By Melissa Moog
Five years ago I became a new mom to my daughter Isabella and all I wanted to do was feed her the best food that nature could provide which was my breastmilk. It turns out after a few months of trying while exhausting the various means to increase my production from a lactation consultant, Fenugreek to tea I was not able to breastfeed like I wanted to. This was an extremely emotional and physically trying time for me. I also felt like because I was a baby planner and living in a city (Portland, OR) with a huge breastfeeding population that the pressure I put on myself was tenfold. I was driving myself crazy on top of being sleep deprived as a new mom and also recovering from an emergency C. I followed my lactation consultant’s advice, nursed and pumped regularly and the amount of breastmilk I got barely measured 1 ounce! So, through this article I wanted to share my personal aha moment about breastfeeding and milk banks along with sharing my struggle of not being able to supply my babies breastmilk.
I remembered going to a Mommy and Me class at St. Vincent’s hospital and during the session a fellow new mommy told me she was bursting at the seams with breastmilk and she’d be happy to give me some of hers. Inside I was livid (hormones raging of course) and actually so offended that I drove home in tears. I was offended because I took it very personal that I couldn’t give my baby MY breastmilk and why on earth would I accept another mom’s breastmilk to feed my baby anyway. It was a totally foreign idea to me at the time, not only because the milk didn’t come from MY body but I also felt like there were health risks. In the end, I knew the other mom meant well but I really wasn’t emotionally capable of understanding her offer to help me at the time.
Well, let’s now fast forward to July 21, 2011 when my beautiful girl and boy twins were born. I promised myself I would try EVERYTHING possible from day one to breastfeed my babies even though I knew I had production problems from the last pregnancy. Please note it wasn’t just one baby this time it was TWO – I’m stubborn and there was no way I would let this stop me. I was also on bedrest for 3 months, had minor pre-clampsia, high blood pressure and to top it off I had gestational diabetes. Sounds like I was a big, fat mess, right?! Well, I was but still pig headed enough to try and feed my babies the best mother nature could provide regardless of the odds.
When the twins were born I immediately held them skin to skin in recovery which I was very thankful for because I had a cesarean and was told that I may not be able to hold them right away. I was also able to breastfeed both babies in recovery. I had a lactation consultant come in that same day to help me learn how to breastfeed twins (not a small feat). A hospital grade breastpump was already set up in my suite. So, I was definitely determined to feed my babies MY breastmilk. Well, in the end because the babies were slightly premature (I carried them to 37.5 weeks) I was also able to get a prescription for banked breastmilk from my doctor and fed them with a syringe through finger feeding. Additionally, knowing that I might not be able to produce enough breastmilk by the time I got home we ordered banked breastmilk to be delivered in time for our homecoming. I was very thankful for this option!
I have to openly share that in the year before my twins were born I did my research on banked breastmilk and found out that donors are screened and tested before their milk is accepted. Banked breastmilk is also given to NICU babies that are seriously sick to help them survive. My personal perception of never EVER wanting to feed my baby someone else’s breastmilk did a complete 360 degree turn! It was my “AHA” moment five years later realizing that feeding your baby banked breastmilk was absolutely safe and really good for them. I embraced the idea that even though I couldn’t supply my babies breastmilk that as long as they were growing healthy feeding them banked breastmilk was the next best thing! It was also comforting to know through the milk bank that other mamas were willing to share a precious gift to keep my babies thriving.
Last year, Itsabelly actually helped raise money for North West Mother’s Milkbank by donating raffle items and connecting them with the local news station to bring awareness about their mission to establish a milk bank locally. Afterall, I had to get the breastmilk for the twins shipped from San Jose, CA and the thought that many mamas are donating their milk in Portland but its being shipped to a bank in San Jose, CA or Denver, Colorado was crazy to me! My hope is that this post will bring more awareness to the public that milk banks are so very critical to many sick babies survival and even the not so sick but premature babies like mine.