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Many moms feel strongly about breastfeeding their babies. But breastfeeding isn't always easy, as any mom who has dealt
with latch issues, mastitis, low milk supply or painful feedings knows. Sometimes
the decision about feeding isn't made by choice. Just ask Trillitye Paullin, whose newborn baby was diagnosed with severe allergies.
Paullin isn't your average mother of a newborn. When she was
just 17 years old, she joined the Army National Guard. She graduated from high
school shortly after she enlisted. Today—after 10 years of serving her
country, including a year-long deployment to Iraq—she is a doctoral candidate
completing her PhD in Molecular Biology at the University of South Florida as a Tillman Scholar. The Pat Tillman
Foundation invests in military veterans and their spouses through academic scholarships. Scholars are selected for their extraordinary
academic and leadership potential, their true sense of vocation and a deep
commitment to create positive change in their chosen field.
As if being in
graduate school, doing cancer research, teaching undergraduate courses, serving
in the National Guard, and being a wife wasn't quite enough, Paullin and her
husband decided to start a family and welcomed their daughter in March 2015.
She quickly learned to be creative, which led to pumping in bathrooms, offices, barracks and Humvees. It took a lot of determination, but she made it work.
They both hoped she could breastfeed their daughter, but unfortunately
it was difficult from the very start due to a shallow latch. Paullin dealt with
bleeding nipples and pain every time she fed her baby. Because feedings weren't
going well, she worried about her baby getting enough milk and wondered if it
would ever get easier. In time, and with the help of friends and family, it did
get better. But unfortunately there was a new problem lurking around the
After a difficult night of nonstop screaming, Paullin's baby
woke with a horrible rash—and her diaper was full of blood. She was admitted to
the hospital, where doctors determined she has severe
allergies. The only option was to put her on a formula called Elecare. Paullin
was upset over the fact that she could no longer breastfeed her baby. But then
she wondered—if they can make allergen-free formula, can I make breastmilk that
is allergen-free? It would be difficult, but Paullin was determined. She removed
dairy, soy, eggs, corn, wheat, nuts and oats from her diet.
Staying allergen-free and continuing to breastfeed didn't
come without hurdles. When her daughter was only 4 months old, Paullin would
attend the two-week National Guard mandatory Annual Training. She started pumping
and stocked away two weeks' worth of frozen breastmilk, which is over 500 ounces. Her
husband vacuum-packed grilled chicken, salmon and steak that she loaded into a
giant cooler with coconut milk, rice and sweet potatoes. Her daughter had her
stash, Paullin had hers.
Once she was in training, she continued pumping to keep up
her supply and replace the milk her daughter would drink while she was away.
She took her pump everywhere and pumped every three hours, no matter where she
was. She quickly learned to be creative, which led to pumping in bathrooms,
offices, barracks and Humvees. It took a lot of determination, but she made it
Being a mother, wife, scientist and soldier are all separate yet essential pieces of who I am. Each day I work hard to find a balance ... that will carry over to my daughter and empower her.
"There are so many things that can stand in the way of a
mother's breastfeeding goals," Paullin shared in an interview with mom.me. "Several mothers have contacted
me about their breastfeeding journey. Many of them are inspired by my story and
want to talk through their current issues and concerns."
She said she
enjoys speaking to each of them and being the extra support that they may need.
"Being told that my story is what motivated them to push through the hard times
Clearly, Paullin's career is unique, and she is so incredibly passionate about it. How does she make it all work?
"Every family is unique, and making the decision to pursue a
career while raising children is not easy. I want my daughter to see her
mother working hard at what she loves," she says. "I hope it will teach
her how to be truly passionate in life. Being a mother, wife, scientist and soldier are all separate yet essential pieces of who I am. Each day I
work hard to find a balance between these identities and I believe that will
carry over to my daughter and empower her," she said.