Monday, December 4, 2017

Saving Lives in Deep Water

During the everyday hustle and bustle of life we often fail to recognize–outside of perhaps a few viral social media links or videos–the compassion and impact others have on our everyday world. However, in the aftermath of a natural disaster our awareness of acts of kindness change. Media coverage shifts from alarms of the impending disaster to stories of resilience, courage, persistence, and the overwhelming desire of many to do more for fellow humans.

Hurricane Harvey hit the Texas coast as a Category 4 storm on August 25, 2017, dumping 40 to 60 inches of rain before moving out of the area as a tropical storm. Damage estimates are in the billions, and 77 people lost their lives. Storms do not discriminate–families and hospitals and city infrastructures were all affected by this extraordinary act of nature.

“No one knows what to expect,” said Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin (MMBA) milk donor and mom, Angela Stripling. “At best you just lose power, at worst it’s your life or the life of someone you love–so you do everything you can, with the time given, to ensure things are taken care of before a storm hits.”

One of Angela’s top priorities was ensuring the breast milk she had pumped and frozen for donation was moved to a safe location. “Ten years ago a friend gave birth to triplets who ended up spending six months in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). I knew then that if I ever had the opportunity to become a milk donor and help other babies, I wouldn’t hesitate. So when we thought we might lose power, I loaded up my milk in a cooler and took it to my in-laws’ house so it would be safe for the babies who would need it most.”

Angela successfully saved all of her frozen milk – hundreds of ounces were kept safe from the storm.

Marlene Cantu, a nurse at Houston’s Memorial Hermann hospital, had submitted an application to become a milk donor before Hurricane Harvey, but she wasn’t as lucky as Angela. Marlene withdrew her application after a hurricane-caused power outage resulted in her losing all of her frozen milk.

“We’re safe, but my breastfeeding journey is over and I’m just sick that all of the milk I planned to donate is gone,” said Marlene. “As a Labor & Delivery nurse, I know how beneficial mother’s milk can be, especially for preterm babies and I wanted to do something to help them beyond being a nurse.”

Human milk is the best nourishment for all human babies, but it is life-saving for the more than 60,000 medically fragile babies born annually in the U.S. Some of these babies will have their needs met by their biological mothers, but many more will have to rely on donor human milk to be able to grow and thrive.

Houston’s large medical community utilizes nearly 28% of the donor human milk processed at MMBA each month, and Houston-area mothers provide nearly 26% of MMBA’s milk supply.

Emergency preparations for Hurricane Harvey include couriering donated milk from our milk depots to the milk bank before the storm, and encouraging all approved milk donors to drop off their milk at the depots where emergency generator power may keep it safer than at their homes. Emergency protocols also lead the milk bank to distribute more donor milk than usual to the hospitals in the storm’s path – a procedure taken in order to ensure that interrupted transportation of milk will not leave infants without milk.

Despite these protective protocols, MMBA faced some difficulties with supply and demand of donor human milk. Harvey stayed too long, causing many people to relocate to unflooded areas. They were cut off from their own stored supplies of milk, and from their babies in the NICUs. Some donors lost their milk supplies from the stress of the storm itself.

MMBA prepared for this loss of incoming milk donations by issuing a Call to Action – a plea for more healthy lactating women outside of the storm’s path to apply to become milk donors so that MMBA could continue to serve all infants with a medical need for milk. Within days, women from all over the country responded, and as a result, MMBA was able to successfully screen and approve a record 109 new milk donors in one month–and most importantly, all needs for donor human milk were met.

But securing a steady and safe supply of incoming milk donations was just one hurdle in the post-Harvey race.

As torrential rains brought Houston to a standstill, roadways leading to and throughout the city were shut down, making it impossible for mothers to reach their babies in the hospital, or for FedEx to deliver donor human milk to the hospitals and outpatients in the area. MMBA’s search for a way to deliver milk safely to the babies in need led to a local champion–
Special Operations Captain Steve Bush, a local paramedic, Lone Star Helicopter pilot, and father of 16-year-old twins who were born premature.

“I wasn’t personally familiar with the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin, but everyone around me seemed to be. So when they needed help to deliver milk to the affected hospitals, I wanted to help,” said Steve Bush. “I’ve worked as a paramedic and flight medic for years, but flying from one hospital to the next delivering life-saving milk is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and let’s be honest, a unique way to help save a life.”

Steve generously agreed to offer his services as a helicopter pilot and deliver donor milk to Houston and Galveston area hospitals. He spent the day obtaining permission to use hospitals’ heliports, creating a flight plan, and then meeting the MMBA team to load up his helicopter with the donor human milk. He then spent most of the night flying from one hospital to the next delivering milk and helping save our state’s most fragile babies.

