National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day . . . One Mom Tells Her Story of Tremendous Loss and Coping Through Milk Donation

National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day . . . One Mom Tells Her Story of Tremendous Loss and Coping Through Milk Donation

Today is National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas works closely with many bereaved mothers, who choose to donate breastmilk after the loss of a baby. A memorial, known at the milk bank as Carmen’s Tree, displays the names and birthdates of babies whose mothers donated milk after their passing.

For many, milk donation becomes a crucial part of the grieving process. One such mom, Tara Li, suffered the immense loss of two children. Here, she bravely and eloquently commemorates her son, Gunner, and reveals how she has survived great sorrow.

Gunner

Gunner

Gunner Timothy was born May 13, 2013. He lived a beautiful 55 minutes. I love the quote “Life is not measured by the number of breaths you take but by the number of moments that take your breath away.” During his 55 minutes, he did not take many breaths, but he still to this day, takes my breath away.

Gunner is our second loss. We found the best way to heal from the loss of our daughter in 2011 was to start helping others in her memory… in her honor. When we learned our Gunner was not going to be born healthy and strong, we became completely broken. How were we going to be able to endure this pain again?

We have met some pretty incredible families from the loss of our children and it was a hopeful feeling knowing we were not alone. We learned of breastmilk donation from one of those families. We decided that was how we would honor his life.  His milk would go to help other newborns/infants/children sustain their lives. My mother and I made a trip to the milk bank and were greeted by Simone. She made us feel so welcome and special.

MMBNT Outreach Director, Simone Summerlin with Tara Li in front of Carmen's Tree

MMBNT Outreach Director, Simone Summerlin with Tara Li in front of Carmen’s Tree

We toured the facility and saw how everything worked. We saw Carmen’s Tree and my heart wept for the amount of leaves that were there, but also smiled at the sacrifices that were made.  And I thought if they can do it…so can I.

Pumping milk is definitely not an easy thing, especially after a loss. My family, friends and my employers were so very supportive of my decision to donate and did not hesitate to make it as comfortable as possible. Because of Gunner, a total of 886 ounces of milk was donated over a 3- month period. We saved a very small bag. It is in our freezer still, and it reminds us of our Gunner and what a beautiful thing he helped us do.

For Gunner’s first birthday this past May, we decided to have a fundraiser for Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. We sold milk bank t-shirts and raised just over $2000. To bring the fundraiser to a close, we hosted Gunner’s Milk and Cookie Celebration at our home. Friends and family joined us in celebrating Gunner and how his life changed so many. I have friends all the time tell me…”I got to tell someone your story today when they asked me about the milk bank shirt I was wearing.”

Fundraiser T-shirts in front of the MMBNT lab

Fundraiser T-shirts in front of the MMBNT lab

Someone gets to meet my son through the words of a friend and becomes educated on how we helped others through your organization. We are so honored to have Gunner’s name on a leaf on Carmen’s Tree. It reminds me of Psalm 1:3.  ”He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Thank you for giving us the opportunity to share our son’s life with you.

The Li Family

Jeff, Tara, Ethan, Athanasia and Gunner

Tara, Jeff and Ethan Li

Tara, Jeff and Ethan Li

 

For more information about National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day, click here.

For more information about Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, visit our website.

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Gabrielle Daigle’s Inspirational Journey:  Her Baby’s Recovery from Lung Disease and Becoming a Milk Donor Mom

Gabrielle Daigle’s Inspirational Journey: Her Baby’s Recovery from Lung Disease and Becoming a Milk Donor Mom

When Gabrielle Daigle’s son, Andrew, caught a cold at six weeks of age, breathing complications led to a diagnosis of a rare lung disease called Congenital Lobar Emphysema that occurs in 1 in 20,000-30,000 people. Andrew’s recovery ultimately led her to become a milk donor for Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas.  Here is her story, in her own words, first published on Mama.Gab.net:

One Saturday night, my husband and I both woke up hearing our baby boy sneezing and coughing.  We both groaned.  He had picked up my 2 year-old’s cold!  But babies get colds all the time and since this wasn’t our first baby, we already knew what remedies to try. But a few days later, our newborn was only getting worse.  My husband was incredibly concerned and insisted we take the baby to the ER one night.  And I had to admit, his cough was pretty funky.  I could also see some indrawing at his ribcage.

