one mom who was successful but her baby was so much older than mine. I think hers was like 15 months old, and she didn't have to pump and dump for very long. I think she only had to do hers for like three months.
It was a little discouraging in the beginning because I couldn’t really find any information on anybody who had my particular treatment, and was successful in pumping and dumping, but I just decided I'm going to be hard headed I guess. I just decided in the beginning that the cancer was taking so much from me that it was not going to do this. I was going to nurse this baby, and nothing was going to stop me from doing it.
LEILANI WILDE: Did you feel like you had the support from your doctors and your family and your friends in regards to the fight that you were fighting, and keeping your milk supply up so that you could continue?
APRIL KING: Initially, I think my oncologist was a little... I don’t want to say off-put by me asking about the pump and dump, but I don’t think he really know how to respond either. I don’t think it's a request he had ever heard before. He was just kind of like "Okay, if you want to try to do this we can try to do it, but the type of treatment that I did is very aggressive on your body as well. It causes a lot of women to go into pre-menopause and his concern was that my milk would dry up completely during the chemo treatment.
I had my heart so set on doing it, he was trying to prepare me I think mentally if it didn't work out like I wanted it to. But every time I'd go in for a treatment, he would be like "Are you still pumping, are you still getting milk? How much milk are you getting?" He had a wonderful nurse with him that was so supportive. She was like "If you want to do this, we're going to do it."
So I think she really persuaded him and was like "Look, she's going to do this and we're going to stay behind her in doing it. We'll see where it goes." My family was wonderful, my husband was so great during the whole process. He would wake me up, the treatment that I did, I had to take a lot of Benadryl whenever I would go in for treatment, and as someone who doesn’t take any medicine, I don’t even like taking Tylenol, and they would stuff me full of Benadryl. I would sleep for like three days after a treatment, and my husband would set his alarm and wake me up to take medicine, and to pump and dump.
LEILANI WILDE: Where do you think you gathered your strength from, to fight this battle you were facing?
APRIL KING: I think a lot of it came from my children. I had decided early on, that even if the treatment didn't work and something was going to happen to me, I wanted my kids to remember me as being happy and not be like "Oh, she was so sad, she moped around the house." I wanted them to remember good things about me if something was going to happen, so every day, even though I would wake up some days and feel horrible and my body would hurt so bad, I would feel like I was going to puke my guts up I would still go and sit down with them, smile and laugh.
Whenever my hair was falling out, we let the girls shave my hair. I just wanted them to know that everything was going to be okay, and I think a lot of the strength just came from that. Just being like "Okay, I have to function every day. I can't lay in the bed and moan and cry saying "Why me?" I have these kids that need me.
LEILANI WILDE: You're an inspiration, really powerful. Just kind of brings tears to my eyes, thinking about what you went through. And your kids and your family, everyone sounds so amazingly wonderful. And you, outstanding. You're amazing and I'm really happy for you that it worked out so well. When we come back, we will discuss with April the different obstacles she went through, and how they might be similar to other breastfeeding moms and babies. We will be right back.
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LEILANI WILDE: Welcome back to the show, we're here with April King, a survivor of cancer. April, tell us how you managed to keep your milk supply going. I know that you said you pumped and dumped, but what exactly did you do?
APRIL KING: I had a very... Not strict, I wasn’t like crazy about pumping exactly every 3-4 hours, because there were some days that were worse than other days, but I tried t o stick to that and pump at least every 3-4 hours. I tried to drink a lot of fluid, which was encouraged as well with my type of chemo treatment, to flush the chemo out faster. I just tried to drink and eat as well as I could.
I tried to not get as stressed on days. Whenever I would do treatment, my milk supply would go down that day, the next day and the following day. Initially, it would stress me out so bad, because I'd be like "Oh gosh, it's going away, I'm not going to have any milk left." Then I kind of figured out I think that my body was just trying to adjust after the treatment, and if I would just kind of lay back and be like "It's okay," then it would go back up. It would go back to what it was previously.
LEILANI WILDE: What kind of supply were you able to keep up with? What was the amount that you were able to pump?