MMBA’s response to Hurricane Harvey required financial resources as well – never has a baby been denied milk because of lack of insurance, and screening new donors is costly. Caring individuals and organizations including Triumphant Love Lutheran Church’s Endowment Fund stepped up with substantial monetary donations. These gifts ensured that our operations could rise to meet the need.

Although the storm has officially passed, the need for support is far from over. Clean-up efforts continue full force in Houston and sources estimate it will take nearly two years to recover from the $180 billion worth of damage. But there is little to no doubt the city will recover, it’s just a matter of time.

MMBA, with your continued support, will meet the needs of Houston and surrounding towns affected by Harvey, and we’ll be ready for the next storm as well.

For more information about how you can get involved, visit today.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Meet Recipient Baby Andrew

When you make the choice to donate - go through the phone screening, fill out the paperwork, get your blood drawn, pump extra milk - you are working to save infants like, Andrew. Andrew survived a preterm birth, multiple birth defects, and a long battle in the NICU but, because of donor human milk from MMBA, was able to grow and thrive. Andrew's Mom, Anna, brings us through every step of their incredible journey. Thank you Anna for choosing to share.

"At my son Andrew’s 21 week anatomy ultrasound, I was informed that he most likely had a condition called esophageal atresia (EA), which is a disconnection of the esophagus to the stomach. My doctors couldn't tell for sure if that was going on or how much of a gap in disconnection it was, but all indicators pointed toward this birth defect. It was difficult to hear the news of this, but I went ahead with every hope that it was correctable and that he would be okay. He had no apparent markers for anything else at that point, so I settled into doing my research on the issue and trying to keep him inside as long as possible so that he would be big enough for surgery right after he was born. Little did I know....

On a Friday morning three months from my due date, I laid down for a nap at home and within minutes started to feel intense back pain. I was used to contractions by this point as they had been a daily occurrence, but this felt different. I had become a single parent during this pregnancy, so being at home alone and in labor was a dilemma. I started calling everyone I could to find a ride to the hospital, and thankfully my boss and her husband were able to pick me up within a few minutes. By the time I was checked in, I was definitely in preterm labor and feeling it. I was put on a couple different medications to slow things down, but by Saturday night I was progressing so fast that it was decided to let it happen. Andrew arrived weighing just 2 lbs. 5 oz. 

The NICU team was on hand to stabilize him as soon as he came. Within an hour after he was whisked off for testing in his isolette, the neonatologist came back to report that they had found a few other defects. I remember my heart sinking as they told me the news. Andrew fits into the VACTERL category of associated issues, with each letter in the acronym standing for a different defect. In Andrew’s case, both ends of his GI tract as well as bone and spinal cord deformities were present. At that time, though, his biggest hurdle was gaining the ability to eat, and he was a long way from that goal.

The morning after his delivery, I start pumping. I was eager to store up as much milk for him as possible, even though it would be tough due to a short maternity leave to return to work. I knew that his extremely fragile system, further weakened by his dependence on TPN (a special nutritional concoction given to babies who can’t eat), would need the nutrition that only human milk can give. Three months in to pumping, however, and I could no longer keep up a good milk supply. Between my body being confused from an early birth, working full time and visiting the NICU daily, I was hitting a wall. I can’t describe the discouragement and guilt that followed as I made the difficult decision to stop trying and refocus my energy on Andrew’s day-to-day health.

Six months and two hospitals later, Andrew came home for the first time. He had received the first of his major repair surgeries and needed a Mickey button to help him eat, but finally he could take milk! We dug into my stash of frozen milk at home, but soon ran out. Thankfully and just in time, Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin came to the rescue. They kindly walked hand in hand with us to provide Andrew with a steady supply of milk, and the results were amazing. He astounded many with his vigor and resilience as we navigated those first months at home, in large part thanks to the milk that has boosted his immune system. This season of growth prepared him for his first winter, and he was able to weather the sick season much better than expected.

Motherhood is a gift and a challenge, and it has taught me that even my deepest desires to meet 100% of my son’s needs are heartbreakingly impossible to accomplish on my own: it truly does take a village to raise a child. Thankfully, the gift of milk from other mothers helped to relieve some of that stress. I often think about the simple gift of extra milk that so many strong women have provided for my son through Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin, and I am always overcome with gratefulness for such a selfless gesture. 

My son is thriving because of these women and this bank. Thank you, from one mother to another." - Recipient Mom Anna

Could you or someone you know be a donor and save babies' lives like Andrew's? 512-494-0800

Monday, February 6, 2017

Making it Work: Breastfeeding in the Workplace

© Texas Department of State Health Services. Photo used with permission.

Breastfeeding offers so many benefits to both mom and baby, but it can be hard work! Before many women even have the time to get the hang of breastfeeding, they are often met with new challenges as they return to work. Like needing to pump during the workday to maintain their milk supply. But these challenges can be made easier with the help of employers. Providing basic arrangements that allow women to comfortably express and store breast milk when separated from their babies during the workday is one way to make things a little easier for breastfeeding moms.

