stories, photos

Coming Full Circle: Cassandra's Donor Story

marayTue, 11/14/2017 - 5:32 pm Baby sitting among frozen bags of breastmilk
Premature baby in the NICU
Cassandra's son, born at 31 weeks.

Cassandra’s experience with donor milk has come full circle. In 2009, her son was born 9 weeks early due to HELLP Syndrome. Because of her medical complications, she was unable to provide him with her own breastmilk for the first few days of his life. Donor milk gave him the nourishment he needed until Cassandra could take over.

 

Today, Cassandra’s son is a happy and healthy 8 year old, and there’s a new addition to the family as well – 5 month-old daughter Colbie. When Cassandra realized she had an oversupply of breastmilk this time around, she knew she wanted to donate it to help other babies like her son.

 

“I love that I am able to pay it forward,” she said. “I know someone else made the selfless decision and donated milk for my son. It feels good to have the opportunity to do the same for someone else.”

 

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Family in hospital after the birth of a baby
Cassandra's husband attended Colbie's birth via Skype.

It also feels good to have the whole family together, something that Cassandra’s family has been waiting for. Cassandra’s husband was activated for deployment to Afghanistan as soon as she found out she was pregnant. While he couldn’t be there in person, he did attend Colbie’s birth via Skype. The family had a quick visit in September, where he met 3 month-old Colbie for the first time, before his return earlier this month.

 

While Cassandra’s experience may seem unique, she has advice that can be helpful for many breastfeeding and pumping moms. She encourages moms to be patient, and to use the resources available to them. “Educate yourself. Ask questions. Talk with other nursing moms,” she said. “There isn’t one thing that I have questioned or experienced that someone else didn’t reassure me that they experienced too!”

 

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Baby sitting among frozen bags of breastmilk
Colbie with Cassandra's first milk donation.

For more information about donating milk, click here.

Feeding Thousands of Babies, One Donation at a Time

marayMon, 11/06/2017 - 5:33 pm Mother holding her toddler son
Milk donor Mandy holding her toddler son, Jeremiah
Mandy and Jeremiah

Producing a plentiful amount of breastmilk is nothing new to Mandy. After the birth of her oldest child, now 4, she never stopped lactating. “Even two years after I stopped pumping, I was still making milk,” she said. “I only stopped producing when I got pregnant again!”

 

When her second son, Jeremiah, was born, Mandy already had a lot of knowledge surrounding breastfeeding and breastmilk. Despite all her experience, round 2 of breastfeeding came with its own set of challenges. Jeremiah had acid reflux as a newborn and needed special modifications to his diet, which required Mandy to pump and feed him with a bottle. The reflux went away, but Jeremiah only wanted breastmilk from the bottle, so Mandy became an exclusive pumper.

 

A friend soon realized how much milk Mandy had stored in her freezer, and suggested she look into donating it to Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. She completed the screening process and began dropping off her donations twice a week at her local depot, Arlington Green Oaks WIC Clinic. Now 19 months into her donor experience, she’s donated more than 41,000 ounces of breastmilk to medically fragile babies.

 

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Freezer full of breastmilk
Two days' worth of Mandy's pumped milk

Mandy sees her abundance of breastmilk as a gift. “I believe that God has chosen me to be an overproducer so that I can bless so many fragile babies,” she said.

 

For the smallest of infants, one ounce of milk can provide up to three feedings. That means Mandy’s fed babies in need approximately 123,000 times.

 

“To know that I am feeding so many babies in addition to my own is a true blessing,” she said.

 

To learn more about donating milk, click here.

Healing from Heartbreak

marayTue, 10/10/2017 - 5:52 pm Baby footprints

Talicia's second son, Ty, was stillborn at 29 weeks on December 8, 2015. After her unimaginable loss, Talicia helped other babies by donating her breastmilk. In honor of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, we are sharing Talicia's story again, beautifully written in her own words.

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Baby footprints
Ty's footprints

My husband and I had discussed having a second baby for an entire year. My high-risk pregnancy with my first son was difficult and resulted in 5 months of bed rest. So, I expected the same the second time around. However, this pregnancy was normal, and even great, until the day it wasn't.

During my regular OB visit at 28 weeks, I joyfully listened to my growing baby's heartbeat. Everything was good. Three days later, I noticed Ty wasn’t moving. When the doctor confirmed his heart had stopped beating, I think for a moment, my own heart had stopped. 

No one can explain the pain from losing a child. I had prepared for Ty’s arrival and organized his nursery. I had fallen in love with the little person growing inside me. Not being able to take Ty home was hard enough. I also had to deal with my body’s natural process of producing breastmilk.

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Wooden ornament memorializing Ty's stillbirth
Talicia cherishes Ty's leaf, which has a matching leaf on Carmen's Tree at MMBNT.

