Jessica’s story is much like mine. She delivered a premature baby and luckily was able to breastfeed her baby but that isn’t always the case. While still breastfeeding, Jessica became a human milk donor to help other premature babies. Here is her story and some information on how you can help!
Jessica was excited about her pregnancy but became worried when complications developed. She had to undergo cerclage (a stitch in her cervix) at 22 weeks gestation. Things began to look brighter, but at 26 weeks her water broke and she had a caesarean section. Aria was born 14 weeks early weighing 2 pounds 8 ounces. Jessica got a quick glimpse of her over the operating room curtains before she was taken to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) with dad, Darren.
Jessica didn’t have the time to decide whether she wanted to breastfeed or not. She knew that premature babies benefitted from human milk and wanted the best for Aria. A pump was brought to her and a nurse showed her how to use it. Jessica was pleased to learn that she soon had lots of milk!
After being discharged from hospital herself, Jessica spent each day visiting Aria in the NICU. They would breastfeed and she would pump. She also pumped at home. Jessica produced more than enough milk to meet Aria’s needs. In fact, Aria was growing so well on her mom’s milk, that she was taken off extra fortifying nutrients.
At that time Jessica thought that all moms could breastfeed and all moms could produce enough milk for their babies.
However, she soon learned that some NICU mothers struggled with their milk supply. She saw moms taking medicines and herbal products and trying to pump but with frustrating results. Those mothers wished their premature babies could also benefit from human milk. Her heart broke for them.
Jessica learned about donating human milk when she saw pamphlets in the hospital pumping room. She went to the BC Women’s Milk Bank website to learn about the milk banking process and to learn about babies who got pasteurized donor human milk. Jessica knew she could help babies like these.
She became a donor after passing a simple interview and getting some blood work done.
In total, Jessica donated over 400 ounces (12 Litres) of human milk to the BC Women’s Provincial Milk Bank. Looking back, Jessica feels she made a difference by donating her milk. She knows that it helped tiny babies like Aria and others she had seen during their 100-day stay in the NICU.
Aria continued to get her mother’s milk until 15 months of age and is now a busy, happy, healthy toddler who is growing and developing well (she weighs 29 pounds!)
Fraser Health supports providing donor human milk to premature, fragile babies. Human Milk Dispensaries are being opened at the NICUs in Royal Columbian Hospital and Surrey Memorial Hospital where the tiniest babies get care. Fraser Health has also opened thirteen Milk Collection Depots at health units across Fraser Health to make it easier for women (who have been screened) to donate. For information on milk donation please go to www.bcwomensmilkbank.ca/.<