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Have you ever had anyone do something for you that you could never repay the favor? I have been in that predicament for the last year. I am so thankful that I can’t even express my gratitude.

My last baby, Asher, was born the end of October of 2010. One thing that I had looked forward to the most was breastfeeding my son.

My first time feeding Asher Oliver in the NICU.

Uriah, his brother, died 10 months before that. One of the most difficult aspects of his death was that I was never able to feed him. I had pumped colostrum for him, but he was never able to use it. Not only did I go through the grief of losing my son, but then I had to suffer the physical pain of “drying up.” I remember at his funeral that I was in so much pain from this I couldn’t think.

Anyway, I was truly looking forward to feeding my next baby. He was a preemie so I was not able to breastfeed him until he was a week old. I had been pumping up to that point but, as I found out later, not often enough. I should have been pumping every couple of hours. Instead, if someone came to visit I didn’t want to be rude and leave for ½ hour. So I would wait for them to leave, and then the nurses would tell me that the doctors would soon be making their rounds and I wouldn’t want to miss that so I would put it off. I had no clue this would affect my supply. After being in the hospital a week we headed home. He was nursing very well. I was so excited.

After being home a couple of days I could tell he wasn’t getting enough. He wanted to nurse all the time. He wouldn’t even wait 15 minutes between feeds. If I tried to express my milk there was none. I had nursed my first son 11 years prior. He had also ALWAYS been hungry so I supplemented with formula. I also worked full time back then with quite a bit of overtime. I was too nervous to take my pump to work (State Prison) so I would just wait until I got home to try to pump. Every time I tried to pump I couldn’t get a drop. Even after working 16 hours straight I would get nothing. He still loved to nurse, but I honestly don’t believe he ever got much of mommy’s milk. When he was 4 months old I gave up.

So here I was 11 years later with a bit more knowledge of the importance of nursing. Asher LOVED to eat, but was eating practically around the clock. At 2 weeks of age he went in for his first doctor’s visit. He had not gained an ounce. I knew then that we had a problem. My hubby and I had done quite a bit of reading on how bad formula can be for a baby. I felt absolutely awful. Why couldn’t I feed my baby? I read all of the books, websites, and talked to multiple lactation consultants. No matter what I did I couldn’t build my supply. I even tried a prescription…to no avail.

When we left the NICU he weighed 5#. A week later he still weighed 5#.

I had heard some staff members at the hospital talking about donated milk. I can only imagine the look on my face when I overheard this. Seriously? People actually use other moms’ milk? The thought of this totally grossed me out. After getting home from the doctor’s office that day I decided to do a bit more research on this. There was a local milk bank, but they charged $9 an ounce. Eek! I found a lady on Facebook from Canada, Emma Kwasnica, who had started a type of “Meals on Wheels” for babies. It was actually called “Eats on Feets” at the time. There was so much wonderful information on this site and I seriously started considering it. My hubby and I ended up calling Emma in Canada…a rather expensive phone call, by the way. She was crazy helpful. She not only explained the benefits of the milk, but the benefits of continuing to breastfeed. So Jesse went out and bought us a supplemental nursing system (SNS). The SNS ended up bringing me to tears so many times that I gave up after a few weeks. It was so funny…there is a breastfeeding center at our local hospital. I called them in tears over the SNS once and they had me come in. Of course, for that feeding Asher latched on EVERY single time without a single solitary problem. I went home all excited. Started the next feeding and he refused….yet again.

I immediately hooked up with two wonderful milk mommies. I sit here crying at my computer just thinking about what they sacrificed to feed my son. We have had over 15 milk mommies who donated. Some moms lived so close we were able to use the milk before it was frozen. Some moms I couldn’t get a ton of info on so we would pasteurize their milk. I remember getting up in the night to pasteurize milk. Yes, I would much rather just have rolled over and nursed my son, but sometimes we don’t always get what we want. Instead I would nurse him for a total of 40 minutes and then pasteurize and then feed him his bottle. This was every 2 hours around the clock for many, many weeks.

He burped like a pro. His brother was so proud!

At his following appointments he was always in the 50th percentile for weight.

My son was able to use, almost exclusively, breast milk for the first 14 months of life. To me that is an absolute miracle. He has tons of antibodies he would have never gotten. He has tasted a variety of foods. By the way the old wives tale of babies not being able to tolerate certain foods was totally proven false to me through this experience. He never once had a single tummy ache from someone’s milk. He’s been protected from illnesses, infections, allergies, obesity, and so much more. We have traveled all over Michigan, and even Indiana to get milk. We even received milk from a lady from California, when she visited family in Michigan.

Here I am all these months later not having a clue how to thank these moms. Not only did they sit and feed their own babies, but they also sat and pumped for mine. Can you even imagine the amount of time this took? Every single one of these ladies was a stranger, except for one. They didn’t know me or my baby from Adam. Yet, they were willing to bring nourishment and love to my son. Isn’t that amazing?

I’m praying with all my heart that I will be able to feed my own baby next time, but if not I’ll know what to do. Thank you milk mommies for your sacrifice, your empathy, and mostly for loving my son!

A couple of my awesome milk moms.


Faux Hammer said...

I'm bawling Hannah. I'm so so honored to have been able to help feed Asher. Thank YOU for trusting me with your little darling. Love to you and Asher and your sweet family!

Lindsey said...

Asher is such a cutie pie! Your story is amazing! As a milk recipient myself, I know what it's like to be in such awe of other women wanting to help feed your baby. The love those women have is immeasurable. We are so blessed! Thank you for sharing!

dinnae said...

AWESOME! Love your story. :) And your little man is too cute too!

Love{&}Bugs said...

Asher is an absolute doll. I enjoyed reading your story. I donate milk to two babies and I feel so blessed to do so. It's nice to hear the other side of the story too :-) I am very thankful for Eats on Feets.

Rachel said...

What a great story. It certainly is a learning experience, isn't it?

mamajudy said...

Very beautifully written! I have also witnessed the Miracles of donating 'pumpin' mama's'....with the little girl that was in our care. We have lost track of how many 'mama's' that have shared their love (and bmilk) with Jayden....somewhere over 200!! I swear, the breast milk nurishment is only part of what they have shared. I believe Jayden is filled with love, compassion and whole-hearted 'goodness' from all of her other mothers! God Bless them all!