Andrew lung surgery 6 weeks old MamaGabAfter many tests and scans at our local ER, doctors told us that Andrew had Congenital Lobar Emphysema. His lungs could take air in, but they could not remove air easily.  The top lobe on his left lung was ballooning up with air and was so large that his trachea and heart were displaced into the right portion of his chest.  Treatment was available, but not at our hospital.  We chose to go to Dallas.  After about two hours of prepping him for air travel, we were ready to go around 6:30 am. The plane touched down at Love Field in Dallas, and then we took another ambulance to Children’s Medical Center. We arrived at the hospital and quickly made our way to ICU, where a room had already been prepared for him.

I was asked to sit and a surgeon, a fellow, and then an anesthesiologist took turns discussing his surgery with me and asked me to sign papers giving my permission for surgery.  Without surgery, he would die.  In surgery, the doctors would go in between his ribs, doing a thoracotomy, and then a lobectomy would be performed on his left lung.  The left lung has two lobes or halves, while the right lung has three lobes.  His top left lobe was the one with lobar emphysema, so it would be removed completely.  When the surgeon described all of it, I was shocked.  The entire top half of his left lung?  Removed?  All of it?!?  But it was the only option.

Surgery would take a few hours, during which I prayed, talked with various friends and family, and pumped.  Seriously.  Protecting my milk supply became a high priority for me, because it seemed like the only thing I could possibly do for my child at that point.  I put myself on a pumping schedule and stuck with it until Andrew was able to nurse again.

Once surgery was over, I met with the surgeon.  She said everything went perfectly, and no surprises came up at all.  She described recovery and reiterated that his left lung would grow back completely

While in ICU, he had excellent care around the clock.  Each nurse was only assigned two children to care for, and their rooms were side-by-side, so we saw the nurse constantly.  He had an IV and then later a feeding tube (with my expressed milk in it) and with all the gadgets attached to him, there was very little Damian and I could do for him.  We could comfort him if he was upset or just talk, sing, and pray over him.  His progress was slow, but it was progress, and eventually he was stable enough to be moved out of ICU.

Five days later, we moved to the surgical floor, where they got me settled into a rocker and configured the wires and cords so that I could hold Andrew.  It felt so good to hold my baby boy for the first time in five days, and I was so happy, I cried.  When I laid him down again in his bed so he could be transported, he gave me a sweet smile, his first smile since the ordeal began.  He loved the physical contact just as much as I did. Andrewimage003

Later, we moved beyond the feeding tube to giving bottles, so I was pumping almost exclusively for 2 weeks–the nurses were “complaining” (cheerfully) that he had so much breastmilk, they had to put it on different floors of the hospital.  Their freezer wasn’t large enough!

When we were discharged, I had 90 ounces of breast milk in their freezer!  I didn’t want to take it home with me on our three hour drive and risk spoilage, so I began researching milk banks.  That’s how I discovered Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, and I learned that it had the best reputation among the local hospitals, especially Children’s Medical Center where our son had been treated.  I made arrangements to donate all of the milk, which was a super easy process.

At Andrew’s release from the hospital, the doctor and dietitian were incredibly concerned about his weight gain.  I felt confident that if he had unlimited access to nursing, he would gain weight rapidly, since he was such a great eater from birth.  Sure enough, a week after our discharge, he was 12 pounds, 2 ounces, and he’d only weighed 10 pounds, 5 ounces two weeks prior.  That’s nearly two pounds in two weeks!  It usually takes babies 16 days to gain a pound–one ounce per day.