I found out about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas from a nurse at Medical Center of Arlington.  A lactation consultant explained that I could donate my milk to help save the lives of other babies. Right then, I knew I wanted to become a donor. I knew I had made the right decision when a woman at church told me about a premature baby who wouldn’t have lived without the help of donors like me.

My experience with Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas has been wonderful. Everyone has been extremely kind and the application process was quick and easy. I am amazed by the organization and am proud to have donated alongside so many other bereaved women.

Pumping and donating my milk gave me something positive and productive to do with my time. I didn't want my milk to be yet another sad reminder of Ty's passing, but a way for someone else to bring their baby home. 

For more information about bereaved milk donation, click here.

 

Nicole's Donor Story

marayTue, 06/06/2017 - 2:54 pm Bags of frozen breastmilk, ready to be donated
Bags of frozen breastmilk, ready to be donated
Nicole's milk, ready to be donated.

Many of our milk donors learn about Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas through friends and family, hospitals or online searches, but for some, all it takes is a simple car ride. That’s what happened when Nicole drove down Magnolia Avenue and our office caught her eye.

 

As a mom producing milk in excess of her daughter Ma’Kaila’s needs, Nicole knew MMBNT was a perfect place for her. She went through donor screening, a process she called “easy.” In the months that have followed, she has donated more than 500 ounces of breastmilk to feed fragile infants.

 

“It means a lot,” Nicole says of knowing she’s helping so many in need. “I’m able to help a mother who can’t breastfeed, and feed babies who need mother’s milk.”

 

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Baby Ma'Kaila with her brother and sister
Baby Ma'Kaila with her brother and sister.

While Nicole has an abundance of milk, that doesn’t mean she hasn’t faced her own challenges. Her busy, 7 days a week work schedule can make breastfeeding and pumping difficult. Living near a depot, as well as working near MMBNT, provides some convenience to her schedule. “I endure and persevere,” she said. Ma’Kaila is currently 10 months old, and Nicole hopes to continue nursing up to age 2.

 

Nicole has enjoyed her experience as a donor, and encourages others who are doing the same. “You are doing a good deed,” she said. “The families who are getting the milk will appreciate it.”

 

For more information about becoming a donor, click here.

Repeating a Priceless Gift

marayTue, 05/02/2017 - 6:57 pm Anjali's family
Anjali's family
Anjali and husband Vimal with their sons, Prem and Raj

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.

 

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Raj
Raj

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.

The Start of a Rewarding Journey

marayTue, 04/25/2017 - 8:27 pm Susan with her first breastmilk donation
Susan with children Victoria and Mark
Susan with 3 year-old Victoria and 3 month-old Mark

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.

 

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Susan with her first breastmilk donation
Susan with her first donation

“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.

 

Helping Others Have a Healthy Start

marayWed, 03/29/2017 - 1:30 pm Melissa's family
Melissa's family
Melissa's family

Melissa’s oversupply of breastmilk created a huge surplus saved up in her freezer. Knowing that this milk could benefit fragile babies in need, she searched for a local milk bank and found The Gathering Place, the Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas depot in Miami, Florida. She connected with MMBNT through the depot and has already donated 2,000 ounces of breastmilk that her daughter, Viviana Grace, doesn’t need.

Viviana is healthy and thriving today, but she entered the world with complications. She stopped growing due to velamentous cord insertion, an issue with the placenta, and due to that and her breech presentation, she was born via emergency C-section at 37 weeks and 5 days. Melissa started breastfeeding her right away at the hospital. While Viviana had a good latch, she became cyanotic, or lacked oxygen, when she was nursed.

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Viviana
Viviana

A swallow study determined that Viviana had a tracheoesophageal fistula, an abnormal connection between the windpipe and esophagus. She was emergency flown to Nicklaus Children’s Hospital and at just 5 days old, she underwent surgery to remove the fistula.

“I knew I wanted to breastfeed her, so I pumped around the clock while she was in the NICU to make sure that I maintained my supply,” Melissa said.

After a successful surgery and two weeks in the NICU, Viviana finally went home. Melissa immediately resumed breastfeeding and says it’s done wonders for her daughter, who is now 6 months old. “I attribute her rapid recovery to the power of breastmilk and lots of love,” she said.

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Viviana
Viviana

Donating breastmilk is Melissa’s way of helping others who start out with complications like Viviana did. To her, donating is “giving another baby the opportunity for improved health status, mental function and recovery in situations with early adversity.

“I’m a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, and I would have never appreciated how difficult it can be to be a parent without this experience,” Melissa said. “Life is full of risk and having a child makes you so acutely aware of everything that can go wrong. It has not been an easy road, but having faith in the power of love and the evidence base for breastfeeding and breastmilk has been a beacon of light providing direction and hope that we are doing the right thing.”

For more information about becoming a milk donor, click here.

Keilah's Breastfeeding Journey

marayTue, 02/14/2017 - 8:57 pm
Keilah and Jace
Keilah and Jace

Keilah first became familiar with donor milk after giving birth to her son, Jace. After being born at 36 weeks, he briefly received milk from Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. Once she established a supply, Keilah calculated how much milk Jace took in a week versus how much she was producing.

