stories, photos

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.

Recipient Mom Returns the Favor, Becomes a Donor

marayMon, 01/09/2017 - 2:55 pm Recipient Mom Returns the Favor
Oliver in the NICU
Oliver in the NICU

Angela knows firsthand how important donor milk can be. After a “normal and healthy” pregnancy, her water broke six weeks early and her son Oliver was born at 34 weeks. His premature arrival had him whisked away to the NICU shortly after birth.

Oliver received donor milk while in the NICU as his first source of nourishment while Angela worked to establish her own milk production. He was able to go home after 11 days, and she was able establish a supply. In fact, Angela began to produce more breastmilk than Oliver needed. The NICU nurses informed her that she could donate her excess breastmilk to Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas.

“A donor fed my preemie when I couldn’t,” Angela said. “I wanted to be that person for a baby in need.”

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Angela with Oliver
Angela and Oliver

Angela started the process to become a donor in November, and has already dropped off one donation. As she sets aside more for her next donation, she’s also perfecting her breastfeeding and pumping technique. She began with a very strict routine, feeding and pumping every three hours, but has become more baby-led as Oliver has gotten older.

“With preemies, you have to follow a 2.5 to 3 hour feeding schedule as you don’t have that flexibility at first, but as your baby grows to full term, they instinctively adapt their own eating habits,” she said.

For preemie parents who are breastfeeding like her, Angela encourages them to stay strong. “It does get easier and it’s totally worthwhile,” she said.

Today, Oliver is a happy, healthy 7 month old who is thriving after his premature start. Angela is thankful for the moms who made it possible for Oliver to receive donor milk, and is happy to do the same for others in need.

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

The Basics of Being a Donor

marayWed, 12/07/2016 - 7:43 pm
Donor mom Shanita and MMBNT staff Courtney
Donor mom, Shanita (left) and Program Assistant, Courtney (right).

Milk donors are at the core of Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, selflessly giving their excess breastmilk to babies in need. Moms become donors for a variety of reasons; some are former NICU parents who want to help babies like their own; some have lost their babies and continue to pump breastmilk to donate in memory of their children; others are overproducers and want to do good in the community.

When a mom wants to become a donor, she starts the screening process by completing a phone interview with an MMBNT donor coordinator. This interview covers health information for both mom and baby, and determines donor eligibility. Then, she fills out a detailed medical history form. The final step in the screening process is to complete a blood draw, which MMBNT pays for. The blood draw screens for several conditions, including HIV and Hepatitis B and C.

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Huguley Hospital depot
Staff at Texas Health Huguley with donations from their depot.

Once all the screening steps are complete, a donor mom can be approved. While MMBNT is located in Fort Worth, Texas, donors come from all over. The geographic diversity of donors is similar to that of the hospitals and outpatients served, and MMBNT strives to create a convenient experience no matter where donors live.

Donor moms who live in or near Fort Worth often drop off their donations in person, directly to MMBNT. Staff love to meet donors and show them around the office, including the lab, where donors can see processing and pasteurization as it happens.

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Donor milk shipped to MMBNT
Donor milk shipped to MMBNT.

If MMBNT is not a convenient location, there are more than 40 collection sites, known as depots, where moms can drop off their donations. These include hospitals, WIC clinics, and other sites equipped to safely store milk donations until they can be picked up. Most depots are in Texas, but there are also locations in Arkansas, Florida and Georgia.

While most donors utilize one of these two options, there are still some who don’t have a depot near them. For these moms, the donor coordinators will send them materials to safely ship their milk to MMBNT overnight.

Milk donors are the heroes of the milk bank. At MMBNT, we are so thankful for their dedication to the mission of helping critically ill infants. If you are interested in becoming a donor, click here.

Going the Distance for Milk Donation

marayMon, 11/28/2016 - 7:14 pm
Kristin and Tommy
Kristin and Tommy

For Kristin, the journey of motherhood has included both joy and sadness along the way. Her first child, Tommy, was born just before her own 18th birthday, and from that moment she knew she was always meant to be a mom. With Kristin’s husband Curtis in the Navy, the family moved along the East coast as they grew. They welcomed two more sons, Derrick and Teddy, before settling in South Carolina.

Soon after moving to South Carolina, Kristin learned she was pregnant. However, the pregnancy ended at 18 weeks after the baby, their fourth son, entangled himself in his cord. For Kristin, that was her rock bottom. Four years later, the family welcomed a rainbow baby, Joelle. Kristin calls being pregnant after a loss “a harrowing affair”.

