Premature birth may be less common today than it was in the past, but it is still a major health problem. In the United States, it is the leading killer of newborns, and preemies are at risk for additional health problems throughout their lives. To bring attention to this widespread issue, the March of Dimes recognizes World Prematurity Day each year on November 17.
Donor milk from Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas nourishes the most fragile infants, most of whom are preemies. In honor of World Prematurity Day, below is a previously posted blog article about Liam, a former donor milk recipient, and his mother who he inspired to become a milk donor herself:
A long journey to wellness began for baby Liam after his premature arrival at 26 weeks, weighing 1 pound, 14 ounces. His parents, Cereena and Austin, describe him as a "true warrior", battling and overcoming a common yet serious intestinal infection called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
Admitted to Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth, Liam was treated with antibiotics and fortified donor breastmilk. Like a lot of moms of preemies, Cereena's milk supply wasn't adequate after giving birth so early. Liam's neonatologist prescribed donor milk and explained that premature babies need breastmilk to provide proper nutrients and prevent life-threatening complications. Liam gained weight and won the battle.
Over time, Cereena ended up pumping more milk than Liam needed and decided to become a donor. “I wanted to provide milk for the babies who need it most and reduce any worry or stress for those mothers who try very hard to produce breastmilk, but can't,” she said.
Cereena learned about MMBNT from Dr. Susan Sward-Comunelli, Liam’s neonatologist, who helped found the non-profit organization in 2004. She describes the donor approval process as "thorough yet easy".
"The paperwork was minimal but they asked important questions; things that I would want to know as a mother whose child would receive donor milk,” Cereena said. “The best part is knowing that all donors have their blood screened."
For Cereena and Austin, donating milk is a way to give back, knowing others helped Liam recover. Cereena explains, "All you want to do is protect and provide for your child and breastmilk can do both."
For more information about becoming a donor, click here.
2016 will always be a year to remember for Desire. She and her husband celebrated both a wedding and the birth of Julian Jr., their first child. Julian entered the world at 37 weeks due to Desire’s preeclampsia.
Initially, breastfeeding did not come easy for Desire and little Julian. While she struggled to produce enough milk, he struggled to latch. Desire also had thrush twice during this time. Just when she felt like giving up, Desire decided to try pumping so she could bottle feed her son with her breastmilk. She began to pump every two hours in an attempt to build a supply of milk.
“After two months I began overproducing, and did not realize it until I was filling up two freezers full of milk,” Desire said. While studying to receive her master’s degree in social work, Desire has been exposed to the world of infant nutrition and knows that some mothers are unable to produce breastmilk for their own children. Realizing she had more than enough milk for Julian, she searched for a place to donate and found Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas.
Desire recently dropped off her first donation of 570 ounces to her local depot. She says it is a great feeling to be able to produce enough milk not only for her son, but for other babies in need.
From firsthand experience, Desire knows that both nursing and pumping come with challenges. She encourages other moms to stick with it, though, because it does become easier with time. “It pays off when you see your child thriving off your breastmilk,” she said.
Perseverance and dedication to helping others is a major factor for many donor moms like Desire. Babies in need in both North Texas and beyond are given a fighting chance thanks to Desire and her fellow donor moms. With their help, more babies will be able to survive and thrive.
For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.
Katie is a mom to two daughters, Alli and Sadie. Her first breastfeeding experience with Alli was difficult – she struggled to produce enough milk, and because of a painful lip/tongue tie, she and Alli could not nurse. When Katie and Sadie began their breastfeeding journey, though, the situation was quite different and she produced more than Sadie needed.
Because Katie could relate to moms who couldn’t produce their own milk, she was inspired to become a milk donor. She discovered Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas through a Facebook group and soon began the donor screening process. “The process was simple, yet thorough,” Katie said.
Since becoming a donor, Katie has donated 1,117 ounces of breastmilk to MMBNT. Her local depot, Texas Health Harris Methodist HEB, makes it easy to donate close to home. And while breastfeeding moms do develop routines, Katie says she feels like she learns something new every week.
Storage is often something to consider when freezing extra milk, and Katie recommends using an extra deep freezer – either your own or one that belongs to a nearby friend or family member. “Having an extra freezer helped with milk storage immensely,” she said. She also advises delivering milk donations in grocery sacks so they can be quickly unloaded and dropped off at a depot.
