“He is right at the stage where he is really active,” Cordero says. “He loves learning, loves to dance, to listen to music and he loves jumping.”
As soon as she found out she was pregnant with Lucas, Cordero knew that she wanted to breastfeed, but when he was born with myelomeningocele, sometimes called Spina Bifida or a neural tube defect, she needed to modify those plans.
“[Lucas] struggled to eat orally because [the complication] was behind his neck which resulted in weak muscles for the suck-swallow reflex,” Cordero begins. “We were told that most likely he would be unable to eat by mouth because he had failed multiple swallow studies and was only taking 10 ml therapeutically by mouth at four months of age.”
Lucas developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) during his hospital stay furthering his complications.
Instead of direct breastfeeding, Cordero pumped her milk for Lucas during the four months that he was in the NICU.
Cordero had access to a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) who taught her how to hand express milk during her first day postpartum.
“She was great,” Cordero says. “She was super helpful. She was probably the reason I breastfed.”
Cordero later transitioned to a personal double pump and says that she only discontinued expressing because she ran out of space to store her milk.
“I was pumping every one to two hours,” Cordero explains. “I pumped and pumped until my freezer was full.”
Lucas was fed mother’s milk until he was about six months old. Discontinuing breast milk feeding was difficult because Cordero says she didn’t want to stop providing milk for him and because he had “a lot of complications with the formula.” Aware of milk donation, Cordero was exhausted and says she didn’t feel the same motivation to pump if the milk wasn’t going to her baby.
Throughout her infant feeding journey, Cordero reports having had a lot of support. She describes great encouragement from her mother as well as her husband.
“My mom was so supportive,” she remembers. “She would feed me oatmeal and other nutritious foods because in our culture it is believed to increase milk production.”
Cordero continues,“My husband actually helped express my milk because I got tired of the hand expression.”
In addition to the support she received, Cordero says her dedication to pumping was also influenced by fear.
A friend of her sister’s shared her experience suffering from recurrent mastitis.
“I was so scared,” Cordero says. “She would describe this big, huge pain. I was super afraid to feel that. All I kept in my mind was ‘pump frequently.’”
Cordero was also anxious about leaking breast milk through her shirt, so she committed to frequent pumping to avoid the “embarrassment.”
In her professional life, Cordero is a WIC Nutrition Educator and student. In fact, she gave birth just one week before finals, and it was only a few weeks later that she resumed her classes online with the exception of one which she traveled to.
Cordero completed the Lactation Counselor Training Course (LCTC) so that she could better help her WIC clients.
“I needed to get that education,” Cordero says of the LCTC.
For Cordero, completing the LCTC cemented the idea that babies born with medical challenges can breastfeed.
“This baby already has special needs,” Cordero begins. “What better thing than breastmilk is going to help them? It’s magic. It’s a magic drink.”
The magic extends to empowerment of the mother. When a mother provides her milk for her baby, she’s providing protection, helping her baby, Cordero continues.
Especially when babies are born with unique complications, Cordero recognizes the need for connection.
“It’s really, really important to have a connection with someone, someone who has an infant with challenges.”
Cordero hopes to facilitate those relationships, to guide and help mothers in their journeys through parenthood.