"I did want to share a sweet story with ya'll. I just had an employee of the hospital drop off milk. She was a surrogate and delivered a baby in April. She has been pumping since April just to donate milk."
- Elaina H.
I have always wanted to breastfeed. Before I started my nursing career and was aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, I knew I wanted to do it. I have always been in awe of the fact that mothers can give their infants food, and that this food is enough to sustain their rapid growth in the first months of life. So when I found out I was having twins, I knew I would breastfeed, and I had it all planned out. I was going to exclusively breastfeed, preferably tandem feed (where a mother feeds both babies at the same time), and that was that. What I didn’t expect was to deliver at 25 and 2/7 weeks gestation with absolutely no warning, but that is what happened.
I was in shock. For the first 10 days of my two baby girls’ lives, I walked around in a blind stupor. I can’t remember how many times I thought to myself, “This can’t be happening. Not to me. Not to someone who has had a textbook normal pregnancy so far. And not to a neonatal nurse practitioner, not to someone who knows everything that can go wrong at every turn.” But it was happening, and there was no way around it, except to face it head on.
I knew my daughters would have to be fed through a feeding tube for a very long time due to their prematurity, and I knew I had to do everything in my power to ensure their survival. Unfortunately, the only two things I could do were to visit daily and to pump breast milk; so that is was I did. I began pumping when they were 2 hours old, and I am still pumping now that they are eight months old.
I prepared myself for the fact that I might not have an adequate milk supply for two babies. After all, I wasn’t supposed to be doing this for another three months. Plus, only NICU parents know how stressful it is to have a baby in the NICU. Even though I have been a NICU nurse practitioner for 9 years, I was not able to fathom the amount of stress until now. But I was comforted by the fact that our NICU had a donor breast milk program, and as long as I was trying to pump, the girls could receive this donor milk if my supply fell short. I was blessed with a huge milk supply, so we never did use donor milk. However, it was such a comfort to know that it was always there if I needed it.
My message to moms of NICU babies is this: please plan to pump and give your baby breast milk. It is the best medicine you can give them. It is a huge investment of time and is often tedious and inconvenient, but it is such a gift to that fragile little baby lying in an isolette. It is an investment with infinitely positive returns. And to breast milk donors, your gift of unused milk is truly selfless. It reduces infections while in the hospital, and in the long term reduces the rate of hospital readmissions for premature infants, SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), ear infections, and asthma. You are helping to give a tiny, fragile, resilient infant the best chance of survival by giving your own or your donated breast milk.