“I quickly realized that storing up months and months of milk would take so much freezer space,” she said. “There is no way we could keep it all.”

That’s when Keilah decided to become a milk donor herself.

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Keilah's freezer full of milk
Keilah's freezer full of milk

In the two months since she became a donor, Keilah has donated more than 1,700 ounces. She is able to drop off her milk directly to MMBNT during her lunch break at work, but if she needs to clear some space in her freezer on the weekend, she heads to her nearest depot.

“We’ve loved being able to share our milk,” Keilah said. “What a blessing it is to have something like this in Fort Worth!”

While Keilah helps others with her milk donations, she also has helpful insight when it comes to breastfeeding, pumping and finding a rhythm that works for both mom and baby. First and foremost, she emphasizes the importance of being flexible and patient.

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Jace
Jace

She and Jace worked through latch issues for about 12 weeks, which involved lots of practice, trying a nipple shield and feeding him bottles of breastmilk as needed. Bottled breastmilk ended up having its own benefits – it eased the transition when Keilah started working again and Jace had to take a bottle, and it also allowed for special bonding time between Jace and his dad, as well as other family members who could feed him.

Additionally, Keilah recommends taking advice from many sources to determine the best method for you. Lactation consultants, doctors, and friends and family with breastfeeding experience all have valuable information that can help a mom along her breastfeeding journey.

“There is more than one approach to feeding your baby, and every mom, baby and family are different,” Keilah said.

For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

Giving Back After Her Twins' Early Start

marayMon, 02/06/2017 - 3:04 pm
Victoria's family in the hospital
The family during their time in the hospital

James and Victoria’s twin daughters, Caroline and Elizabeth, made their debut at 30 weeks. The girls had twin to twin transfusion syndrome, which had not been detected in an ultrasound, so their premature arrival was a blessing in disguise. “They were safer in the NICU’s hands than in the womb at that point,” Victoria said.

Caroline and Elizabeth received donor milk from Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas for about a week until Victoria had a sufficient supply. Her supply turned into a surplus, as her milk filled up the family’s multiple freezers. Despite the space issue, she had to keep pumping in order to maintain her supply for when the twins were released from the NICU.

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Victoria's milk in the depot freezer
Victoria's milk in the depot freezer

With more than enough milk to spare, Victoria contacted MMBNT about becoming a donor. After completing the donor screening process, she started taking donations to her nearest depot, Texas Health Harris Southwest. She’s been able to drop off directly at MMBNT as well, giving her the chance to see milk processing in action.

Victoria enjoys being able to give back to others through the unique way of milk donation. “It is a gift I have been given and my calling is to spread the wealth,” she said.

However, breastfeeding has been a team effort for the family. Victoria remembers when Caroline and Elizabeth were in the NICU, and how she and James felt helpless. They felt like the only thing they could control was milk production – Victoria pumped, while James cleaned pump parts, supplied her with food and water while she pumped, and offered emotional support through the tough times.

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Caroline and Elizabeth
Caroline and Elizabeth at 5 months old

“Without his support and the support of the rest of my family, I would have never been able to succeed at breastfeeding,” Victoria said.

Today, Caroline and Elizabeth are 6 months old, enjoying life at home with mom and dad, and Victoria has donated nearly 1,000 ounces of milk so far. She is happy to share her liquid gold with those who need it, just like other moms did for her daughters.

For more information about becoming a donor, click here.

A Chance to Help Other Babies

marayMon, 02/06/2017 - 2:27 pm
Allison's family
Allison's family

Being active in the community is important to the staff at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. It helps people learn about the MMBNT mission, and moms who are over-producing breastmilk can discover the life-saving power of their extra liquid gold.

In fact, a community connection is how Allison found the milk bank. As a member of the Junior League of Fort Worth, she learned about MMBNT through the League’s program that assigns members to local volunteer projects.

While Allison was not assigned to an MMBNT project, she still became familiar with milk donation and milk banking. She produced extra breastmilk after giving birth to her son Alexander and decided to donate.

“I had a surplus with my first son, William, but regretted not donating,” Allison said. “So, I decided I would this time!”

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Allison's rows of milk in her freezer
Allison's freezer rows

The donation process has been a convenient one for Allison. William attends preschool near MMBNT, so she is able to stop by with her donations while she is already in the area. Keeping her freezer stash organized and following a routine improves the experience as well.

Allison attributes her strong supply to pumping right after her nursing sessions. She freezes the pumped milk flat in storage bags, then once the bags are frozen, she stands them upright and stores them in rows in the freezer. When all the milk space in her freezer is full, she takes one to two rows to donate. While it did take some time to adjust to a nursing and pumping schedule, she says it was well worth having a full freezer.

“I love knowing I’m helping babies in need,” Allison said.

For more information about becoming a milk donor, click here.