UPDATE: This article has been adjusted to include comments from Ashleigh Mack.
Breastfeeding not only provides babies with nourishment so they can grow strong and healthy, it can also be a beautiful bonding experience between the mother and child. The simple act can even help families through difficult situations.
Mom Ashleigh Mack revealed how important breastfeeding is to her during her baby boy's battle with cancer. Four-month-old Lincoln was diagnosed with a very rare form of Acute Myeloid Leukemia that affects the bone marrow. He is currently undergoing chemotherapy.
Mack wrote about how breastfeeding her son is helping them through this tough time on the Breastfeeding Mama Talk Facebook page.
"Let's give this mama the royal BFMT treatment tonight!! All the positive vibes and love for this mama and her baby!! My son is eating for the first time in approximately 40 hours. He was unable to eat due to being sedated for diagnostic testing. I have never been so scared and heartbroken when I was told my 4-month-old baby had a rare form of AML leukemia. I was so worried he wouldn't breastfeed like he had been. He latched on as soon as I was able to feed him. Unfortunately he wouldn't eat long and they put in an NG feeding tube. BUT I was able to have my pumped milk put through his NG tube! He started chemo last week and has been breastfeeding like a champ! My supply took a massive hit, so we've been working on getting that back up. It's a slow process! But, he needs my breast milk now more than ever! We're kicking cancer's butt!"
"It was important to me to keep breastfeeding because I'm a believer of 'breast is best,' Mack tells A Plus via email. "I had a goal to breastfeed Lincoln at least 6 months, maybe even a year ... When Lincoln was sick, it seemed to comfort him. The closeness, the familiarity."
Mack has received an outpouring of support since the post went up on July 15. It has been liked over 3,600 times. Many users are showing their support for Mack and Lincoln, as well as writing about how breastfeeding helped them in difficult times.
One Facebook user wrote, "Sending you guys good vibes! My girl was diagnosed with brain cancer at two months old and I remember that fear. I also remember the day I was able to get her to latch on for the first time after her first surgery ... Huge props to you, mama. I know how hard it can be ..."
After her post started to go viral, Mack posted an update about Lincoln and how he is nursing more.
Mack told Babble that Lincoln's chemotherapy is going well, and that she believes breastfeeding has helped with his treatment,
“I truly believe that breast milk has aided in his response to the chemo — it’s providing nutrients and antibodies his body needs now more than ever. I couldn’t ask for a better son and we're so lucky our breastfeeding journey has been a mostly smooth ride.”
Mack told A Plus that she wanted to share her story on Breastfeeding Mama Talk to other mothers who can relate to the struggle of breastfeeding. "At the time, I felt so alone in this madness, moms supported me, told me I wasn't alone. [They] shared their own stories, prayed for me, [and] gave me words of encouragement."
Mack also said she hopes the post increases awareness of diseases and helps people show more compassion to strangers. "Yes, even 4-month-old babies can get a rare form of leukemia. Yes, babies that small can be given chemo. Cancer doesn't care who you are or how old you are. I never thought it'd happen to me and my child, but here I am. But we're strong. He's already proving to be a fighter, and I couldn't be more proud of him already."
It is brilliant to hear that Lincoln is staying strong and that he and Mack are able to continue their breastfeeding bond. Sharing that special moment with the emotion and human connection is just as good as the nutrients from the breast milk.