I never planned to donate milk. I never planned to even pump. I just wanted to breastfeed my baby first and foremost, for as long as I could.
Of course, life often doesn’t go to plan. When my baby was born via C-section at 37 weeks, I was allowed to see her briefly before she was moved to the NICU. Although I knew it was highly likely she would go to the NICU because she had been diagnosed via ultrasound with a birth defect of the abdominal wall, I still held out that maybe, just maybe, I would get that “golden hour” after birth of holding and breastfeeding my baby.
Instead, I didn’t get to hold my baby until 12 hours after she was born, and despite the help of multiple lactation consultants in the hospital, my baby was too weak to nurse. Although 37 weeks is not considered “preemie,” the doctors described my baby as exhibiting features of a preemie. She would latch, pull back and scream in frustration, and become too tired to eat anything. It turned out she had hypotonia (low muscle tone) affecting her ability to nurse. As a result, I desperately started pumping and pumping, 8–10 times a day, to establish my supply so that I could at least feed her milk through a bottle.
Fortunately, I was given an oversupply for many months, and I began to freeze way more milk than my baby could consume. With no more space in my freezer, I began to wonder what to do with the milk. The idea of just throwing it away was horrifying, as pumping took so much effort. I was lucky that my baby was in the NICU and hospital for no more than 2 weeks, but I saw that many other babies and their families aren’t as lucky in that regard. It was so hard to leave my baby’s side every time I had to leave the NICU. I cried so much, wishing I could hold her and take her home with me. I also overheard NICU nurses talking about other mothers of the babies in the NICU who were unable to pump enough for their babies. After this experience, I knew that I should donate my extra milk so that other babies could get the nutrition they needed, and other parents could feel good knowing their babies were getting the health benefits of milk.
I’m very proud to have been a part of MMBA. I know many mothers are unable to produce enough milk to provide a solely breastfed diet, for a wide variety of reasons and especially when your baby is in the NICU and can’t nurse. Some women’s bodies just don’t respond well to the pump. I think if you are able to pump more than enough for your baby, it is an amazing opportunity to give the extra milk to preemies. It also makes the pain and difficulties of pumping even more worthwhile, and brings a sense of healing when recovering from the grief of “failing” to nurse the way you hoped.
Every ounce counts. Can we count you in? :-)
Become a life-saving milk donor today: https://www.milkbank.org/get-involved/milk-donation-form