Receiving donor milk for her preemies eased the first stressful weeks as a new mom.
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Receiving donor milk for her preemies eased the first stressful weeks as a new mom.
By Megan Lee September 18, 2017
No one gets pregnant and expects to have their babies end up in the NICU nor do we as women think that we are going to face a challenge when breastfeeding.
My name is Megan Lee and my story starts about two and a half years ago on January 15th. My water broke unexpectedly about 30 weeks along. My twins, Declan and Breck, were not due until March 23rd. While I was being driven to the hospital, I was hoping what happened was not my amniotic fluid. Needless to say it was. I was kept in the hospital for 2 days and given magnesium while the boys were able to have two steroid shots. The evening of the 16th, I started going into labor. January 17th at 3:40 p.m. Declan Jenkins was born naturally weighing in at 4 pounds. We anticipated Breck to come shortly after but that was not the case. 6 hours later at 8:41pm I had a cesarean. Breck was born at 3 pounds 11 ounces.
Both boys were whisked away to the NICU immediately and I don't really remember much from the next 24 hours. I remember a lady coming in and helping me two hours after I gave birth to Breck to pump. But when I finally was able to hold them and be somewhat mentally unclouded I do remember a nurse telling me that they seem to be doing so well that we should be out of the NICU within a month.
Everything was such a whirlwind like remembering immediately to pump every 2 hours and going from taking care of myself to taking care of two little boys as much as I could with them being in the NICU. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the next 4 days with the boys snuggling and doing the skin on skin. On the fourth day, one of the doctors pulled me aside and told me that they were going to give Breck an x-ray because he seemed fussy and one of the nurses just had a hunch to do so. I had been warned of the up and downs in the NICU and tried not to get too worked up about this. The X-ray revealed that Breck had a hole in his intestines and was going to be rushed to emergency surgery in hopes of cleaning out any stuff that had made its way into his body cavity and also to repair the hole.
I had never felt paralyzing fear like I did the day of his first surgery. They took his intestines and brought them up and made an ostomy bag. 6 weeks later he would have a reconnect surgery. The only thing I could do at that point was pump. All I remember was crying my eyes out trying to pump. It's a memory I'll never forget.
Another memory I'll never forget is the surgery team not knowing that I was behind when together they reaffirmed amongst each other, "we got this, we can do this". For some reason, in that moment, I truly realized the severity of the situation but also loved witnessing this moment between the doctors and the anesthesiologist who were about to work on my son.
Unfortunately, I'm a gal that has anxiety and at one point I wasn't sure if I was going to leave the hospital with both of my kids. It's a feeling I would never want anybody to go through. It was the longest 4 hours of my entire life. I'll never forget it to this day and when I found out he was out of surgery and everything went okay, I broke down. I thanked God a million times. Even though I knew we had a long road to recovery and nothing could have prepared me for seeing that little body hooked up to a ventilator, I somehow knew everything was going to be okay. Even though I knew things were going to be okay it was extremely hard for me to be in the room with Breck to see him on the machine and it tore me up deeply and severely. I continue to feel guilty about that but I'm working through it.
The next few weeks were full of ups and downs as goes the NICU. Eventually, I wasn't able to supplement my boys like I was able to in the beginning. I never made much over an ounce and a half but when they're that little that was enough. They asked me if I would be interested in donor milk. I thought it was the coolest thing that this resource was available to me and I said absolutely. The milk bank provided donor milk for me when I wasn't able to give both of my boys enough which is another super emotional thing for me.
Here are both my boys in the NICU with all these other people taking care of them and everyone keeps telling me pump, breast feed, pump, breastfeed and it's the only thing you can do for them right now. I felt like the biggest failure as a mother before I even really began to be a mom because I wasn't able to provide them enough. The Milk Bank helped relieve some of that anxiety and pressure on top of everything else. And I'll be forever grateful to that.
