When you think of holidays and recognitions in May, Mother’s Day is at the top of the list. However, it’s not the only time dedicated to women – the month of May is also Preeclampsia Awareness Month.
Present only during pregnancy and the postpartum period, preeclampsia is a serious disorder that affects approximately 5 to 8 percent of all pregnancies. It’s characterized by high blood pressure in the mother, but also affects the unborn baby. The only cure for preeclampsia is delivery, so depending on when the condition develops, it can be a contributing factor to prematurity.
It usually occurs after 20 weeks gestation and can happen up to six weeks postpartum. Symptoms include swelling, sudden weight gain, headaches and changes in vision. The cause of preeclampsia is still being researched, though several theories focus on the production of proteins in the placenta.
There is no definite way to prevent preeclampsia, but making good choices such as limiting fried or junky food, exercising regularly and getting enough rest can help you manage your health. Simply being aware of the condition is also beneficial. Recently, the ABC sitcom Black-ish addressed preeclampsia on its season finale and shed some important light on this disorder.
Some of the fragile babies we serve are born prematurely because of complications like preeclampsia. As it's a condition experienced by many people in our community, it's important to raise awareness in order to support those who are affected.
For more information about the babies we serve, click here.
Time for another Throwback Thursday! We may have gathered these comments for another article a while back, but they still ring true for many moms. Take a look at what moms had to say when we asked them to finish the statement, "You know you're a breastfeeding/pumping mom when..."
You cry over spilled milk.
"You have cried over spilled milk or yelled at your husband for throwing some out!"
"You break into tears when your milk bag breaks."
You appreciate a designated, clean place to breastfeed or pump.
"The first thing you think of when doing ANYTHING (work, running errands, date with hubby, meetings, etc.) is where/when will I nurse/pump?"
"You catch yourself smiling whenever you find a special little room in public places reserved for breastfeeding/pumping moms!"
Your clothing options change quite a bit.
"You plan what top you'll be wearing ahead of time... at least I do!"
"All your bras resemble trap doors."
"You don't wear regular bras anymore because it's just easier to wear nursing bras all the time."
"When you dream of putting on your breast pads..."
You receive support from unexpected places.
"People at work know your pump schedule and remind you it's time to go pump (and I've only been back to work for a little over a week)!"
"When your 4 year old daughter feeds her pretend baby like mommy and only bottle feeds when she 'goes to work.'"
You are prepared for just about anything.
"You've pumped while ordering a bean burrito from the Taco Bell drive-thru (using your pump's battery pack and your nursing cover, of course)."
"Your drawer at work is filled with extra sets of shields and storage bags. And you have a cheap, single manual pump for when you forget your pump altogether."
"You have a 32-ounce (or larger) cup of water with you at all times."
For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.
Last week, the milk banking world converged in our own backyard for the first-ever HMBANA Symposium. Held in nearby Arlington, the symposium brought together staff from every HMBANA milk bank, from Vancouver to Florida to everywhere in between. HMBANA, short for the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, is the professional association for nonprofit milk banks and milk banking supporters.
HMBANA board members kicked off the event with a day-long meeting on Thursday, May 4. On Friday, the rest of the symposium attendees joined in. The day began with a presentation about the more than 30-year history of HMBANA, and highlighted the exponential growth the organization has seen in recent years. In fact, presenters announced that in 2016, member milk banks distributed 5.25 million ounces of pasteurized donor human milk.
After an educational general session, attendees participated in breakout sessions specific to their positions. Staff learned about their fields and networked with their counterparts at other milk banks, getting the welcome opportunity to share ideas and experiences with each other. The formal portion of the day concluded with a presentation by Dr. Erin Hamilton Spence, Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas' medical director.
With the symposium taking place so close to home, MMBNT staff welcomed all the attendees to an open house at our milk bank Friday evening. Guests enjoyed tacos and ice cream from local restaurants, and toured the MMBNT building. It was a great chance to relax and enjoy each other's company.
Saturday brought more general education and networking sessions. Jennifer Canvasser, a milk donor and founder of the NEC Society, was one of the presenters. She shared her moving story about her family's experience with necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) and the power of donor human milk.
While the main portion of the symposium concluded around lunchtime, the day continued into the afternoon for staff from developing milk banks. They learned about fundraising, depot development and grant writing in order to establish the newest milk banks in the HMBANA family.
Overall, the long weekend was the perfect way for milk banking professionals to network, exchange ideas and further their knowledge of the field. Attendees went back to their own milk banks with a renewed sense of community and enthusiasm for the goal of feeding infants in need.
They say that love is even sweeter the second time around. For Anjali from Frisco, Texas, this also rings true for donating breastmilk. After her first son, Prem, was born in November 2014, Anjali had a growing reserve of extra milk in her freezer and a fierce determination not to throw it away. Online research connected Anjali to Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas and her journey of helping other babies began.
Then in 2016, Anjali started donating breastmilk for the second time. Prem was almost 2 when brother Raj arrived early at 32.5 weeks on August 9, weighing only 2.5 pounds. “Raj’s premature birth came out of nowhere, especially because I had no concerning history or complications,” she said. Anjali was able to pump milk for Raj and it was a huge relief when he gained weight quickly and was discharged earlier than expected after only one month in the NICU.
For a long time, Raj only took one ounce per feeding, 8 ounces total each day. However, Anjali was pumping a lot more than Raj needed. Again, she wanted her excess milk to go to good use. She says, “The milk bank’s screening process was so easy and straightforward and I knew there were many babies in the NICU who could use it.”
Since Raj’s birth this past summer, Anjali has donated more than 700 ounces by loading up her cooler with frozen breastmilk and dropping it at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano, one of MMBNT’s 42 depots. Her milk is transported to MMBNT where it is thawed, pasteurized and poured into bottles for the fragile babies who need it most.
As a repeat donor, Anjali has donated a total of 2,164 ounces so far, potentially providing more than 6,400 feedings. She says, “I’m a strong believer in breastmilk and the benefits it provides, especially for premature infants like Raj. It’s a great feeling and such an honor that I am able to do this for other babies.”
For more information about becoming a donor, click here.
Just weeks into her experience as a milk donor, Susan is thrilled by the prospect of helping fragile babies. “I feel incredibly blessed to have an abundance of milk and really feel obligated to share with those in need,” she said.
After realizing she had more milk than her son Mark needed, she did a Google search about breastmilk donation and found Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. She went through the donor screening process and recently dropped off her first donation at her local depot, Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Plano. It was just the first of many trips she expects to make monthly.
Milk donation is not the only way Susan is planning to get involved at the milk bank. She is a home-based LuLaRoe clothing retailer, and each year she donates a portion of her sales to a cause she selects. This year, she’s chosen MMBNT.
“This is the most rewarding project I’ve done and I can’t wait to see what happens this year,” Susan said.
It’s an exciting time for Susan, and she’s developed a few tricks to help her along the way. She pumps and nurses at the same time, with Mark on one side and the pump on the other. It saves her time, and helps her feel less overwhelmed. She also encourages expecting moms to find a lactation consultant before their baby arrives so any breastfeeding problems that arise can be handled immediately.
Of course, support from family is also important to Susan. Her sister-in-law, Kim, has been a huge part of her experience, and she’s grateful for her help. The support she’s received has allowed her to give back to others in a way that is meaningful to her.
"I love babies and have great respect for motherhood," Susan said. "Being able to support other mothers by donating milk to babies who are in need is an absolute honor."
For more information about becoming a milk donor, click here.