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Curtis, Teddy, and Derrick
Curtis, Teddy, and Derrick

“You have such a hard time not comparing and trying to find joy in something that you are so afraid is going to end in heartbreak,” she said.

Today, Joelle is a happy, healthy 17 month old. As Kristin started pumping and storing milk for her, she realized she had more than enough to feed Joelle and began to research milk donation. One of her friends, a NICU nurse, guided Kristin toward Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. Despite living beyond the borders of the Lone Star State, she found the right fit with MMBNT. MMBNT’s donor coordinators send her all the materials she needs to safely ship her milk overnight.

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Joelle
Joelle

Kristin sees milk donation as a duty. “If I have milk and someone else needs it, and all it causes me is a little time management, then it would be selfish of me not to share,” she said.

When it comes to advice, Kristin recommends freezing milk bags flat in order to maximize storage space. Additionally, she encourages moms to stick to a pumping schedule, which helped her regulate her own supply. Regardless of the method, though, milk that is pumped for donation will be a gift to a baby in need.

“It’s heartwarming to know that something I have an abundance of means the world to someone else,” Kristin said.

To learn more about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.

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Robyn's Repeat Donation

marayTue, 11/22/2016 - 7:37 pm
Quinn and Elliott
Quinn (left) and Elliott (right)

For Robyn, milk donation has become a part of her regular routine. She stepped into her role as a milk donor after her daughter, Elliott, was born and she produced more milk than Elliott needed. Though some suggested she sell her milk, Robyn was moved by the idea of donating to a nonprofit milk bank and found Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas through online research.

“To me, there’s something special about knowing that it’s being used by babies who specifically depend on breastmilk and don’t have other options,” Robyn said.

Robyn’s milk supply quickly took over her family’s freezer space, to the point that she purchased a deep freezer exclusively for milk storage. She donated 100 ounces for every month that Elliott nursed. After nine months, Robyn got pregnant again and her production decreased. With the birth of her son Quinn and the return of her supply, she decided to become a donor for the second time.

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Milk from one pumping session
Robyn's milk from one pumping session.

There is a method to Robyn’s pumping, storing and donating system. Much of her pumping is done at work, where she’s created a setup to make it as convenient as possible. She stores a baseline amount of milk at home for daycare and traveling, and once she’s built up her supply over that amount, she drops her donations off at the depot near her office.

As a second-time breastfeeder, Robyn is taking advantage of the opportunity to improve her organization. She tries to make sure every milk bag or bottle is either 10 ounces or is equal to one serving for her son to make it easier to count, and to ensure that milk isn’t being wasted when thawed. While this makes feeding her son easier, it also is an efficient way to keep track of the amount she’s donating.

Being a donor mom is a meaningful experience for Robyn, and it’s a selfless act that helps so many in both North Texas and beyond. “It’s a really incredible feeling to know that I’m helping babies survive,” she said.

For more information about becoming a donor, click here.

Celebrating a Little Warrior on World Prematurity Day

marayTue, 11/15/2016 - 8:47 pm Liam in the NICU
Liam in the NICU
Liam in the NICU

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:

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Liam in the NICU
Liam in the NICU

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.

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Liam family collage
Liam with mom, Cereena and dad, Austin

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.

Desire's Donor Story

marayTue, 11/08/2016 - 2:47 pm
Desire's family
Desire, Julian and Julian Jr.

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.

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Desire and Julian
Desire and Julian

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.

Second Time's a Charm for This Donor Mom

marayFri, 10/07/2016 - 1:56 pm
Alli and Sadie
Alli (left) and Sadie

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.

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Katie and Kevin
Katie and her husband, Kevin.

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.

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Sadie and Alli
Sadie (left) and Alli

“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.

Donor Milk: A Golden Opportunity for Preterm Babies

marayWed, 09/28/2016 - 6:55 pm
Baby in NICU

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.”

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Pasteurization of donor milk
Donor milk is pasteurized before being sent to hospitals.

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.

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Jennifer and Micah
Jennifer and Micah

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.

Baby Abigail's Lasting Legacy

marayTue, 07/12/2016 - 2:50 pm
Amanda and Allen announcing their pregnancy

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.

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Amanda holding Abigail's foot

“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.

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Donated bags of milk

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