Keep reading to learn about what the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program is doing to help moms succeed in meeting their breastfeeding goals and how you can get involved in supporting a breastfeeding-friendly culture in the workplace!       

Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program
The Texas Mother Friendly Worksite Program (TMFW) strives to reduce workplace barriers to breastfeeding and increase the number of employers who have worksite lactation support policies and programs
The TMFW program recognizes employers who develop and maintain “Mother-Friendly” policies that ensure 1) adequate time for the expression of breast milk; 2) a private non-bathroom space to express breast milk; 3) access to a clean, safe water source to wash hands and clean pumping equipment; and, 4) access to hygienic options for storage of expressed breast milk. We also provide guidance, education, tools, and technical assistance for employers seeking the Texas “Mother-Friendly” recognition. To date, we have officially designated more than 2,400 worksites in Texas as “Mother-Friendly” and we continue to add to that number every day! Click on the map to check out our interactive Texas Directory that shows which businesses around you are proactively supporting their breastfeeding employees!
How Can You Promote a Culture of Breastfeeding Support?
Taking action to increase lactation support in the workplace can feel intimidating. Here are some steps to take if you’re thinking about promoting workplace lactation support:

1.     Get Some Input, Find Some Allies
Before talking to a business or employer about supporting breastfeeding, it may be helpful to gather information from friends, family, and other working moms about their experiences with breastfeeding. Sharing a collective experience can often be a more powerful method of communication.

2.     See What The Employer Already Offers
To find out whether a workplace offers breastfeeding support, a human resource (HR) representative would be a good first stop. Ask if the workplace has a breastfeeding policy or offers accommodations for breastfeeding moms.  Many employers are required to provide a certain level of lactation support.
3.     Encourage Employers to Become Designated as Texas “Mother-Friendly”
Tell your local businesses why breastfeeding is important for moms, babies, and businesses. Here are some Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program resources to share:
4.     Spread the word about the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Austin*
If you or someone you know is pumping breastmilk at home or at work, consider donating any extra milk to the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin. More women successfully pumping milk at work can also mean more potential milk for the tiniest of babies. Let others know how easy it is to give the life-saving benefits of human milk!
*Fun fact, the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Austin is a designated Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite!

5.     Know the Law
There are several laws in place that protect rights of employees to express breastmilk during the workday.
Section 7(r) of the Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers covered by the Act to provide reasonable break time for a nursing employee who is non-exempt each time she has a need to pump, and provide her with a private, secure place other than a bathroom for the purpose of milk expression.
Texas Health and Safety Code Sec. § 165.003 Business Designation As "Mother-Friendly"  provides the authority for the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program and its recognition of businesses that voluntarily maintain a “Mother-Friendly” worksite lactation support policy. 
Texas Government Code § 619 Right to Express Breastmilk in the Workplace requires public employers (e.g. counties, municipalities, school districts, universities, governmental offices or departments) in the State of Texas to develop a written breastfeeding support policy on expressing breast milk and provide reasonable break time and a private place to an employee to pump at work each time she has a need. 

6.     Share What You Know With Your Friends!
If you know of others who are passionate about promoting breastfeeding, share this information with them! The Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program’s infographic is a great way to get out the “big picture” message of supporting breastfeeding moms. Share this image on your favorite social media site!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Meet donor recipient baby Camila. 

 She was born full term at 6lbs. 13 oz. but, just after her cord was cut, she was immediately whisked away from her family by the doctors.  After 6 hours and multiple doctor examinations and opinions, Camila was diagnosed with a very rare condition called Total Anomalous Pulmonary Vein Connection, a congenital defect of the pulmonary veins, and needed immediate open heart surgery. Her lungs were filling up with fluid and her kidneys, liver, spleen, and stomach were being damaged.  It was recommended that she go to a hospital in Dallas or Houston but, with flooding in Houston and tornadoes in Dallas, they had no choice but to transport her by helicopter to Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin.  Every second counted and the doctors didn’t expect her to live. 

After she arrived in Austin and doctors repaired her heart, her chest had to be left open for 10 days to ensure that her heart and lungs were functioning properly. Camila’s mother, Silvia, didn’t even get the chance to hold her baby; Camila was so fragile after the surgery that Silvia could only touch her feet.  Camila was given narcotics for the first 15 days after the surgery, was intubated, and also needed a feeding tube. 

Additionally, Camila developed blood clots in her lungs and brain, giving her seizures.  She was in a near comatose state for more than a month and was given blood thinners until just recently.