APRIL KING: Initially, when I first started pumping and dumping I was probably pumping 4-5-6 ounces at a time. By the time I finished treatment I was down to about 2-3 ounces whenever I would pump, which my lactation consultant had told me any milk was better than no milk, that that would make things easier. So I just tried to keep that in my mind, even though I would slowly see over time my supply going down. I was holding onto the fact that I still had milk left.
LEILANI WILDE: When you took the Benadryl that you mentioned, did you notice that it affected your supply?
APRIL KING: I think that may have been why. Like I said, after a treatment my supply would go down. It wouldn’t go down drastically, but I would see a reduction of about 2 ounces each cycle of chemo. It would go down for that initial 1-3 days. I'm not sure if it was the Benadryl itself, or if it was from the other chemo drugs that I was taking.
LEILANI WILDE: Oh, probably both. I know that Benadryl, we tell moms not to take that because it does dry you up. People usually do it for allergies or colds, something like that, but it will actually dry up your fluids in your body, so I'm sure that that probably did take an effect, and it's kind of important to help people understand that you struggled through a lot of extra things. Not just trying to survive, but trying to maintain your supply. Did you ever face any difficulties like breast infections or blocked milk ducts?
APRIL KING: I didn't while I was pumping and dumping, I was actually very fortunate with this child. His name is Michael. I haven’t had any blocked ducts or anything, the only real problem that I would have is sometimes my husband would try to be really sweet and let me sleep. He wouldn’t wake me up, and sometimes I would wake up and be so full of milk. I'd be like "Don’t do that, I have to pump" and he would be like "But you were sleeping so well, I didn't want to wake you up." That was really the only difficulty that I had, sometimes waking up and being so full of milk when I was asleep for so long.
LEILANI WILDE: How old was Michael when you were able to bring him back to the breast, and what steps did you take to get him there?
APRIL KING: He was almost six months old, he was a couple days shy of six months old whenever we were able to go back to nursing. I had my PET scan done on December the 5th, and my oncologist told me to wait 24 hours after that before we try to nurse again, so we started on a Saturday, which was December the 6th.
It wasn’t how I thought it was going to be, I guess. In my mind I had kind of envisioned, I had pumped and dumped all this time, I've been so strong and he's going to nurse again right away. It did not go that way at all. He screamed and cried every time I would unlatch my nursing bra. He would start to cry, he would turn away from me, he wouldn’t want me to hold him.
He really didn't want anything to do with me that first day, so I had a friend who is a lactation consultant and I had called her, like "What do I do? This is not going how I thought it was going to go, he's not having anything to do with this." She suggested a nipple shield to try that, and see if he would latch on with the nipple shield.
So we got a nipple shield, and it took probably about a day and a half of having that on before I could finally get him to latch on and nurse. During that time I was still pumping, and just feeding him when I was pumping in his bottle. I got him latched with the nipple shield, and then she suggested that I use a dropper to feed him instead of letting him suck from a bottle, so he would still have that urge to suck and wouldn’t be feeding it from the bottle.
So we used a dropper to feed him, and I slowly flipped up the nipple shield. I was kind of tricking him into latching on, and then kind of pulled off real fast and shoved my nipple back in his mouth. Trying to latch that way, that’s the best way I can describe it. I'm not sure.
LEILANI WILDE: Well that’s what you did, that was your reality, right?
APRIL KING: That’s one of the best ways that I can describe it. I had to trick him a whole lot. In the beginning the only way I could get him to latch on was right whenever he was going to fall asleep. I would just kind of jerk his bottle out of his mouth and put my nipple in his mouth.
It went on for probably 4-5 days before we finally got him to latch without an all-out war happening. He just fought me so hard, but I had read other stories of moms that had to fight for months before they got their child to latch again, so I'm very thankful that I finally convinced him that it coming from the source was better than sucking it out of a bottle.
LEILANI WILDE: Did you become an exclusive breast feeder after the 4-5 days, or did it take longer? Did you have to supplement with bottles for a while still?
APRIL KING: I had to build back up my supply, so in the beginning he took 3 bottles a day, plus me nursing him. We comfort nursed a lot, just because that seemed to me to be the best way to get him used to nursing again. He took those three bottles initially, then we slowly worked our way down to two bottles a day, and then we got it down to one bottle a day.
