Posts tagged Working Moms
The Story Behind the First At-Home Breast Milk Test

by Dr. Stephanie Canale

Totum Women Dr. Stephanie Canale

When I was breastfeeding my second child, I had so much milk that my husband and I joked that we’d have to buy an extra freezer!  Supply was never my problem. But when I returned to my medical practice around 5 weeks after my second daughter’s birth, pumping in my office in between seeing patients, something changed. My daughter stopped gaining enough weight, and she even stopped pooping. I was panicked.

I had enough stress juggling my medical practice, being on call, and doing hospital work while also caring for my older child. Now this? And I was perplexed - even though my supply appeared to be sufficient, something must have been off with the quality of my milk. The scientist in me wanted to know exactly what was in my milk and what I could do to help my baby thrive.

Extensive literature searches revealed blanket statements about the overall benefits of breast milk, but no tools or tests existed to find measurable, objective data. I wanted to confirm that I was providing my child with the nutrients she needed, and more, and I wanted to be able to help my patients, too. In my medical practice, many mothers expressed the same concerns about the quality of their breast milk and frustration with the inability to uncover any information about it through lab testing. 

The scientist in me wanted to know exactly what was in my milk and what I could do to help my baby thrive.

Faced with these questions and an obvious need for answers, I decided to use the academic resources available to me, consult with my colleagues and develop a unique, comprehensive set of tests specifically for breast milk. I spent over a year working with top chemists to develop a simple, at-home breast milk test to empower moms with nutritional information such as fat and calories, vitamin and mineral content and even whether their breast milk contained potentially toxic substances such as arsenic or mercury.

I made the test available first to the patients in my practice, with astounding results. I learned that while we’re all conditioned to worry about our breast milk supply, it’s actually quality, not quantity that matters most. And many of the assumptions that we have about breast milk may be wrong - especially, that all breast milk content is the same.

One mom whose baby wasn’t gaining weight took the test and found that her breast milk was extremely low in fat and calories. A simple switch to a fuller fat diet helped her baby start gaining weight.

Another mom took our premium test and found elevated levels of arsenic in her breast milk, originating from regular consumption of rice at dinnertime, which was easily remedied by reducing her rice intake.

One mother was found to have high levels of mercury, and we discovered it was her fish oil supplements. We changed her to a plant-based supplement and the levels decreased within one week. Another mother was found to have high levels of mercury which was directly related to eating sardines and tuna. She stopped eating fish and her levels went undetectable. (For more on which fish to avoid while breastfeeding, check out these FDA guidelines.)

I learned that while we’re all conditioned to worry about our breast milk supply, it’s actually quality, not quantity that matters most.

Several moms found low levels of DHA in their milk, which has been proven to support a healthy nervous system and most important for brain development. Many moms stop taking their prenatal vitamins after their baby is born, some women simply forget, and some are not sure about what they should take. Everyone knows about prenatal vitamins but there are few “postnatal” vitamins available. I am asked almost on a daily basis “well now that I am breastfeeding what should I take”? After re-starting DHA supplements, most moms I treat see noticeable improvement in under two weeks.

Seeing the value of our tests to my patients, I made the tests available commercially earlier this year through Lactation Lab, a company founded by me and my husband Eric.

Totum Women Dr. Stephanie Canale

Back to the story of why my baby wasn’t gaining weight despite adequate supply, I started to supplement my breast milk with formula, despite knowing the benefits of breastfeeding and wanting to continue. My daughter did start to gain weight and the problem resolved best when she started on solid food. I’m happy to say she loves to eat!

That said, I do believe that the quality (and quantity) of many mothers’ milk drops when they go back to work for several reasons. In general, working moms are just plain busy. They have less time to eat well and drink enough water and have more stress overall. Many moms do witness a drop in supply, but it’s important to consider the overall quality of milk as well. It’s critical for working breastfeeding moms to remember to take care of themselves, because that will affect the health of their baby.

Each test that we complete through Lactation Labs is helping us to learn more about how moms can give their babies the best nutrition possible. Short term, it’s very gratifying to see a mother’s frustration transformed into confidence; to know that a simple and accessible test can open up new vitality for a newborn baby. Long term, I’m optimistic that patterns we see through the results of these tests will give way to new discoveries about what makes breast milk so powerful.

It is my hope that the scientific knowledge gained by this research will ensure that mothers everywhere raise the healthiest babies possible.