Milk donation is vital for premature and critically ill infants, but it’s also beneficial for the mothers who struggle to provide milk for their own children. Having experienced that struggle herself, Katie is grateful to be able to help babies and other moms like her.
“It brings me so much joy to know that the milk God has gifted me with is providing life to babies all around the Metroplex,” Katie said.
For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.
Breastmilk is often referred to as “liquid gold”, due to its unique immunological properties and the positive effects it can have on babies. Its benefits are widely recognized in the medical world, particularly for preterm or critically ill infants.
In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states the benefits are so great that all preterm infants should receive human milk, and when a mother’s own milk is not available, donor milk should be used. Additionally, the Canadian Pediatric Society (CPS) says that “human breast milk provides a bioactive matrix of benefits that cannot be replicated by any other source of nutrition.”
Babies who are fed an all-breastmilk diet can see reduced risks of several diseases. One of these is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a bowel disease that can cause parts of the intestines to die and need to be surgically removed.
NEC affects 5,000 babies in the U.S. and Canada every year, and approximately 500 of them die from the disease. It is the #2 killer of premature babies and the #10 killer of all babies. However, using an all-breastmilk diet can reduce the risk of NEC by 79 percent.
Jennifer Canvasser, a Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas donor mom, lost one of her sons, Micah, to NEC. She then founded the NEC Society, which seeks to protect premature infants from the disease. The NEC Society is made up of healthcare practitioners, researchers and families and focuses on research, raising awareness and advocating for those affected.
At MMBNT, we are excited to feature Jennifer as our guest speaker at our 12th anniversary luncheon. As both a donor mom and a health advocate, she brings a unique perspective to the world of milk banking. We are looking forward to hearing her important message and sharing it with all our guests.
For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.
Amanda and Allen knew their journey as parents would be unique. In December, their unborn daughter, Abigail, was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. This condition meant the left side of her heart would not form correctly, so blood flow would be affected. Just weeks later, they received a second diagnosis of Trisomy 18 – a condition that causes severe developmental delays and is usually fatal before or soon after birth. With the tragic news they’d received, Amanda and Allen began to prepare for the next steps.
The search began for a way to do good despite the situation. Because of Abi’s chromosomal abnormalities, her organs could not be donated and the family couldn’t participate in research. With no prior knowledge of milk donation, Amanda and Allen learned about the opportunity to make a difference at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas.
“We wanted Abi’s legacy to be that of helping other babies,” Amanda said. “As an added benefit, milk donation helped me heal emotionally.”
Throughout Amanda’s pregnancy, she and Allen constantly talked to Abi and would feel her kicks. “She was an active baby, and a happy baby I would like to think,” Amanda said. Abi was stillborn on April 5, 2016, which Amanda describes as the happiest and saddest day of their lives.
The family’s donor journey began just after Abigail’s stillbirth. Allen was dubbed the “Milk Master” as he cleaned all pump parts and labeled all the milk bags during their three month donation period. The two of them would then go together to drop off their donations at the nearby depot.
For both Amanda and Allen, milk donation meant creating something good out of the tragedy of losing their baby. “It helped us both work through those early steps of grief,” Amanda said. “It meant a lot to both of us knowing that Abi was part of the reason other little babies were getting nourishment.”
For more information on how to become a donor, click here.
Photo credit: Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
As a donor mom, Jennifer donates breastmilk to Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas in honor of her sons, Zachary and Elijah, and in memory of her son Micah, who passed away at 11 months due to necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). She is also a fierce advocate for those affected by NEC, as she is the founder of the NEC Society. Additionally, she writes for HuffPost Parents, and her articles are occasionally featured on the MMBNT blog. Below is an excerpt from her article about babywearing and the positive experience it created in the NICU with her twins.
My twins' premature birth rocked my world. Micah and Zachary were born at 27 weeks gestation, weighing only two and a half pounds each. As the twins fought to live, our family, friends, neighbors and colleagues surrounded us with love and support.
During the twins' hospitalization, my husband Noah and I received beautiful, generous gifts, one of which changed our family’s life: the skill of babywearing.
