Thursday, January 29, 2009

Is Breastfeeding Eight Babies Possible?

As many of you may know a mother in Bellflower, California gave birth to eight babies this week. interviewed Corky this week to find out if Breastfeeding eight babies is even possible. Here is what Corky had to say…


Breastfeeding is challenging with just one baby, but can you imagine having to nurse eight?! Some are saying that the breastfed octuplets may even need 11 gallons of milk per week. Is this even humanly possible???

Corky Harvey, co-founder of The Pump Station and Nurtury in Santa Monica, CA, says it absolutely is. Corky, who is an MS, RN and an IBCLC (certified lactation consultant), knows that breastfeeding comes with its set of challenges, but feels very confident that the mom of eight can successfully supply breast milk to her newborns for quite some time. "It will depend on the mother's commitment. If I had eight babies, I would be pumping to bring my supply up and bring breast milk to these babies during the most vulnerable times of their lives. Pumping for the babies will also make this mother feel more involved while they are still in the NICU. She will feel like she is actually doing something for them -- that she can be there for them in some way."

Corky says that at 31 weeks, it's unlikely that these babies will be brought to breastfeed for some time, as right now they are most likely on several different IVs. A lot of babies, especially preemies, cannot handle the coordination of swallowing, so they are fed through nasal gastric tubes. Once doctors determine whether the babies can digest the milk, they will be introduced to the bottle. Babies at this stage are given so little milk, usually just a few ccs, so Corky sees no reason why this mother couldn't keep up with the demand.

"Pumping always depends on the mother and is different for every woman and baby. But typically, we recommend pumping every 2 - 3 hours during her wakeful hours, and every 3 - 4 hours at night. Once her milk comes in, she can gauge whether she needs to pump more or less." Corky adds that it may be a while before these babies are able to actually feed from the breast as their mouths are very tiny and have usually received a lot of bottles. But with the help of occupational therapists and lactation experts, Corky believes that it's entirely possible.

For babies born this prematurely, Corky believes the greatest benefit from breast milk is its ability to fight disease. "By consuming breast milk, [the newborns] are at less risk for infection. There is greater opportunity neurological development, and it's better for their digestive tract. The babies will receive live disease fighting properties that you simply cannot get from formula."