Good to be sharing with you again. I hope you enjoyed my post a few weeks ago, when I wrote about how I unexpectedly came to love breastfeeding my son Adam.
Today I want to tell you about another joy I’ve found in my breastfeeding journey: how happy it makes me to be a donor mom to the Indiana Mothers Milk Bank (IMMB).
The seed was planted in my heart before my baby was born, but I certainly made my plans to donate very conditional on my ability to even do so--I figured I’d better get the hang of feeding my own child first! But then that seed took root and grew because Adam needed a small amount of donor milk on his fourth day of life. My milk (beyond colostrum) hadn’t yet come in, and his weight was dropping a bit more than desired, so I was asked if he could be supplemented on donor milk. I agreed, and I actually helped give him the ounce or so he needed before my milk came in later that day.
I remember feeling grateful to that mother, and thought that if I could pay it forward, I would. And as it turns out, I can! I became an approved donor mom a couple of months ago (I had a medication issue that had to be resolved first). Since then, I’ve donated 156 ounces, and have about another 100 donor ounces or so accumulated at home. My goal is to donate 5 gallons total (640 ounces) before Adam is a year old in December.
I’ve found the donor process to be very easy. Typically, the milk I pump Monday-Wednesday is used to make Adam’s bottles needed for daycare the whole week, milk pumped on Thursday/Friday is put into storage for Adam, and then the milk I pump on weekend mornings is donated. On average, I put away 15-25 ounces each week for donation . There are some women who can produce even more milk, and also those who deliberately increase their milk supply. They can donate even more!
Recently, I had the privilege of hearing Christina Ryan, CEO of The Women’s Hospital, discussing how NICU babies in particular benefit so much from human milk. The first choice is for these babies’ own mothers to breastfeed/pump, but if that doesn’t work out, donor milk is the next best option. By giving donated human milk to these most-fragile of babies, outcomes are improved and in some cases, their lives are being saved! The incidence of problems with their intestines is improved, as are lower infection rates. Babies are being released from the NICU and going home into their family’s arms several days sooner than when given formula. That knowledge stays with me when I take those few extra minutes per week to put aside some of my precious “mommy juice” (an inside joke at our house) for these babies who need it so badly.
When I was younger, I remember my dad saying that if we have an unusual ability or talent for something, it is a calling. Right now, I’ve cut back on volunteer activities, as I’ve tried to simplify my life as much as I can during this special season of Adam’s babyhood. I look at it this way: there are so many people who can serve on committees, volunteer at fundraisers, etc. But at any given time, how many people can donate breast milk? Very few! Donating milk is a special way that I can “give back.”
So this is my “calling” right now. It takes a small amount of planning ahead, and a little bit of organization, but the wonderful feeling I get from donating my milk is immeasurable.
Just this week, a coworker friend called me to tell me how excited she was to take more than 400 ounces to the IMMB. If you too, would like to experience the same joy that we have, contact the Lactation Department at The Women’s Hospital at 812.842.4525 or click here to learn how to donate breast milk.