Receiving donated breast milk and dispensing it to save the lives of fragile babies is our mission. Donors report many reasons for their donations, ranging from compassion to insufficient freezer space. For a small but significant group of donors, however, giving followed the loss of their baby. The Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin recognizes the 1,207 donors who have given in their bereavement since our founding in 1999.
Erin Umberger, milk donor, MMBA ambassador, and mother of milk recipient baby Sarah Rose, shares her personal story about losing her beautiful daughter, and her mission to help save the lives of other babies born too soon and too small.
donated their precious milk to help babies like my Sarah.
Sadly, I lost my daughter to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a degeneration of the intestines that sometimes occurs in preemies. I have since learned that receiving human milk, as opposed to formula, may substantially reduce the risk of getting NEC. I am so glad Sarah had enough milk and therefore was given every chance at life. It is now my mission to make sure that every at-risk baby has access to donor milk. I was glad to be able to donate my excess milk to the Milk Bank as a tribute to my daughter and to help other babies in need.
Grieving the loss of an infant does not stop lactation – in an often painful reminder of hopes and dreams, the body creates milk after a pregnancy regardless of a stillbirth, or an infant who lives for only a short time, as with Sarah Rose. MMBA created a brochure to help women after a such a devastating loss. "Teardrops and Milkdrops" explains the body’s inability to recognize the loss, the option of stopping milk creation, and the choice of expressing and donating milk to honor the baby lost and to facilitate the grieving process.
Losing an infant is painful, but milk donors have reported a benefit of donation. As donor Michelle wrote in 2006, “Giving my milk to help babies born too soon was healing for me. It didn't bring back my precious baby, and it didn't erase my pain, but it helped me to have a purpose. I gave milk in honor of my beautiful girl who wouldn't need it, so it was a gift from the two of us to those who would live because of it.”