Sharing is Caring – The Importance of Donor Milk

bottle As a mom of three kids, I definitely have had my share of nursing bras to baby bottles. Delivering my first born at the age of 23, right out of college and a year into my first job in real estate, I definitely was not prepared nor told of the initial pain of breastfeeding.

I remember sitting in the rocking chair in my son’s freshly painted nursery, digging my nails into the wood armrests, as my mother stood over me saying, “Too bad, deal with it. This is the best thing for the baby,” with little A latched on to my then post-baby full-C cup boob.  It got better and easier.  I was lucky to have the opportunity to stay home with my new baby for 12 weeks and during that time, I became an expert at nursing, pumping, storing, freezing and feeding baby with an occasional supplement of formula (confession – I don’t remember which brand, but probably whatever the hospital gave me).

The Importance of Donor MilkBut then, the inevitable happened and I had to go back to work.  I called my OB/GYN and told him I was concerned about protection, because the realization that having a baby was hard and not as easy as I had thought and was not too interested in having babies too close together.

I was young, a recent college grad and was interested in moving up the ladder of the corporate world.  My doctor put me back on birth control, because we all know that exclusive breastfeeding is not a 100% effective method of family planning.  Well as you can guess, with the added stresses of work, new duties as mom + wife = reduced milk production.  I got to six months of nursing, pumping and occasional supplementing with formula until I gave in to exclusive formula feeding. couple with broken heart At about my son’s 1st birthday, my life was about to dramatically change.  It was the beginning of an ugly and very public divorce.

I was young, alone and now a single-mom.  This was definitely not how I had mapped out my post graduation 5-year plan.  Work was going great and I received consecutive promotions and added responsibilities, but the thought of re-entering the dating scene was the furthest thing from my mind.

I threw myself into my work, motherhood and went back to school to get my MBA.  I was busy, focused and my son was happy, healthy, growing and adapting to the evolution of our weekly schedule changes.  Throughout that time, I went through a dramatic weight loss period and dropped down to a size 4 for my 5’8 frame losing almost 45 pounds, quickly and without much effort.  As I’m sure you’ve heard, the best diet is the divorce diet…. I don’t recommend it.

Why is it that when a woman loses weight, she never loses it in the places that one would wish to lose it (ie, tummy, thighs, etc), but rather boobs and butt, but more so boobs in my case.  My once post-baby full C cup breasts had  dwindled down to flaccid barely there B’s and was a personal area of concern for me and my distorted body image.

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Although in clothes everything appeared normal, without the support of wired undergarments, I was able to touch my thumb and forefinger together when I pinched the middle of breast together (or basically breast skin that was overstretched from pregnancy and weightgain/loss).

I decided to visit with a plastic surgeon and see what my options were.  I didn’t want crazy big boobs nor “high-profile” breasts as were part of his menu, but rather, I just wanted something to fill the skin bags that I had.  I wanted a full B-C as I had prior to my pregnancy; normalcy to me entering a new phase in my life.  I underwent the procedure implant (above the breast muscle) breast lift and areola “nipple” reconstruction.

Recovery was quick and easy – mentally and physically.  I felt better about myself as a woman and felt the confidence to have my body back to how it was prior to my pregnancy, made me more comfortable in my day-to-day life (vain, probably, but with so much going on in my life that was negative, this was something I could control).

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Fast forward to the day I met my now husband and amazing life partner, we knew early on we wanted to get married and complete our family with more kiddos.  After only 4 months of dating, he proposed on the beach and 2 months later, we married in my parents’ back yard.  Five months after getting married, we were pregnant with a baby girl and oh so happy to make our family grow to a party of 4.

At the time I was self-employed and working with my dad managing his commercial properties.  Times were stressful but flexible.  I was focused on nursing my baby girl E, but struggled from day 1 in the hospital.  Problems with inverted nipples due most-likely to pain medication during vaginal delivery lead to issues with latching.

