A Grandmother’s Gift

Maria Jose Hummel, MPH, MS, 
Santa Cruz County

Recently I had the opportunity to meet a wonderful woman with an amazing story. I met Connie, along with her grandson Mauricio, at a potluck where we sat together after a health presentation. Her grandson appeared to be particularly attached to Connie so I made a comment about it. She also didn't look like she could be a grandma! That’s when she started revealing her amazing tale of love and care for her grandson.

Connie’s daughter had to have a C-section when she delivered Mauricio, and was in a lot of pain afterwards. She wanted to breastfeed Mauricio, but her pain made it difficult sometimes. So Connie had the idea of offering baby Mauricio her own breast so he could suck on and be happy (if he wasn't too hungry of course!). Apparently the trick worked and baby Mauricio would calm down and go to sleep. Grandma acted as a “human pacifier” if you will.

The surprise and amazement came two weeks after, when Connie actually started lactating! The stimulus of her grandson sucking on her breast so he can calm down and go to sleep was enough for her to start producing milk years after she finished breastfeeding her own children. Her breasts became like a gift that keeps on giving.

So both Connie and her daughter breastfed Mauricio. Connie’s daughter returned to work after a few weeks, but she would breastfeed Mauricio before and after work, and Connie would actually drive Mauricio to her daughter’s work so she could breastfeed him during lunch. She would supplement her daughter’s feedings with milk from her own breasts. Both women breastfed Mauricio until the age of three.

I was naturally amazed at her story. But, for Connie it was so natural. “Isn't that what wet nurses used to do in the old days anyways?” She’s probably right. Before formula (or artificial human milk) even existed, women who couldn't produce enough milk sought the help of women like Connie, who would lend her body to nourish a child not her own.

Today Mauricio is an amazing little five-year old boy. Despite just having graduated from Kindergarten, he can read and write at a second grade level already. The school district offered to have him skip a grade but his parents declined and opted to have him grow up with peers his own age. Mauricio is also a very healthy, vivacious, active, well adapted and playful child.

The breastfeeding story of Connie and Mauricio is a great example of resilience, ingenuity, love and care. It also provides hope for all those mothers who might be struggling with milk supply issues, or discouraged by lack of support. Even to those mothers who have already stopped breastfeeding, Connie’s example might encourage them to try again. If Connie was able to lactate again after decades of breastfeeding her own last child, others might have a similar luck.

Connie


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