Coming Full Circle: Why I Donate My Breast Milk To Help NICU Babies At Texas Children’s
My son's story begins on the night of Dec. 8, 2011. Long story short, my husband and I were eating dinner at home at 9:40 p.m. and by 10:45 p.m. my water had broken. I went from mild pain to full contractions 1 minute apart within an hour. I had no issues at all during my pregnancy, but my placenta ruptured. I was eating right, pretty much on target with weight gain, working out 3 times per week and I was taking prenatal multivitamins. This was the scariest thing to ever happen to me. I was in labor… too early. My husband drove us to the hospital and that is what saved us both. He is my love and my hero. Carleton D. Smith III was born on Dec. 9, 2011 at 12:40 a.m. at St. Luke's Hospital. He was our preemie miracle at 3 lbs 1 oz. He was jaundiced, intubated and wired up with IVs and a feeding tube. I went to see him in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Texas Children’s Newborn Center about 18 hours after he was born. Only one of us could hold him for a few minutes before he had to be put back under the bilirubin lights, which we called the "NICU Beach". That is the name my husband coined for the UV lights and eye mask our son had to wear. He remained under those lights for 2 weeks and had his CPAP removed then as well. He still remained in the isolette for another 4 weeks until he was able to regulate his body temperature on his own, but most of his "jewelry" (i.e. IVs) was removed except for his feeding tube. This is where the milk journey begins... I let my nurses know as soon as I woke up following my surgery that I wanted to breastfeed. The lactation consultants and all the employees at the Texas Children’s Mothers’ Milk Bank are FANTASTIC! They gave me everything I needed to get started to pump for our little miracle baby since he would not be able to nurse for a while. I started pumping on Dec. 10. I was getting enough drops to barely fill a 5 cc syringe. I would pump and my husband would use the syringe to collect the drops. During this time, my son received donor breast milk from generous donors. After a day of this, I talked to a lactation consultant again about what I could do to produce more milk. She told me that in addition to pumping every 2-3 hours that I needed to have skin-to-skin contact with our son. That night, I went to the NICU and I was able to hold my son for an hour. When I went back to my room to pump, I pumped 30 oz! After that, I was pumping 6-8 times per day and getting 50-60 oz. I attempted to breastfeed our son for the first time on Jan. 19, 2012. He still had the feeding tube, but the lactation consultants and NICU nurses told me that trying to nurse him would teach him that I am "comfort and food." After 76 days in the NICU, our son was discharged on Feb. 15, 2012 with nothing attached to him except for a smile! I will admit, nursing was a 4-month struggle, but I was not going to give up. We had to use nipple shields for months. One day, he finally latched and it did not hurt. Success! When our son left the NICU, I still had 160 4 oz bottles at the Texas Children’s Mothers’ Milk Bank. We have a deep freezer at home that is full of milk. Donating my breast milk to help babies at Texas Children’s is something that I am happy to do. I know that my milk will help other NICU preemies who need it. I now pump just 3 times a day during the week (still getting 25-35 oz per day) when I go to work and I nurse when I am home on the weekends. Working full time and breastfeeding can be accomplished, but you have to have a plan and be determined to do it. A few tips for things that work for me and keep me on track:
- Drink A LOT of water — at least 12-16 glasses a day. This has impacted my milk production quite a bit.
- Eat when you are hungry. If you don't eat enough you will produce less milk.
- When going back to work, make sure you know how many times you will need to pump and how long. This will make it easier for your job to accommodate you.
- Add your pumps to your schedule at work so that no one will schedule a meeting during the time that you pump.
- Stay calm and enjoy your baby. If you get cranky or upset, your baby will too and your milk can recede like ocean waves.
Our son is now 8 months old and we are still nursing. My husband is my rock and without his help breastfeeding would not have been possible. My birth did not go as planned, but God’s plan is always greater than ours. The reward of having my son smile at me and my husband stroke my hair while nursing makes the experience worth it.