We finally got the hang of each other, but my production was no where near what I could pump after my 1st baby; my OB/GYN said it was probably due to damaged milk ducts from my procedure.  I sat on his exam table in the medical top and napkin bottom cover while I leaked through the exam gown and begged him for an Rx that would increase my milk supply.

“Medication? You’re leaking all over the place, why would I give you a Rx?” he chuckled.

I was an emotional mess.

I tried to convince him, that this was not normal, I didn’t have the production I knew I needed to feed the baby sitting on the floor in her carseat.  I left the office unsuccessful.  I went straight to the nearest DME (durable medical equipment) location and requested to rent a commercial-grade breast pump in the hopes of increasing the amount of milk I was able to extract from my surgically modified post-baby breasts.  In the end I was only able to nurse and formula supplement my baby girl for 4 months before I quit trying and gave in to only formula.

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With unexpected baby boy S (number 3), I took a much more laid-back approach to pregnancy and motherhood.  10 years after the first time I had experienced becoming a mom, I must admit that things just fall into place much easier.  The stress for perfection seems to fade and patience levels and the acceptance of things not going the way you had planned seems to increase with much more ease and calmness.

In a conversation with Mom talking about how Baby #3 was so easy, she replied, “He’s a better baby or you’re a better mommy?”

That’s when it hit me, 10 years later I finally got it down, motherhood, wife, employee, sister, volunteer, friend… it all came together.  I didn’t put so much pressure on myself to exclusively nurse my baby, but I knew the importance of breast feeding my baby as long as possible, while keeping the sanity.  We were purchasing/remodeling and moving into a new home 2 weeks before baby was to be born, things were crazy, but I tried to keep calm.  I didn’t pressure my doctor for any Rx’s, I didn’t rent a commercial pump nor purchase a retail pump.

I supplemented with formula when I needed a sanity break or a couple of extra hours of sleep.

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Soon after baby was born, I received a call from a friend from high school who had also recently had a baby.  I hadn’t really kept in touch with this girl since high school aside from social media “likes” and comments, but I could honestly say, she was someone I believed to be a good person.  She called to congratulate us on the birth of our new baby and wanted to cook dinner for our family.  I was obviously gracious, thankful and appreciated the gesture, then she said it… “I know that this may be odd, but we just found out my baby is allergic to dairy and I have all this pumped milk that I can’t give her and I would hate to throw it away and the donor bank won’t take it, so…”

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She didn’t even have to finish the sentence when I said, “YES!”  Working for a nutrition company that also manufactures baby formula, I am very aware of the importance of breast milk for infant neuro progression and milestone development and achievement. I work very closely with several hospitals in my area and the use of donor milk in the NICUs is an everyday occurrence.

We know for the tiniest of babies, mother’s milk and donor milk is often times the safest form of nutrition for these little babies who have very immature guts and tummies.  Donor milk is very expensive for hospitals, but the results definitely do outweigh the price for these hospitals who focus on their patient’s nutritional start in life.

I’m sure you’ve heard how expensive breast milk is on ebay, craigslist and on various online sources although the safety is of utmost concern for most moms.  Several investigations have shown that online breastmilk purchases are sometimes tainted and/or contaminated due to an unregulated market.  All of this I knew, but I trusted this friend who was offering her breastmilk, or liquid gold, to my newborn.  I knew that the benefits I would be offering my child would outweigh whatever, “what-ifs” could be.  I can’t say that I would have bought any breastmilk from a stranger on-line, but I felt that I was doing the best for my baby, especially since I knew the type of person and mom this milk was coming from.

After 3 months of nursing and formula supplementing my baby, I tapped in to my new frozen reserves of donor milk and was able to extend the time my baby received human milk as nutrition until he was almost 5 months.

There are so many benefits to breastfeeding for both baby (DHA) and mommy (weightloss), but it truly must be a mom’s decision as to what works best for her, her family and her sanity.

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For More Info on Texas Donor Milk Banks:

www.helpinghandsbank.com

www.milkbank.org

www.texasmilkbank.org

 

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