Week six in the NICU was scheduled for Breck's reconnect surgery. I had prayed prior to this to God so many times to not let me feel like I did the first time. He answered those prayers. I was a cool and collected mom. I just let go and let God. Breck came out of surgery and I cried again because I knew then I was for sure leaving that hospital with both of my boys.
It's very interesting to me that my boys were in such good shape and good health in the beginning that they believed they would be coming home with me within a month. Declan, I believe broke my water to save his brother Breck from what could have been a worse situation.
Even after two surgeries Declan & Breck only came home two days apart, two months after they were born. It was only a week after Breck's second surgery. It goes to show you that these babies in the NICU are truly great fighters and stronger than you could ever imagine.
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…
by: Kathy Mason, RNC-NIC, BSN, IBCLC, Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health
Mothers who are pumping breast milk for a baby in the NICU encounter many barriers and stressors that can affect and cause problems with breast milk production. Some of these barriers include separation of mother and baby, travel to and from the hospital, mom’s physical issues related to just giving birth, food and accommodations, and possibly the care of other children at home, various financial stressors, and the support mom has from dad and other family members or friends.
It is important for moms who are separated from their babies to start pumping breast milk within two to six hours of delivery if possible. Double pumping with a multi-user or hospital grade pump is recommended. At Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, moms usually arrive two or three days after delivery. To help them adjust to the demands and stressors associated with providing milk for a baby in the NICU, a comprehensive team of professionals -- social workers, a financial counselor, and lactation consultants -- work with moms to provide assistance. Riley Hospital’s private NICU rooms allow moms to stay in the baby’s room with the option to sleep and pump there. If moms prefer, they may obtain a room at the nearby Ronald McDonald House.
To effectively establish an adequate milk supply, moms need to pump every two to three hours, or eight to 10 times a day. This includes pumping at least once in the middle of the night. Frequent pumping in the first two weeks is necessary to mimic the natural rhythms of a breastfeeding baby, so that even if baby is not able to eat at the time, mom will have adequate milk supply for later. Some interventions important for new moms are holding their babies skin-to-skin if possible, pumping close to the baby, and using breast massage, breast compressions and hand expression during the process.
Moms with babies in the NICU face many challenges – they are tired and stressed, and they need comprehensive support from a team of experienced professionals. With the appropriate assistance, more and more moms are able to provide milk for their babies in the NICU setting, giving their babies all the advantages that human milk provides. This is especially important for premature and sick infants to obtain the best health outcomes.
Premature infants tolerate human milk better than cow’s milk based formula because they have less emesis, less diaper rash and most important, less necrotizing enterocolitis. Necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is a serious and sometimes fatal intestinal complication of very low birth weight infants. The frequency of NEC ranges from 4 to 18% and depends on an individual NICU’s feeding practices. Since changing to an exclusively human milk diet, the rate of feeding associated NEC in our NICU has declined to 1%.
We use donor human milk when a mother’s own milk is not available in order to achieve an exclusively human milk diet. The amount of donor milk needed depends on the mother’s ability to provide milk. We always prefer to use a mother’s own milk ahead of donor mother’s milk. Mothers that intended to breast feed before delivering prematurely typically need about a half-pint of donor milk while waiting for their milk to come in. Mothers that planned to feed formula before delivering prematurely typically provide less of their own milk; we use about a half-gallon of donor milk to feed their babies.
Our donor human milk comes from the Indiana Mothers' Milk Bank. When we recommend using donor milk, most of the mothers tell us that they do not know about milk banks. They often wonder about the donor mothers. Similar to blood donation, donor mothers are screened for health safety. The donors are required to avoid most medications and a list of foods and drinks. The typical donors are highly educated professional women, often employed in health professions. Milk donors are not paid for their milk.
While breast feeding is a labor of love, the donor mothers labor above and beyond to provide a precious gift.
Mothers of infants that receive donor milk often prefer that their babies receive only their own milk. “I want my baby to have my milk.” However, when mothers consider the health advantages of human milk they prefer donor human milk to formula. When a mother cannot provide enough of her own milk, we recommend using milk from the Indiana Mother’s Milk Bank.