Our job is to receive milk, pasteurize it and ship it to hospitals who give it to sick infants in Neonatal Intensive Care Units. While we know donor milk is the next best thing when mom’s milk is not available, we rarely get to hear from moms whose children were donor milk recipients. We did a call-out on Facebook for moms to tell us their stories and Whitney Britton was one of the moms that responded.
Not only were her children donor milk recipients, but Britton said the experience inspired her to become a donor.
The Southern Illinois resident is the mother of two-year-old Mylo and twins, Lola and Ruby. Lola and Ruby received donor milk when they were born at 35 weeks, but they are a bubbly seven months now.
Britton shared with us what it’s like being a NICU mom and a donor mom.
The Milk Bank: Did both girls spend time in the NICU or was it just one of them?
Whitney Britton: At delivery, both were admitted, but after a couple of hours, Lola was released to be in our room with us. Ruby I think wanted alone time, so she stayed behind.
TMB: What was the cause of the NICU stay?
WB: The first day was a blur to me. They were doing the precautionary tests and monitoring of her breathing, eating and temperature regulation. She (Ruby) had issues maintaining her temp the first couple of days, and then wouldn’t eat consistently so she had a feeding tube most of her stay.
TMB: And how long was that stay?
WB: She was in there for about a week and a half until she started eating consistently.
TMB: Walk me through what led up to the NICU stays? Did you have a hard pregnancy?
WB: I went into labor at 26 weeks with them and was put on bed rest, most of which I spent in the hospital. Each time I got discharged, I was back within a couple of days. While there, I had visits from the NICU staff, lactation consultants, everyone to help prepare me for the worst if the girls were to really make their arrival that early. I made the decision very early on that I’d allow them to receive breast milk as I knew the benefits it can provide, especially to preemies. I breastfed my first child and she’s as healthy as can be. Since they (twins) came preterm, the hospital offered it until my milk came in.
TMB: Did you have any apprehensions about them receiving donor milk?
WB: At first I did, but learning about the process and how safe it is, I felt better about it.
TMB: Do you think the donor milk helped their recovery?
WB: Yes. Neither girl has really had any illnesses, which I think correlates to having had donor milk and continued breast milk. They were born in November, so right at the beginning of flu season.
TMB: What was it like being a NICU mom?
WB: It was stressful. I had an almost-two-year-old at home, which I hadn’t really seen for almost ten weeks having been on bed rest in and out of the hospital. The hospital was an hour and a half hours away, so I only got to see her one to two times per week. Then, after having the twins, one was released and we had to leave Ruby behind. I was going back and forth every other day taking milk to Ruby and spending a day with her. I felt like I was abandoning my whole family as I wasn’t really there for any of them full time. During the days I was in the NICU with Ruby, I saw many other babies who never had visitors, had more tubes than I would want to count. I was even asked to leave one day as they had one (baby) incoming and they needed everyone out as they worked on it. All the other babies are the ones that made me want to become a donor. We were very fortunate that our stay was short lived and not as serious, and anything I could do to help the others, I wanted to.
TMB: How did you find out about The Milk Bank?
WB: The hospital where I had the girls had a milk depot.
TMB: You’ve been in both positions (a recipient mother and donor mom) what advice would you give to NICU moms and potential donor moms?
WB: For the NICU moms, the best thing you can do is stay positive and be there for your baby. It’s not easy, but you really do need each other. For potential donors, anything you can give, even if just once makes a difference. It doesn’t cost anything and it saves lives. At the end of the day, there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you’ve helped save and better the lives of precious little miracles.
If you would like to become a donor or want information about donating, please contact us as at firstname.lastname@example.org.