During this time, Silvia was trying to pump milk every 3-4 hours in order to give her baby what she needed to survive, but Silvia was struggling to produce.  Silvia’s parents stayed with their family to help with her 2 year old but, while visiting, Silvia’s Mom fell and broke her leg.  Silvia’s stress was through the roof after the accident and her small amount of milk reduced even more.  They tried formula, but Camila couldn’t tolerate it.  This is when she started receiving donor milk from Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin.

In order to receive this milk, Camila uses a G Button which allows milk to go directly into her stomach where she received 130mls of donor milk every three hours around the clock. Because of this G Button method, Camila hadn’t been breast feed or bottle feed while receiving treatment so she never learned how to suck or swallow.  She is now working with a speech therapist to learn those much needed skills. 

Against all odds, Camila’s parents are so thrilled that she not only survived, but is now thriving.  She’s is a miracle baby: growing, happy, laughing and with a few medical issues.  On behalf of Silvia, we say thank you to all the moms who donate milk to the Mothers' Milk Bank at Austin.  Camila received the best hospital, doctors, nurses, and equipment but, without human milk, wouldn’t be here today.

Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin has been provided milk charitably through philanthropic gifts from the community valued at over $4,000 to Camila.  Thanks to our financial supporters, as well as donor Moms, MMBA has never said no!  Make a milk or financial contribution and you will be the next lifesaver for another Camila. 


Monday, July 18, 2016

Milk Donor Mom Minute

I'm a teacher and I got lucky enough to give birth to that perfectly timed “late-spring teacher baby” (summer break=extended maternity leave!) I heard from a lot of friends who struggled to keep their milk supply going once the school year started, so I did everything I could to boost mine over the summer—I started pumping and hand expressing weeks before I went back to work.

Well, when the school year started, I found out I'd done a little too good a job. The baby didn't like the bottle much, so he would nurse all night and all weekend (thus further boosting my supply) but take very little during the day. I had a great freezer stash but never touched it—most days I was freezing ten or twelve ounces more than he was drinking. After a few weeks of hoarding, I was running out of freezer space.

That was when I heard about Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin. I could see my own baby growing and thriving on mama's milk, and it seemed like a profound blessing to be able to share that joy with other families too. Pumping milk at school stopped feeling like an anxiety-inducing chore and started feeling like a form of service.

Instead of letting my supply trail off, I took pleasure in keeping it as high as possible (more hand-expressing!) because I knew I was helping other babies with it. This turned out to be a good thing for my own baby as well, who's still happily nursing at fifteen months. (Here he is, sending his love to all his milk-brothers and milk-sisters!)

The donation period for MMBA ends at twelve months, but I'm already looking forward to becoming a donor mom again if we are blessed with another baby—sharing milk is a great way to keep up your own milk supply and your pumping morale as well as helping others!

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

2016 HMBANA Conference:Learning About the Science of Milk Banking

By Julia Weatherby
Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin Board of Directors

Did you know there is so much research and science specific to milk banking that there is an entire conference devoted to it? Every two years, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) hosts an international conference on donor human milk and milk banking. This year, the two-day conference was held in Orlando, Florida. Five people from the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin attended, including myself. I was attending for the first time. Other attendees and speakers included people from other milk banks, researchers, neonatologists, and other experts in nutrition, lactation and health.

While the conference was only two days long, it was packed full of educational and inspiring presentations. The conference had scientific presentations, as well as talks about social and public policy issues. We heard about the status of milk banking and breastfeeding across the globe.

I learned quite amazing things about breast milk and breastfeeding. The underlying process of breastfeeding is more complex than I had realized and the various components of breastmilk impact babies in so many ways. I learned that what I assumed was a simple and precise task of analyzing the content of milk is in reality actually challenging and expensive. In addition to that, a mother’s breastmilk varies in its content from the beginning of a feed to the end, as well as during different times of day, and from week to week. Between mothers, there are great variations as well. This makes for fascinating, but also difficult research.

One of the most interesting presentations was about microbiomes of the mother and baby.  Microbes live inside and on our body within microbiomes (skin, mouth, and gut), and affect all of us in terms of our overall health, immune health, weight and mental health. Microbes living in the mother’s microbiomes get transferred to the baby through birth, skin-to-skin contact and breastmilk. Just as there are variations in breastmilk content, we have variations in our microbiomes. By feeding a baby human breastmilk, we can ensure the infant receives beneficial microbes that are necessary for being a healthy human.

The highlight of the conference experience was being able to feel the passion and ambition of so many professionals who devote their time and effort to improving the health of infants worldwide. Through my work with the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin, I have met many people locally who are just as passionate in saving lives. It’s incredible to meet even more people who believe in the same mission, and see them work together and support each other in accomplishing big things for the smallest people.

Erin Hamilton Spence, Medical Director of Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas

Pauline Sakamoto, HMBANA President

Kimberly Seals Allers, award-winning journalist and nationally recognized media commentator, consultant and advocate for breastfeeding and infant health