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Passing on the Legacy of LLL

Lori Criswell
Sugar Land TX USA
From: NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 22 No. 4, July-August 2005, pp. 150-151

My mother, Peggy Halford, was an LLL Leader for 15 years. I grew up going to LLL meetings and Conferences. I grew up knowing that I would someday breastfeed my own children. We are a breastfeeding family. By the time I had my first child, my sister had successfully nursed her own four children. My brother's wife had successfully breastfed their two boys. They are all beautiful and healthy.

My daughter, Mackenzie, was born on November 16, 2000. She was nine pounds, six ounces and she took to nursing immediately. I was happy to be a mother and breastfeed my baby so I didn't mind that she nursed every hour for an hour. I started introducing solid foods when she was about eight months old, but she wasn't very interested. We continued to nurse often.

When Mackenzie was 24 months old, I learned the joyful news that I was pregnant again. Once my milk supply started to decrease, she started eating solids more regularly. Everything seemed to be going well. During my sixth month of pregnancy my milk had almost completely dried up, although this did not stop Mackenzie from nursing. I knew she needed the comfort, so we continued to nurse upon waking and for naps, at bedtime, and for any "ouchies."

When Mackenzie was 31 months old she came down with a yeast infection in the diaper area that was really hard to get rid of. As soon as it was under control, I noticed redness in the area so I took her to the pediatrician, thinking that she had a urinary tract infection. She was prescribed an antibiotic to treat infection.

I thought the medicine was working, but something still seemed off. Mackenzie was drinking a lot of water—I seemed to be refilling her cup all day and her diapers were leaking all over the bed. The doctor called me the next day with the urinalysis results and told me Mackenzie had an elevated blood sugar reading. She asked me to bring her for another urinalysis after fasting for two hours. We did this with the same result. Mackenzie then needed to have a blood test after fasting for eight hours. The night before the test, I feared the outcome of the results. The next morning they took three vials of blood from her arm. That afternoon I got the call from her pediatrician telling me that my daughter had Type 1 Diabetes. With the onset of Type 1 Diabetes, usually a person becomes critically ill. Most of the time, the person is admitted into the hospital. With Mackenzie, we were fortunate enough to have caught it immediately and bypassed a hospital stay. I have no medical proof, but I believe in my heart that the reason she did not get that sick is because she was breastfed for so long.

For the next two days we had to go to Texas Children's Hospital for classes and medical exams so that we would know how to take care of Mackenzie. We learned how to account for the carbohydrates that she ate and how to adjust her insulin dosing appropriately. We learned how to prick her tiny fingers to test her blood sugar levels and how to give injections of insulin in her arms, legs, stomach, and bottom.

At my LLL meetings we always talk about the advantages of breastfeeding. I now had a new advantage to add to the list. Every time I needed to check her blood sugar by pricking her finger or give her a shot of insulin, I did it while I was breastfeeding her. I was able to console her and give her the security she had always known. I was so thankful for breastfeeding. Otherwise, I couldn't imagine sticking my baby with a needle 10 times a day to check her blood sugar or giving her up to six shots of insulin a day. "Nummies" was our savior!

Looking back, that first year was a blur. My son, Mason, was born a little over a month after Mackenzie's diagnosis and our tandem nursing experience began. I had strong internal urges to wean Mackenzie. Sometimes I found myself doing the breathing techniques I had learned at my birthing class to help me get through a nursing session with Mackenzie. My body was telling me one thing and my heart was telling me another. I knew that I should go with my heart.

All of the doctors were very supportive of the extended breastfeeding and understood the great benefits Mackenzie was receiving. I did run into a hard time trying to figure out how many carbohydrates were in my milk and how much milk she was getting when she nursed. I soon found out there were few—not enough to have a significant effect on her blood sugar levels.

Mackenzie is now four and continues to nurse every night to go to sleep. I am proud to say that she has only been ill once since her diagnosis. I completely attribute this to her extended nursing. Mason is now 17 months old and a healthy boy. I thank God everyday that my mother stood up for what she believed in 32 years ago. She wanted the best for her children. La Leche League empowered her and gave her the knowledge to pass on to other women. My mother has inspired so many women to breastfeed, including my aunts, my sister, my sister-in-law, and me.

I'm thankful that I learned the benefits of breastfeeding. I know that my daughter will grow up appreciating all of the benefits of breastfeeding and La Leche League, too.

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