Moms wishing to try Lactation Lab’s breast milk testing kits can receive 20% off their order by using promo code TOTUM at checkout. (Offer valid through March 31, 2018) 

Adjusting To Life With A Baby After 20 Years Together

By Lindsey Staples

A Wife, Mommy and Career-Focused Wine Lover

Lindsey Staples

For the first 15 years of our marriage, we were the “if” we ever have kids, not the “when” we have kids kind of people. We have been together for 20 years and spent that time growing our careers and making memories while enjoying the freedom that being DINKs (dual income, no kids) provides! But once we decided that parenthood was for us, we tried and tried and I was eventually diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. Basically, I had no eggs and if, according to the doctor, I did have any, they were likely “no good.” We were devastated, to say the least.

I began questioning our decision to wait for so long. Did my career-focus stand in the way of us having a family? We got married when I was 20 years old – if we had started our family then, I would have had plenty of eggs, right? The guilt and regret was overwhelming. So overwhelming that my husband and I decided to put our house on the market, move to the beach in Southern California and completely reboot our lives (my firm has an office in LA, so I could transfer easily and the hubs owns his own business, so he can work from anywhere). I needed the beach. It’s a happy place for me. 

Did my career-focus stand in the way of us having a family? We got married when I was 20 years old – if we had started our family then, I would have had plenty of eggs, right?

In the meantime, we were referred to a fertility specialist and made an appointment even though we had told ourselves we were not willing to use medical intervention to conceive. Much to our surprise, the specialist disagreed with the diagnosis. And even more to our surprise, shock and awe actually, she did an ultrasound at that appointment and told us that I had an egg, prime and ready to be fertilized. She told us to go home and make a baby. I had no faith that it would work, but who were we to question our doctor’s orders? So make a baby we did and two weeks later, we got the answers to our prayers: a positive pregnancy test. Well, 5 positive pregnancy tests to be exact! We pulled our house off the market and Northern California became home again; the place where we would raise our family. 

When discussing starting a family, we promised ourselves that our marriage would always come first. We were committed to this baby not changing who we were as husband and wife. The reality is that our relationship as husband and wife did change. Seeing my husband love our daughter so deeply changed the way I look at him. I admire his commitment to being a dad; he is so natural at it. I am so blessed to have him as my partner in parenthood! Becoming parents has changed our marriage, which still comes first, but the love I have for him is so much deeper. Something I never thought was even possible.

Lindsey Staples

To be honest, I also didn’t want having a baby to change who I was as an individual either. In that vein, I was so naïve. The evening before my first day back to work I held our daughter and rocked her to sleep. With tears streaming down my face, I felt something I never thought possible: I felt like my daughter was enough, like I wanted to be a stay at home mom. Who had I become? I never understood how a child could be enough. Had I lost my sense of self since becoming a mother? I had always prided myself on my commitment to being an executive, my strong work ethic and my ability to travel the state, working long days while tirelessly keeping up with our busy social calendar. And now I was ready to throw in the towel on that. What had my daughter done to me?

I went to sleep that night and awoke the next morning to head to the office to begin construction on the build-out of my office, which had been put on hold while I was on leave. As I walked in, I was greeted by an office full of people who were happy to have me back and met with my construction crew to kick off our project. I felt fulfilled in a different way than I had been for the past two months. Not a better way, just a different way. I felt like I was right where I was meant to be. I knew then that I had indeed changed, but that I didn’t need to throw in the towel on my career, I just needed to find a balance.

Lindsey Staples

Fast forward nine months and I can say that motherhood is the most demanding job I’ve ever had, but also the most rewarding. My husband and I often joke that the first eight months were spent just keeping her alive. What does a newborn really need other than intermittent sleep, a little food, a lot of diaper changes and a ton of love? Nothing…that’s the answer…nothing! But now we are entering the fun zone! I love coming home from work each night and ditching my Director of Operations body armor and getting silly during bath time or participating in our family 3 piece band, where Juliet plays the tambourine, daddy plays the guitar and I become a world renowned maraca shaker! 

I felt fulfilled in a different way than I had been for the past two months. Not a better way, just a different way. I felt like I was right where I was meant to be.

I will forever be grateful that the stars aligned and we kept that appointment with the fertility specialist and that we followed doctor’s orders and my one good egg turned into light of our lives!

Lindsey Staples