Breastfeeding 8: hard but possible

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It spread through the nation’s community of breastfeeding advocates like wildfire, news that the woman who delivered eight babies at Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower hospital planned to breastfeed her new brood. And after a few minutes of awed silence and a bit of quick calculation, most have borrowed a phrase heard a lot these days:

“Yes, she can.”

Yes, in spite of recent surgery to bring those eight babies into the world, yes, in spite of their sheer numbers, and yes, in the face of widespread public doubt — or at least wonderment — she can breastfeed them all, lactation consultants say.


It will take incredible commitment, says Yocheved Schoenes, a member of La Leche League International since 1980 and a lactation consultant for eight years in Santa Monica. And it’ll take optimal nutrition on the part of the new mom and the consumption of enough water to drain the Colorado River. It will also very likely take round-the-clock sessions on a breast pump.

Good thing, according to Dr. Mandhir Gupta, who helped deliver the Bellflower eight, “she’s a very strong woman.”

So here’s the quick calculation: For now, most of the babies are likely being fed intravenously. This will give mom will some time to build her milk supply with a regimen of about 12 breast-pumping sessions a day. A full-term baby — and these babies are a month short of full term, though most will probably be ready much earlier than that for mother’s milk — will consumer between 2 and 3 ounces of breast milk every three hours or so. That comes to between 48 and 72 ounces per day, if she chooses exclusively to breastfeed them — the preferred choice of most lactation consultants.

Schoenes, the Santa Monica lactation consultant, says that though pumping will be an invaluable adjunct to the mother’s plan to feed her eight children, she will likely want to rotate the babies’ chances to suckle at her breast. She assumes that a mother so motivated to carry and then to breastfeed eight babies will want that special time with her babies. “It’s hard to duplicate that kind of relationship” you get when breastfeeding, she says.

-- Melissa Healy