My husband and I decided to go ahead and keep one bottle a day, just for when I have testing done and I can't nurse him. That way we knew he would still drink from the bottle, so my husband could feed him during that time, which is very hard in itself. I had my follow-up CT scan about a month ago to check and make sure that I had no more growth and no more active cancer cells.
I had to pump and dump for 24 hours again, and it was a very rough 24 hours. He cried and cried, and night time was extremely bad because he nurses a lot at night time still. He wasn’t used to it, and he didn't want to take a bottle. He kept pushing the bottle away and kept rolling over to me to nurse. It was a very rough 24 hour period, but I guess you could say we're pretty much exclusively breastfeeding. He does still, like I said, occasionally take a bottle, but like I said that is just for our comfort, to know that we have that as a backup if we need it.
LEILANI WILDE: How old is he now?
APRIL KING: He just turned a year old on June the 12th.
LEILANI WILDE: Sounds like you had an amazing journey. Thank you so much April, for sharing this incredible story with us. We are so honored to have you on our show today, and your willingness to be open with us. And for our Boob Group Club members, our conversation will continue after the end of this show as April will share with us how she has influenced others on her road to success. For more information about our Boob Group Club, please visit our website at www.newmommymedia.com
REBECA: Hi, this is Rebeca, I'm calling from San Diego, California. I'm a flight attendant, and I have got a question for your experts. I am due to go back to work in April, and I have a 4 months old son and I'm wondering how I'm supposed to pump on the plane. I contacted my airline, and they told me that my option is to pump in the lavatory. I'm not too comfortable with that, and I didn't think that they could do that because of the law, so has anyone come across this, and what are some options? I would love to hear some responses, so thank you so much.
VERONICA TINGZON: Hi Boob Group listeners, this is Veronica Tingzon, international board certified lactation consultant, and also the owner of the original comfort food lactation services in San Diego, California.
Rebecca, I know that you called in or wrote in to your HR to find out about pumping while you're actually on a flight, and they gave you the response of pumping in the lavatory, which doesn’t sound too groovy and it doesn’t sound too hygienic either. I do know of some people who have done it before, I have a friend who was a flight attendant. She did pump in the lavatory, and she had no problem with it.
Personally, myself, I would not find it to be the best situation. I know that I've also had to be on a flight where I did pump, and the flight attendants were nice enough to set me up kind of in the corner of the galley area. You really have to feel it out, and see if there's maybe affordable, one-sided pumps that you can put somewhere in the galley, or maybe on a private row if it's not too jam packed of a plane.
Probably what's going to end up having to happen for you is that you'll probably have to pump prior to boarding, in one of the lounges or maybe pump on the plane prior to when the passengers start filling the plane in. Maybe in the back of the galley or maybe the pilots will allow you to use the cockpit to pump in, prior to them getting in. Something like that, and then maybe pumping once again in that same situation, either the cockpit or the galley area.
It all depends on if you're going to be flying a domestic flight or an international flight. If it's going to take a whole day to fly, or is it just going to be a couple of hours. Hopefully you don’t have to take too many flights, so you can be home with your baby just nursing away. Have a great day, Rebeca, and I hope this answers your question.
LEILANI WILDE: That wraps up our show for today. We appreciate you listening to The Boob Group.
Don’t forget to check out our sister shows:
• Preggie Pals for expecting parents
• Parent Savers for moms and dads with newborns, infants and toddlers
• Twin Talks, for our show with parents of multiples.
Thanks for listening to The Boob Group: “Your judgement-free breastfeeding resource.”
This has been a New Mommy Media production. Information and material contained in this episode are presented for educational purposes only. Statements and opinions expressed in this episode are not necessarily those of New Mommy Media and should not be considered facts. Though information in which areas are related to be accurate, it is not intended to replace or substitute for professional, Medical or advisor care and should not be used for diagnosing or treating health care problem or disease or prescribing any medications. If you have questions or concerns regarding your physical or mental health or the health of your baby, please seek assistance from a qualified health care provider.
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