Micah and Zachary were nearly three months into their hospitalization when my friend Becca asked if she could visit us in the NICU to show us how to wear our babies in a wrap. I hesitated. Zachary was stable, even though he was connected to lines and monitors, but Micah was struggling just to live after developing necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Micah was in renal failure, intubated, and recovering from a major abdominal operation.
I didn’t want to have to answer any of Becca’s questions. I didn’t want Becca to see Micah in such a terrible state of health. I didn’t want to have to explain that Micah might die.
Thankfully, I mustered up some courage and arranged for Becca to visit.
Becca walked into Zachary’s room, her arms overflowing with two wraps, a ring sling, gifts for the boys and food for us. Zachary was tethered to his monitors, snuggled with Noah in a chair. Becca stretched out a rainbow carrier and asked if she could wrap me up with Zachary.
Moments later she began her magic and Zachary was securely wrapped on my chest, just under my chin, leaving my hands free. I stood up, paying attention to Zachary’s cords and wires, and instantly fell in love with babywearing.
With Zachary wrapped on my chest, I reclaimed so much that had been taken away from me just by being in the NICU: the ability to be close to my babies, the ability to care for them, and the feeling of being a competent mother.
I asked Zachary’s nurse if we could walk across the hall to Micah’s room for a visit. Micah and Zachary had been separated since birth, each of them independently too sick to leave their room to visit the other. But now, Zachary was stable, and securely wrapped on my chest. The nurses had never seen one of their patients in a wrap, and inspected Zachary’s airway and lines before they agreed to allow me to carry Zachary into Micah’s room.
For the first time since giving birth, I made physical contact with my twins at the same time. Even though Micah was too sick to be held, I could reach my hands into his isolette and touch his soft skin, while Zachary slept on me. From that moment on, I knew I needed to perfect the art of wrapping my fragile infants so that I could be close to both of them. For months, we had been separated. Babywearing enabled us to reconnect, bond, and nurture one another.
Donor moms discover Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas in a variety of ways, from word of mouth to hospital materials. Sometimes, though, all it takes is a simple Google search. That’s what happened when donor mom Mattie traveled to Fort Worth for work and didn’t want her extra breastmilk to go to waste.
As a costume designer, Mattie’s job requires her to travel often. A recent project working on Fort Worth Opera's "JFK" brought her into MMBNT territory. She needed to keep up her pump schedule in order to maintain her milk supply, but she knew she wouldn’t be able to transport all the milk back to her home in New York. That’s where MMBNT enters the picture.
Mattie began the donor screening process and pumping milk to donate as soon as she got in town. “The process was easy and very manageable as I broke it up over a few days,” she said. “The donor coordinators were also great to work with.”
Typically, Mattie wakes up early and pumps for half an hour before her daughter Ruby wakes up. Her battery-operated pump makes the process easier, as does having extra help from her mother and mother-in-law. She advises new moms to be diligent and keep at it, but to also stay calm in order to help things go smoothly.
However, Mattie admires that every mom has her own unique experience. “There are so many opinions out there, but it’s important to follow your instincts and do what works for you,” she said.
Mattie’s experience is certainly unique. Her profession as a costume designer has allowed her to travel extensively and work on opera, theater and film. While she’s designed costumes for a number of productions in New York and across the country, many of her designs have been showcased on stages overseas. Locations include Austria, Germany, Norway, Russia and Spain.
When it comes to her role as a milk donor, Mattie is happy to be of help to other families. By putting herself in the recipient moms’ shoes, she sees how big of an impact it can have. “It would be so hard to not be able to provide milk, along with facing the stress of whatever other issues may be happening,” she said.
Of all the places she’s traveled, we’re thankful Mattie landed in Fort Worth for a while and became part of our MMBNT family.
For more information on becoming a milk donor, click here.
Becoming a donor mom was a natural fit for Melissa. As a former NICU nurse, she's seen breastmilk work its wonders firsthand. When she missed working with preemies and other critically ill infants, donating her extra breastmilk became her way of giving back.
Melissa has been pumping for most of 6 month-old son Ryan's life. "I started at 2 months pumping once per day after he nursed in the morning," she said. "I would freeze half for him to use later and half to donate. It quickly added up and I was excited to make my donation."
Ryan is the third child in the family, but this is Melissa's first time as a donor. While she felt she didn't produce enough with either of her two daughters, this time she decided that every little bit counts.
