Monday, January 7, 2013

A Milk Donor

It has been no secret that baby Aiden Smith had a significant impact on me during his short life. If you're new to this blog or somehow missed the bajillion posts about him, you can read about his life and his battle with pertussis here and here. My love for this child did not end with his passing; instead, I have carried him with me in the forefront of my heart for the past six months. What I am finding in time is similar to what all kinds of people no doubt experience in the grief cycle, which is an eventual turning from inwardly-focused sorrow to an outwardly-focused promotion of legacy. This baby will not be forgotten by his friends and family, and he won't be forgotten by me either. In a sort of meandering search for ways in which to honor Aiden, I stumbled across an opportunity posted by my friend Keri on Facebook: the Oklahoma Mothers' Milk Bank. 

The OMMB is an organization with a mission of providing human breast milk to hospitalized critically-ill and premature babies. These particularly vulnerable little ones are often in dire need of breast milk as a means of survival, as they might be adversely impacted by other "nutritional methods" (i.e. formula). Each of these little babies is a deserving life, just like Aiden, only for many of them there is still a chance. And guess what? Much to my glee, I'm still a milk-producing mother, so I can be a donor! =)

The process of becoming a donor has been an involved one, with good reason. After all, these critically-ill babies are exposed to everything a donor has consumed. Once you pass a phone screen, in which you are asked about everything from countries in which you have lived, diseases you might have, and daily intakes of everything from coffee to herbs to prescription medicines, then you move on to the blood work (paid for by the milk bank) and the paperwork. The OMMB goes to some cost for all of this, especially the blood work, so they ask in return that you commit to a 100-ounce minimum donation of milk. Let the countdown begin!

The OMMB is a brand-new organization, and they will begin accepting milk donations (although they are certainly in need of financial donations currently) within the next couple of months. In the meantime, I am supposed to be dropping off my milk donations to the OU Health Sciences Center, where it is being pasteurized and then carefully shipped to the North Texas Milk Bank in the Dallas area. Not to worry, though: Oklahoma babies in need of milk draw from the North Texas Bank, so donating to there really means my milk can serve Oklahoma babies in need as well. Once the OMMB is officially up and running, my name will be transferred to the donor list there, and my donations will stay at the OUHSC.

My contact at the North Texas Milk Bank, a kind lady named Simone, told me that the ideal donor is a lactating mother with an over-abundant supply for her young infant. I would have been the ideal candidate with Silas! He and I pumped exclusively for six months, and I had such an over-abundant supply that I had milk stashed in four different freezers. This time is different, and my body doesn't seem to respond well to the pump these days, so I draw a lot less from that. With George I have only pumped on the days that I work and have only produced exactly what he needed, and thus I have no stored supply. As I am weaning him in the coming days (he turns one on January 18th), I plan to keep up my supply with pumping, and then donating all of the collected milk to the bank. Simone said there is a need for my milk, but not for long. Apparently, a mother's milk changes to fit her baby's nutritional needs, so the milk that I produce for my 11-month-old does not have the colostrum that a newborn needs; therefore, my milk is helpful for older babies who have become critically-ill, but within just a couple of short months, my milk won't be any good to them anymore. Crazy, huh? So pump I will! I have already begun, since George is nursing less than he used to; in addition, on days that I work I will donate everything I pump to the milk bank because George isn't taking a bottle from his caregivers anymore, and his intake of formula through a sippy is highly questionable at best. Although he drinks water from a sippy with ease, he tends to reject formula and breast milk from it, so I can't waste these precious ounces on George (I only work two days a week, so it isn't like he'll starve).

I am up to 15 saved ounces as of today. BJ has set up a cool little widget on the side of the blog, so if you're interested in following the countdown, it will be available for viewing. Thanks for letting me share this on the blog! Just one little way that I can honor sweet baby Aiden.

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