Breastmilk: A Life Insurance Policy

By: Carissa Hawkins, Communications Coordinator, The Milk Bank

Debbie Pedersen refers to her deep freezer full of breastmilk as her "Life Insurance Policy" because it is.

Five years ago Debbie gave birth to her first child, a daughter who was born with a cleft lip and palate and a rare syndrome that was diagnosed in utero. Once born, Kaia had a weeklong stay in the NICU and that's when Debbie was first introduced to the breast pump.

Debbie used a hospital grade pump continuously until she realized the convenience and quiet of a manual hand pump. While in the NICU, Debbie and her husband were offered Pasteurized Donor Human Milk (PDHM) for Kaia until Debbie's milk came in. They refused, not knowing much about PDHM at the time.

 

Breastmilk: A Life Insurance Policy {themilkbank.org}

Initially, breastfeeding wasn't guaranteed for Debbie because of Kaia's cleft lip and palate but with the help of a nipple shield Kaia was able to latch until she had the surgery to correct the cleft at 4 months age. After the surgery the doctors asked Debbie not to use the nipple shield in order to protect the delicate tissue they had just repaired. After 3 days of unsuccessful feeding with the recommended syringes, Debbie was getting desperate, and the plastic surgeon relented that she try feeding at the breast without the nipple shield. Debbie put Kaia to her breast and Kaia latched, perfectly! All the while, Debbie had been pumping to maintain her supply and quickly learned she was blessed with an over supply. Having remembered the offer of PDHM from the NICU, Debbie reached out to the Indiana Mothers' Milk Bank and became a Donor. All told, Debbie donated over 1200 ounces in 2008.

Kaia and Debbie continued their breastfeeding relationship until Kaia was 27 months old mainly due to a diagnosis of kidney cancer. Debbie had continued to pump in addition to breastfeeding in order to make sure she could continue to provide Kaia with breastmilk throughout cancer treatment. Debbie felt her breastmilk was vital to helping Kaia through chemotherapy. Thus, the deep freezer "Life Insurance Policy".

Fast forward to present day, Debbie has since given birth to 2 boys, the youngest being 9 months old. Debbie kept pumping and donated 1100 ounces with her second child.  Now with her third child she exclusively uses a hand pump while breastfeeding. She nurses from one breast and pumps the other every time she feeds the baby. At the height of her supply, Debbie was pumping 100 ounces a day in addition to exclusively breastfeeding her son. Did you get that? Debbie’s using a hand pump to express 100 ounces a day!

 

Having an over supply of milk, while a blessing, isn't easy for Debbie. Because she pumps when she feeds, she often times finds it hard to find a semi private location to nurse in public. And if she leaves her house, even for a little while, she must take a pump or the pain of engorgement is more then she can bear.

As of this writing, Debbie Pedersen has donated 8,939 ounces since the birth of her youngest with only the help of a manual hand pump. We asked Debbie if she had any advice to give other moms who might be experiencing over supply.  She said, "Donate. It's easy and you really can make a difference."