Getting Real About Breastfeeding: Volume II

In January, we began our blog series “Getting Real About Breastfeeding,” which is made up of Imalac’s interviews with real women and health experts to provide information, authentic nursing stories, and tips for new and expecting moms. We are building a platform where families can shine a light on the struggles and successes of parenthood by sharing firsthand experiences. At Imalac, we aim to celebrate motherhood by educating, empowering, and enabling moms to support one another.

Meet the Moms

We spotlighted these two influential women whose social platforms are dedicated to raising awareness and helping other moms as it relates to the world of breastfeeding and pumping. Both women are exclusively pumping mothers who provide an abundance of resources, tips, and information for their followers who are planning to or currently pumping.

Melissa Guerriero

Melissa Guerriero is the proud mother of a 20-month-old son with another little on the way due this summer. After her son was born prematurely and didn’t have the stamina to nurse, she became an exclusive pumper and stuck with it because it worked so well for her family. Her last pumping journey lasted 11 months and she celebrated by getting a breast milk necklace and commemorative pumping tattoo. She recognizes the need for visibility, acceptance, education, and support for pumping mothers, so she uses this passion to fuel her Instagram platform.

To connect with Melissa, follow her Instagram page: Pump_Momma_Pump

Elisabeth Anderson-Sierra

Elisabeth Anderson-Sierra is a wife and mother of two beautiful daughters. Many call her the “Milk Goddess” or “Pumping Queen,” but her ultimate goal is to be the best mother she can be for her children and set a positive example for others. Due to a rare medical condition, Elisabeth has been a faithful breast milk donor to countless moms in her community. She is specifically known for providing online support to thousands of pumping moms through her platform, One Ounce At A Time.

To connect with Elisabeth, follow her Instagram page: One Ounce At A Time

What led you to making your final decision on how to feed your baby?

E: As I was expecting my first born, I knew that breastfeeding my child was going to be very important to me, however I was prevented from doing so. I started to experience antenatal lactation triggered by hyperlactation syndrome, an extremely rare condition that makes you produce extra breast milk. I had to learn to how to successfully navigate breastfeeding my daughter without drowning her.

I would try to anticipate when my daughter would be hungry next so that I could pump in advance before nursing her. To determine when she would actually be hungry was a very stressful cycle, but the most important thing that came out of this was becoming a milk donor to support other moms.

What challenges or unexpected obstacles did you face while breastfeeding/pumping?

M: I did not know a thing about breastfeeding at first. I didn’t even know how to use a breast pump, however I always assumed I was going to nurse because that’s what my friends and family had done. While in the NICU for my son, a helpful NICU nurse taught me how to use a pump, how to set up a strict pumping schedule and stick with it no matter what. I was also able to find additional support in online mom communities.

Why did you decide to begin helping others through your social platform?

E: Breastfeeding Momma Talk actually had a local contributor reach out to me to share my story on dealing with hyperlactation syndrome and how it resulted in breast milk supply donations.

I am typically a private person, but I realized I had been given a valuable opportunity with my extremely rare medical condition to tell my story. The article I wrote ended up going viral, so I took this exposure and started my platform to normalize milk sharing as well as help other moms realize that pumping is a form of breastfeeding too. Now, I am a huge advocate for breast milk donation.

Every mom’s experience is different. What variety of resources do you like to offer when guiding moms on breastfeeding and pumping?

M: Supporting other pumping moms, whether exclusively pumping or working moms, is very important. On my page I offer advice based on every aspect of pumping imaginable, from tips and hacks to making pump life easier to even how to properly store your milk for maximizing your freezer space.

Congratulations on having such a large social following. How did you organically get those followers?

E: Moms follow my page because they’re inspired at what I do with my breast milk, but I also feel like I’m very honest with my followers. I’m transparent about my medical condition and I am always uplifting and encouraging moms to love their journey, no matter how big or small. I’ve never met anyone who expresses as much milk as I do, so I initially felt ashamed of this. I really appreciate the ability to connect with moms and be inspired by them. They trust my experience and recommendations and they just want in on the community!

As an “influencer,” what goals did you set for yourself when starting your platform?

M: I was able to achieve about 16,000 followers through heavy use of hashtags as well as following and engaging with literally thousands of pages that were similar to mine along with companies like Medela, Spectra and other organizations that relate to what I do. I noticed there were a lot of Instagram moms and influencers who share information, but the content is about themselves on their own personal pages. When I began my page, I decided I did not want it to be about me, an individual, so I narrowed it down to three initial goals: to educate, to support, and to encourage. Now I am up to about 27,000 loyal followers.

What’s your best advice to working moms who struggle with pumping and time management?

E: My best advice would be to invest in really good equipment. I think that if you are using subpar equipment, you’re setting yourself up for failure. A lot of insurance pumps are not that great and should be improved all around. Also, the standards of the work space like private lactation rooms and time allowed for pumping, are not universal across all corporations and businesses. I highly recommend moms who plan to pump in the workplace to first figure out what’s working, what’s not, and really prepare before returning to work. Leave the house and practice pumping in the car or do some practice runs in the mall’s lactation room if that’s what you need to do to get that out-of-house experience and get an idea of how your body works in an outside environment.

What is the #1 complaint/question/concern that you receive? What is the advice you offer to moms who encounter this certain complication?

M: Whether you’re an exclusive pumper or a working mother who pumps at work, most complaints are about scheduling and keeping up their milk supply. The NICU nurses in my ward gave me a lot of “tough love,” as in they made it very clear that pumping had to be a priority and I had to make time for it. I often do the same when I have to remind mothers to make pumping a priority. It is a sacrifice, but it’s one that we make for our babies.

What are some other ways that new moms can further educate themselves on pumping?

M: I would say being active in the community and not being too dependent on Google for everything. There are benefits to being part of a pumping community specifically. There are many Facebook groups to choose from, so just find what group fits your needs the most and you will be able to have shared experiences with a sense of community.

E: My recommendation is to find a network who you trust and can learn from. My network, OOAAT, supports all moms on every journey. We have a main support group, chat, relactation group, donor support group, and more in the works. A positive and supportive network thrives, so find YOUR mom community where you easily post a question and a person or a group of people can offer great support.
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