Now that Andrew has had surgery for CLE, he is finally a normal child with no respiratory issues.  In fact, his lung grew back!  A child’s body can actually regenerate lung tissue, so his lower lobe has expanded to fill in the entire area where the top lobe used to be. At 3, Andrew is completely healthy now and only has a scar to show for the ordeal.

For more details about Gabby’s journey of becoming a milk donor, access her blog by clicking HERE.

For more information about Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas and how to become a donor, visit our WEBSITE.

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Is a Breast Pump Makeover on the Horizon?

Is a Breast Pump Makeover on the Horizon?

by Amy Trotter, Community Relations Director, Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas
Photography courtesy MIT Media Lab: Mason Marino & Che-Wei Wang

Mention the _MG_2242words “breast pump” to any woman with lactation experience and you might observe everything from a dramatic eye roll to an outright grimace.  Recently, while reminiscing with a friend about the good old days of expressing milk (our kids are in high school), we concluded that surely this device had to be invented by a man.  A little research, in fact, proved this theory.

In 1854, Orwell H. Needham filed Patent No. 11,135 for the first official breast pump.  Engineer, Edward Lasker, invented a mechanical version in the 1920’s. Since then, numerous design improvements have made the experience a bit easier for each generation.  This is a good thing when you consider the dread and unease of some women.  My own sister-in-law admitted feeling more fearful of the breast pump than childbirth.  Of course, it didn’t take long for her to be tugged into the magnificence of motherhood and embrace the pump with all its inconveniences.

_MG_2249Just last week, 150 parents, students, engineers, designers and healthcare providers gathered at the MIT Media Lab for the “Make the Breast Pump Not Suck” contest.  Just the name of this project alone suggested promise.  Hosted by the MIT Media Lab, the competition, which began last May, challenged ten teams of “brainstormers” to improve current breast pump designs._MG_1551

Founded in 1985 with an annual operating budget of $45 million dollars, according to its website, the MIT Media Lab “is committed to looking beyond the obvious to ask the questions not yet asked–questions whose answers could radically improve the way people live, learn, express themselves, work, and play.”   And “express themselves” took on a whole new meaning as collaborators presented new ideas while competing for prize money.

_MG_17161st prize was awarded to the “Mighty Mom Utility Belt”, a fashionable, discrete, hands-free wearable pump that automatically logs and analyzes personal data.  Team members won $3000 and a trip to Silicon Valley to pitch their ideas to investors.

 

 

For details, humorous perspectives and more contest results, we wanted to share the following articles:

Winning Ideas In Contest On “How To Make The Breast Pump Not Suck”

The Moms Behind MIT’s Breast Pumping Hackathon

Shouldn’t the Breast Pump Be as Elegant as an iPhone and as Quiet as a Prius by Now?

For more information about Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, please visit our website.

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Extra Breastmilk . . . Should You Sell or Donate?

Extra Breastmilk . . . Should You Sell or Donate?

If you have ever considered selling

your surplus breastmilk,

here’s why you should

donate to a non-profit milk bank instead.

By Amy Vickers, MSN, RN, IBCLC, Executive Director, Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas

There are many reasons it is both important and ethical to donate your milk to a non-profit milk bank:

Human milk is a precious, limited resource and should be prioritized for the sickest of babies with the greatest need.  For premature babies born under 3 pounds, donor milk is life saving.  Some babies go home from the NICU still receiving donor milk.  These babies are particularly fragile.  For example, many recipient babies have severe birth defects, cancer, kidney or liver failure, or immunological syndromes.  Some are awaiting a heart transplant, other types of open-heart surgeries, post bone marrow transplants and other procedures.

A small amount of donor human milk can nourish a large number of premature and critically ill babies. Normally, a healthy ten-pound baby requires 30 to 40 ounces of milk per day.  For premature infants, the same amount of milk may feed 30 micro preemies for 24 hours.  Milk donated to a non-profit milk bank goes a long way.

Liam, newborn baby

Liam, newborn baby

Selling or buying human donor milk opens up several quality control concerns. Would a needy mom deprive her baby of milk or dilute her milk because she needed the money by selling it?  Could selling milk create a system in which only those that can pay for it receive it?  The blood banking industry has found that donors who donate simply to help another person and not receive anything in return, yield the best results.  Additionally, helping another mom’s baby is the main motivation we hear from our donors.