"I think there are a lot of moms that feel they need an oversupply to make a difference, when really you just need 15 minutes every morning," Melissa said.
At Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, we are grateful for Melissa's donations and the donations of many moms like her. However, Melissa's involvement at MMBNT extends even further: she is a member of our Board of Directors. She joined the board last summer and enjoys serving a cause that fits so closely with her passion of helping babies.
Although Melissa no longer works in the NICU, she still helps babies and their families in a professional capacity. After her second daughter was born, she founded Newborn Nightingales, a sleep consulting and night nursing company.Through this company, Melissa and her staff help parents with their newborn needs, such as nighttime care and developing healthy sleep habits.
In the last three years, Newborn Nightingales has helped more than 400 families, a statistic Melissa is proud of. "I love babies," Melissa said. "I always have. I also love my sleep and know how important it is for babies and families. This is my way of helping now."
For more information on becoming a milk donor, click here.
At Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, we know the great impact breastmilk can have on babies’ lives. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that because of its benefits, human milk should be fed to all preterm infants, and when a mother’s own milk is unavailable, human donor milk should be used.
However, there is still a need to spread awareness about its life-saving properties. That’s where the Miracle Milk Stroll comes in.
The Miracle Milk Stroll is a casual walking event designed to raise awareness of and support for the human milk cause. Various organizations host strolls across the country to get as many breastfeeding moms, advocates and their loved ones involved as possible.
Net profits from fundraising efforts surrounding the Stroll will be distributed among the beneficiaries selected for this year – all nonprofits focused on providing human milk to sick babies. These include the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, NEC Society, La Leche League USA and the United States Lactation Consultant Association.
Miracle Milk is a project of the Best for Babes Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to changing the cultural landscape surrounding breastfeeding and human milk. This is the third year Best for Babes has hosted this national event.
Staff at MMBNT are excited to host a Stroll site for the first time this year. The strolling group will meet at 10:00 am Saturday, May 14 in Fairmount Park, located near the MMBNT office in Fort Worth on W. Maddox Avenue between 5th Avenue and Henderson Street. The 1.2 mile route will take strollers to MMBNT and back by way of the popular Magnolia Avenue. Refreshments will be provided at MMBNT.
One in eight babies is born prematurely, meaning there is a great need for human milk to help these fragile infants survive and thrive. Events such as the Miracle Milk Stroll shed light on this need and strengthen the community of human milk supporters. We look forward to seeing Fort Worth-area supporters at our site and raising awareness about “liquid gold” in our own backyard.
Click here to register for the Fort Worth Miracle Milk Stroll, and click here to RSVP to the Facebook event.
Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas (MMBNT) and North Georgia Breastfeeding Center (NGBC) established a new milk depot within NGBC, located at 107 Colony Park Drive #700 in Cumming, Georgia, to provide a convenient drop off location for donor breastmilk. Cumming is approximately 35 miles north of Atlanta.
Mothers can drop off their human milk donations at NGBC, which will be collected by staff and sent to MMBNT for pasteurization and shipment to critically ill infants. Donations are accepted Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., or by appointment by calling 678-965-0103. This is the first milk depot in the state of Georgia.
“It is with great honor and privilege that North Georgia Breastfeeding Center will have the opportunity to work with our surrounding communities to help facilitate donated breastmilk to save the lives of medically needy babies,” Amy Hammant, Clinical Director of NGBC, said. She adds, “As IBCLCs [lactation consultants], we are committed to the promotion, support and protection of breastfeeding. Breastmilk is nature’s first food and we are thrilled to be able to help provide this precious gift.”
MMBNT collects donor milk from over 40 “depots” located in communities throughout North Texas and other states. Donors are screened through medical histories and blood tests. Once approved, moms freeze the extra milk their babies don’t need and take it to a depot close to home.
Frozen milk arrives at the milk bank and is logged into a sophisticated barcode and tracking system. It is then thawed, analyzed, packaged in tamper-resistant bottles, pasteurized and tested for bacteria.
Donor milk has become the standard of care for premature infants who have severe feeding problems, intestinal malformations and life threatening complications such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). Eighty percent of MMBNT’s donor milk is dispensed by physician prescription to over 110 hospital NICUs. Twenty percent is dispensed by physician prescription to medically needy babies at home. In 2015, MMBNT dispensed a record 552,761 ounces.