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.
In remembrance of World Prematurity Day, we asked staff who have experienced a premature birth to share their story. Here is Andrea's.
“Survive now. Cry later.” This short saying perfectly summarizes my pregnancy and delivery.
After two weeks of at-home bed rest due to pregnancy-induced hypertension and an intra-uterine growth restriction, I received a call from my OB himself. “Pack your hospital bag. I will see you as soon as you get there.” PIH had turned into severe pre-eclampsia, and my life and my baby’s life were in extreme danger. I spent my days on my left side either sleeping or listening to my baby’s heartbeat on the monitors and adjusting them as he frequently kicked them away. I knew even then that he was a fighter. Survive now. Cry later.
I was induced at 35 weeks, and for 50+ hours I wore what my husband calls my “game face.” My only thought was that my life did not matter as long as my baby survived. Wednesday evening came and still no baby. His heart rate continually dropped, and we opted for an emergency c-section. Survive now. Cry later.
Cameron was born weighing 4 lbs. 2 oz. but this is where my story begins to differ from most parents of preemies. He never knew that he was born too early or that he was small. There was no need for a feeding tube, bili lights, or even an extended hospital stay. We both left the hospital healthy. We survived.
What could have been is not lost on me, and of course, that thought brings a wealth of emotion. However, my experience has given me purpose and reason for my work at The Milk Bank. I cry with the donor who is so passionate about giving back, for the mother who lost her baby, and for the outpatients desperately seeking the outcome I was so easily given. I survived, but I still cry.
By, Crystal Gold, MS,The Milk Bank Board Member
When I first learned about the opportunity to be a member of the Board of Directors for the Indiana Mothers' Milk Bank, I was immediately drawn to it. My second son is a NICU graduate and was the first baby to receive donor human milk where he was born. We didn't know he was changing the world that day, but since he did, it just seemed like a natural progression to add my passion to the important work that the Milk Bank does.
I know first hand what a difference donated milk can make to the health of a gravely ill baby. However, I think it is my understanding of what a difference it can make for the mother that really makes my experience that much more valuable. Everyone thinks of donated milk as being for the baby, and it is. But it is also a gift to the mom who wants to breastfeed her sick infant. I couldn't get over the feeling of a ticking clock over my head. If I didn't get milk for my child, he would be supplemented with formula and that was something I didn't want for him due to the risks to his fragile tummy. Knowing that he would receive milk that was lovingly donated by another mother and prepared safely for him meant that I had the gift of time.
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.
IMMB Staff share their breastfeeding stories.
I have lot of thoughts on breastfeeding. Mostly though, breastfeeding has opened doors for me that I could never have anticipated when I was pregnant and expounding my thoughts and fears about using my breasts for something other then pure pleasure.
I had an easy pregnancy and an easy comfortable birth, except for the whole miconium stained waters that challenged my immediate plans for skin to skin. Instead, Berkeley was taken away immediately by the NICU team to be sucked and cleaned up. Eventually, she was brought back to me and there began our breastfeeding, snuggling relationship.
Berkeley was born in the very early hours of a Sunday- Mothers' Day. I asked for an IBCLC, there were none in sight. I was having some pain when Berkeley latched and the eventual IBCLC who visited us, promptly gave me a nipple shield. The next few IBCLC's who treated us, helped me feel confident that I didn't need that nipple shield. They taught my husband how to look for a good latch. They boosted my confidence.
Of course, everything changed when we got home and my milk came in. I didn't have any other tools aside from that nipple shield to help my sweet girl latch well enough to transfer milk well. We eventually weaned off the nipple shield after a few weeks but looking back I'm almost confident, I could have done with out it all along. Instead, I wish that first IBCLC has looked into Berkeley's mouth for a lip or tongue tie.
I'm still nursing and after all this time -27 months- and I'm pretty sure my girl has some ties that were creating that initial pain, we have just learned how to deal.
I never could have anticipated how important breastfeeding has become to my parenting and my life. I found this job because I breastfeed, pumped when I returned to work and donated my excess.
When I was pregnant with my son I made the decision to breastfeed. At that time it was solely because it seemed natural and most economical. After Cameron was born at 35 weeks weighing in at a mere 4 lbs. 2 oz. it went from natural and economical to necessity both in my mind and heart.
My precious gift from God not only deserved but needed the most valuable nutrition available to him—mommy’s milk.
For such a tiny baby he surpassed all expectations from doctors and nurses and was able to go home with us just days after birth despite being only 3 lbs. 14 oz. Developmentally he was always ahead of the expected milestones with complete disregard for adjusted age. He simply never knew that he was premature and so small.
However, by six months old he had suffered through bouts of reflux, numerous sinus infections, recurring bronchitis, and asthmatic symptoms. Cameron is now almost three, and I have no doubt that our 19 months of breastfeeding played a vital role in combating his health issues. He outgrew the reflux and rarely needs his asthma medications because it is so well managed. His successes with breastfeeding and overcoming the odds that were stacked so high against him have always been an inspiration to our family, friends, and medical staff.