The might of milk: Mom’s new venture offers on-demand breastfeeding classes

View Photo Gallery
  • Kate Miller and her son, Judah, 19 months, read “Dear Zoo,” by Rod Campbell in their Northampton home on Friday, Oct. 16. Miller’s business, Mighty Milk, offers on-demand video classes on breastfeeding for new and expectant parents. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kate Miller and her son, Judah, 19 months, read “Dear Zoo,” by Rod Campbell in their Northampton home. Miller’s business, Mighty Milk, offers on-demand video classes on breastfeeding for new and expectant parents. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kate Miller and her son, Judah, 19 months, read “Dear Zoo,” by Rod Campbell in their Northampton home on Friday, Oct. 16. Miller’s business, Mighty Milk, offers on-demand video classes on breastfeeding for new and expectant parents. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kate Miller and her son, Judah, 19 months, read “Dear Zoo,” by Rod Campbell in their Northampton home on Friday, Oct. 16. Miller’s business, Mighty Milk, offers on-demand video classes on breastfeeding for new and expectant parents. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Kate Miller runs her business, Mighty Milk, from her Northampton home. The enterprise offers on-demand video classes on breastfeeding for new and expectant parents. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 10/19/2020 5:24:07 PM

Like many new parents, Kate Miller of Northampton wanted to breastfeed her newborn son, Judah. But something that many may assume comes naturally proved more difficult than she had anticipated.

“I was really blindsided by how hard breastfeeding was,” Miller said. Despite her efforts, her son was not gaining enough weight, she was in pain and “totally overwhelmed physically,” Miller recalled.

This struggle is not unique: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all infants be exclusively breastfed until they are six months old, citing health benefits for parents and babies. Many parents do want to follow this guidance; in the United States, around 84% of infants born in 2017 started off breastfeeding, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But only 26% of infants are exclusively breastfed through six months.

To help other parents who encounter the challenges of breastfeeding, Miller, a digital content creator, teamed up with lactation consultant Lex Beach to launch her business, Mighty Milk. The service, run from Miller’s Northampton home and available at milkismighty.com, offers on-demand video classes for new and expecting parents who want to breastfeed their babies.

Northampton roots

Miller was born and raised in New York City, but had “really deep roots” in Northampton even before she moved to western Massachusetts, she said. Around a century ago, her great-grandfather opened the Cohen Brothers clothing store on Main Street. The store has since closed, but only after three generations of her family had already worked there.

Now, Miller is hoping to continue her family’s business tradition in Northampton while helping other parents.

Mighty Milk currently offers one video class catered toward expecting parents, which runs about 90 minutes with a $79.99 price tag. Three other classes are in development: One dedicated to breastfeeding newborns; one explaining how partners and loved ones can help with breastfeeding; and another dedicated to pumping. Though the business is based in Northampton, parents from around the country have purchased the class, according to Miller.

Beach, a Northampton-based independent international board certified lactation consultant, leads the classes.

She reiterated that countless parents are taken off guard by the unexpected challenges of breastfeeding. A mother of seven, Beach struggled with breastfeeding her first infant as well. Beach said that this difficulty can stem from a culture that emphasizes bottle-feeding and treats breastfeeding as a private activity.

“I think a lot of it is that parents don’t know what to expect, because we do not grow up surrounded by other breastfeeding parents,” Beach said. “Often, our first experience with breastfeeding is with breastfeeding our own baby.”

But breastfeeding is meant to be a learned social behavior, Beach said, and “something you’re supposed to be exposed to for years and years in advance.”

Instead, “what we are exposed to is a bottle-feeding culture, where most of us go into having our first baby and definitely know what a baby bottle looks like and have seen babies being fed with a bottle,” she said.

Breastfeeding benefits

But breastfeeding provides benefits for both parents and babies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. The practice protects infants from a variety of illnesses and conditions, including diabetes, respiratory tract infections and childhood obesity. It also provides benefits for the breastfeeding parent, such as decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancers and decreased postpartum bleeding.

The most common issue that Beach encounters among new breastfeeding parents is difficulty with how to hold the baby during breastfeeding, which can lead to difficulty getting the baby latched on and painful nursing.

Many parents are also confused about how often a baby needs to breastfeed, Beach said, which can lead to the baby not gaining enough weight. Other parents breastfeed their babies a perfect amount but worry that they are breastfeeding excessively.

Some parents have problems that will require hands-on help from a lactation consultant, and the video classes are not intended to replace those visits. But in some cases, they can prevent the need to visit a lactation consultant.

“A lot of the problems I see are things that are just about a misconception about what breastfeeding should look like, or what’s normal, or just not knowing how milk production works,” Beach said.

“So my hope would be that anybody who took our class would be set up to struggle a lot less,” she continued, “and also to know exactly when they do need professional, hands on help, to know what’s normal, and to not feel as much despair as new families often feel.”

Miller felt some of this struggle, as she explains in a blogpost on Mighty Milk’s website. “When I was pregnant, like so many new parents, I made sure that I had the Pinterest-perfect nursery, the cutest baby clothes and all of the new gear that I could possibly buy,” Miller said.

But when it came to the essential need of feeding her newborn, Miller felt lost. She struggled to find modern, credible resources online; an hourlong course she had taken while pregnant didn’t seem to help; and multiple trips to the pediatrician did not allow time to build the ideal foundation for a breastfeeding relationship.

Miller and Beach initially began working together prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. But amid the pandemic, the business feels even more relevant, they say, with Miller noting that the virtual classes can possibly save families a trip to a pediatrician’s office or the need to bring a lactation consultant into the home.

Additionally, the pandemic has cut families off from their usual support network, Beach noted.

“People are worried about getting in-person help, and they’re more isolated than ever — and postpartum families were feeling isolated even before the pandemic,” Beach said. “Being alone in your house with a newborn baby when you’ve never even taken care of a baby before and can’t have your usual support network there to support you is incredibly challenging.”

This story has been updated to reflect the name of the American Academy of Pediatricians.Jacquelyn Voghel can be reached at jvoghel@gazettenet.com.


Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy