Despite losing her son to stillbirth when he was born at 20 weeks gestation, an American mother pumped and donated an amazing 348 litres (92 gallons) of breast milk to milk banks for babies who could not be provided with their mother’s own milk.
Amy Anderson and her husband, Bryan had found out at 15 weeks gestation that their son, Bryson, had a lower urinary tract obstruction and spent the next month fighting for his life. They found out that Bryson died on 28 October 2010 and he was delivered two days later.
In the past eight years, Amy also lost three other pregnancies to miscarriages. After hearing Bryson’s heartbeat and actually being able to hold him, she said she felt a great connection to him, and wanted to do something to make an impact on the world.
Despite her doctor telling her to bind her breasts to stop milk production, Amy instead began pumping.
She told Today.com: “I thought to myself, OK, I have this milk. Now I need to figure out what to do with it.”
After finding out all the benefits of human milk, she started pumping regularly to donate it to milk banks. One of the things she hoped to help fight against was a condition called necrotizing enterocolitis, a painful bowel disease that causes some parts of the intestines to die and is the second leading cause of death for premature babies. Feeding premies human milk can lower the risk of this disease by 79%.
Amy said that she found pumping milk to be comforting, and looked at Bryson’s ultrasound photos as a way to unwind, be with him and work through her grief.
In the end, over 8 months, she donated 348 litres to five milk banks in the US and Canada, which resulted in more than 30,000 feedings.
Milk banks store breast milk for newborn babies whose mums can’t breastfeed them after collecting expressed milk from pre-screened mums who have a good milk supply. The collected breast milk is pasteurised before being given to babies who most need the benefits of breast milk. This includes babies who are sick, premature, unable to breastfeed or whose mums might not have enough milk.
Mums who give birth prematurely may experience a delay in her milk coming in. Or a mum with a baby who is too sick or too immature to breastfeed may not be able to express milk.
Breast milk contains hormones and disease-fighting compounds that can’t be found in formula and helps babies who are premature or ill to fight infections.
It wasn’t all smooth-sailing though. Unfortunately, Amy’s employer was not supportive of her taking regular breaks to express milk. They told her “Your baby is dead”.
She has since been campaigning in her state of Maine to update legislation that allows nursing mothers to have breaks for expressing milk to include bereaved and surrogate mothers.
Want To Donate Breast Milk?
If you’re healthy and have a good milk supply, you might be able to donate extra milk to a milk bank if you meet each bank’s criteria and successfully complete the screening process. There are currently only five breast milk banks in Australia:
- PREM bank (based at King Edward Memorial Hospital and supplying Princess Margaret Hosiptal) in Perth.
- Royal Prince Alfred neonatal intensive care unit in Sydney.
- Mercy Health Breastmilk Bank at the Mercy Hospital for Women in Melbourne
- Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital Milk Bank in Brisbane; and
- Mothers Milk Bank a private charity located at Tweed Heads NSW supplying the Brisbane Mater Children’s Hospital as well as some babies in the community.
Tasmania, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory do not have milk banks.