Non-profit milk banks do not charge recipients for the milk itself. There is a lot of misinformation on donating to non-profit milk banks.  Families are not charged for the milk, only for the expenses of milk processing.  Tissue processing fees include the costly procedures of storing, pasteurizing, testing and dispensing donor milk. Careful processing is vitally important because it ensures milk safety. These fees only cover 60% of milk bank’s operational costs.  Remaining funds are raised through fundraising events, individual donations, grants and community support.  For babies who have been discharged, our charitable care program provides milk for medically needy babies without the means to pay processing fees.

Non-profit milk banks operate under the guidelines of respected, authoritative national organizations. Non-profit milk banks such as Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas adhere to the strict scientific safety guidelines of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).   In addition, the milk bank follows the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) regulations related to the processing, handling and storage of food.

Milk Bank LabScreening donors and processing the milk ensures safety. Donors are screened for risk factors in a similar way to blood donors.  They complete a rigorous screening process that includes blood testing for communicable diseases such as AIDS.  Gentle pasteurization preserves immunological properties but destroys harmful bacteria that can be present from collection, storage or infection. Such bacteria are usually not harmful to a mother’s own baby, but could potentially be harmful to a medically compromised baby. The milk is tested for these bacteria as well as for nutritional components.

Non-profit milk banks provide charitable care. A fragile baby going home from the hospital on donor milk will receive it, regardless of the family’s ability to pay processing fees. In 2013 alone, Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas provided $615,000 of donor human milk to fragile babies at home with families that had no means of paying processing fees. Babies are prioritized based on their medical condition, NOT their ability to pay.

Alejandra Andrade's cutie shows off their pumped breastmilk

Alejandra Andrade’s cutie shows off their pumped breastmilk

While EVERY baby can benefit from human milk, it is important to appropriate donor milk where it can do the most good for the most babies. At Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, we are so very grateful to the donor mothers willing to share their milk with these precious babies that have so much to lose without it.

For more information about Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas or about becoming a donor, please call 817.810.0071 or visit our website.

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Happy Birthday, Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas!

Happy Birthday, Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas!

Today commemorates a decade of milk banking for Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas.  Our anniversary luncheon at Ridglea Country Club will celebrate 10 years of collecting, storing, pasteurizing and dispensing human donor milk to premature and critically ill infants.  Donor moms, recipient families, milk bank administrators, physicians and nurses will all be in attendance as we look back on all we have accomplished together.

One donor mom, Maria Walters, is looking forward to the event.  She explains, “It will be so meaningful to have representatives from every aspect of milk banking in one room, applauding past accomplishments and looking forward to saving many more babies in the future.”Processed, packaged and ready to go!

The milk bank, a non-profit organization, has been processing donor milk since September 2004.  “Its overwhelming to comprehend the milestones we have experienced over the years” says Simone Summerlin, Outreach Director.  She adds, “The milk bank now has 35 collection depots in Texas and in four other states, and serves over 95 hospitals.”

In ten years, the milk bank has dispensed almost 2 million ounces of milk from over 4000 donors.  As the demand grows, so does the effort to keep the supply flowing for premature and critically ill infants.

Amy Vickers, Executive Director, knows the milk bank’s success would not have been possible without the selflessness of the donors. “When it comes to the tiniest, sickest NICU babies, every drop counts. We are forever indebted to our amazing donor moms and greatly appreciate the thousands of moms who over the last 10 years have donated their excess breastmilk to help us save lives,” she says.

Proceeds from today’s luncheon will benefit the milk bank’s charitable care program, the Milk Money Fund, as well as seed the organization’s newly formed permanent endowment fund.  Money raised will ensure that all infants with a medical need will receive donor human milk for many more decades to come.

If you were unable to join us today, but still wish to donate, gifts can be made via PayPal by visiting our website.

 

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