Baby Friendly Means Milk Banks

Welcome to The Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival!

This post was written as part of The Breastfeeding Cafe’s Carnival. For more info on the Breastfeeding Cafe, go to www.breastfeedingcafe.wordpress.com. For more info on the Carnival or if you want to participate, contact Claire at clindstrom2 {at} gmail {dot} com. Today’s post is about baby friendly communities. Please read the other blogs in today’s carnival listed below and check back for more posts July 18th through the 31st!


After a very difficult birth and a non-responsive entry into the world my first child, Maggie, was transported to Primary Children’s Medical Center. My mind and heart were as traumatized as my pelvic tissues and perineum. As a Mother, nothing was more important than being with my baby. So of course, rest and recovery were the last things on my mind.


Maggie had brain damage. The news came quickly and horribly. Doug and I entered the NICU and saw our naked little girl wired, tubed, and needled. She lay limp, her little lips quivering, and black eyes staring. Could this be the rolling ball of life that filled my womb just moments before?


Somewhere, deep inside, something rose inside of me. It was a power, an ownership, a mantel that was new and unfamiliar. I was a mother, something different than I had ever been before. And, my baby needed me. The lioness had awakened.


My first questions were about her nourishment, “When will Maggie be able to breastfeed? “She might never breastfeed.” “Then when will you be giving her my breast milk?” “She won’t be able to take in anything but sugar water through IV for at least four or five days.” “Please, I want her to have breast milk, and only breast milk when she is taken off of the sugar water. This is very important to us.”


Good, I had a few days to build up a milk supply so that Maggie would have exactly what she needed to make the best recovery she could.


I followed the lactation nurse into the pumping room for an orientation. Cups, tubes, switches, disinfectant. I blinked a few times, restated the process, and told her I thought I could take it from here.


I settled into the chair, bared my breasts, and attached the machine that would come to be a most treasured and despised friend. Was the suction right? How long had it been? Why was nothing coming? Was I doing this wrong? Was there something wrong with me? Suddenly, there it was, a small bead of colostrum; one small drop from one breast. At the nurses station I asked, “Can I please have an empty syringe?” This precious liquid life was not going to be wasted, even if I had to gather it drop by drop!


My first harvest of breast milk yielded about 1 ml of colostrum. That’s about the size of your pinky nail. I proudly carried my tiny syringe of milk to the large industrial standup freezer. I opened the door and was greeted by pink bins overflowing with 6 oz. containers of milk. Those babies couldn’t have used that much milk in a year! I placed my little syringe on the bottom of my pink bin. Suddenly I felt bonded to that little drop of milk. Could it possibly feel as overwhelmed and inadequate as I did at that moment?


Day after day I struggled to fill the tips of my syringes. The moment of Maggie’s first feeding was soon approaching and I couldn’t imagine that I would gather enough. But, I couldn’t fail her. If I couldn’t hold her, or sleep with her, or stroke her little body, then I was darn well going to give her the best I had to offer—breast milk.


My sorrow, stress and physical pain compounded with my lack of time to recover and get enough sleep. Looking back, I’m not surprised that it was difficult to produce sufficient milk for my child. All the cards were stacked against us. But, I was undaunted.


Maggie’s first feeding came, and to the surprise of the staff, and me, there was enough. I was so proud. We did it—these breasts and I. After that Maggie would be feed by a tube every four hours, the amount of milk increasing daily. I would pump every hour to two hours to stay one feeding ahead of her. The challenge created a constant state of worry for me.


I would get Maggie’s bin down from the top shelf and put in her one container. Every few hours, one container. Sometimes I would rush into her room right on the hour of her feeding, but I would always hand a container to the nurse filled with just enough milk to feed her. So, as you can imagine, every drop of breast milk was priceless.


One Saturday morning I was getting Maggie’s breakfast for her 9:00 a.m. feeding. It was a rare pumping session as I was able to get a full 6 oz. bottle of milk. This would last at least 1 ½ feedings. Whew! A bit of relief. I set the lid on the jar and began to pick up my things. I turned back to attach a label, forgetting that the lid was not tight, and . . . I watched the liquid gold flow across the tabletop, down the side of the chair, and soak into the carpet.


The blood drained from my head and I felt like fainting. My heart was flailing its arms around trying to find the switch to rewind that horrible moment. I have never in my life felt such loss and discouragement as I did right then.


I found my way outside the hospital to a private garden. I sat on a rock by a little flowing stream and wept and wept. At that moment it was all just too much to be strong through. I had to laugh in the middle of my weeping, though, as I thought of the saying, “Don’t cry over spilled milk.” Well, I was most certainly going to cry over MY spilled milk!


All of my work to make sure that my baby had the perfect food was suddenly lost. There wasn’t enough, and I wouldn’t be able to make it up. They would have to give her formula. But, she needed “me” and it was all I had to give her.


Hospital policy would not allow me to bring in someone else’s milk that wasn’t from a registered milk bank, and the closest one was in Colorado anyway. Well then, I just wouldn’t get permission. I called a dear friend, and through my tears said, “Please, I need some milk for my baby. Can you help me?” Her daughter had just given birth a few months before and had plenty of milk to share.


As Maggie’s feeding requirements eventually surpassed my ability to provide during our hospital stay, this dear friend provided my baby with the most precious gift of breast milk. Of course, I had to sneak it in under the guise of my own.


I often wonder how my struggle might have been different had I had the resource of a local milk bank. Could I have spent more time sleeping and recovering, and less time hooked up to a machine in the middle of the night? Could I have spent more time kissing my baby, and less time crying in the pumping room? Could I have felt more empowered and capable as a mother and less time struggling with my thoughts of inadequacy?


I wonder how many other women are out there, the details of their stories unique, but each ending the same as mine–if they’d only had the resource of a local milk bank . . .


Please, bring a milk bank to Utah . . . mothers and babies are crying for it!

Today’s guest blogger is Jodie Palmer. Jodie and Mr. “the best thing that ever happened to me” home school their three kiddlets, including a fabulous four-year old daughter with cerebral palsy. Her biggest life-lesson right now is “keeping at it” even when things aren’t perfect. A few of her favorite things are: morning naps with a new baby, raising a boy, bringing an idea to fruition, creating beautiful spaces, C.S. Lewis, Saltines with butter and avocado, homemade ginger ale, and someday she really wants to own a pair of black leather pants and motorcycle boots. Her relevant professional experience includes serving as President of the Midwives College of Utah, www.midwifery.edu, and as a board member of the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council, www.meac.org. Much of what she is up to these days can be found at www.homefires.ws, and www.tjedmarketplace.com.


Here are more posts by the Breastfeeding Cafe Carnival participants! Check back because more will be added throughout the day.

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1 Comment

Filed under Milk Banks

One response to “Baby Friendly Means Milk Banks

  1. Christy P.

    “Please, bring a milk bank to Utah . . . mothers and babies are crying for it!”

    Best slogan I have heard yet!

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