Trigger Warning: This story contains mention of miscarriage that may be triggering to some.
“Becoming a mother was something I had dreamed about since I was a very young child. When people would ask me what I wanted to be when I got older, it was always I wanted to be a mom. I also knew breastfeeding was something I wanted to do. I was determined to give that to my children and was sure it was going to be the most beautiful, magical thing I have ever done.
My journey as a mother started around 6 and a half years ago. My husband and I had been trying for almost a year to get pregnant and finally got the positive test we had been hoping for! The pregnancy began without any issues. I was 25, healthy, in good shape, and beyond joyful to be having this experience I always dreamed of.
At 29 weeks, things quickly changed. I started having contractions and when we got to the hospital, we found out I had a bacterial infection that had spread to my uterus. My body decided it needed to save our sweet baby and I went into preterm labor. Thankfully, the doctors were able to stop my labor and I was sent home on Procardia, a medicine to help control and stop contractions. Over the next 6 weeks, I would periodically start having contractions, take the meds, and continue on bedrest.
Week 35 and one day came and so did our first son. Once we got to the hospital, there was no stopping my labor. A few hours in, we found out I had Strep B, a bacterium in the vagina that comes and goes that can be harmful to babies. I only managed to get one dose of antibiotics before I gave birth, which caused our son to be born with an infection. In addition, he started having issues breathing within a few minutes of birth. I only saw my son for a few short moments before he was rushed to the NICU without me. Thankfully, his father was able to go with him while the doctors treated me for some unexpected bleeding. The emotions I felt in these moments cannot be explained with words. I had a son and all I wanted was to hold him in my arms.
We quickly got a call he needed to breastfeed because his sugar levels were low and this is where my journey officially starts. I started pumping within 3 hours of birth because my son had tongue ties and he had a hard time transferring from the breast. In the NICU, I would breastfeed, bottle feed, tube feed, and then pump every 3 hours. We started donor milk on day two from the Mothers’ Milk Bank, which I was so thankful for. My colostrum came in very quickly and in large amounts and we were able to quickly stop using donor milk on day four. Once my milk came in, there was no doubt I had enough to donate. I can remember the nurses saying I was making enough milk to feed every baby in the NICU!
I was in such a haze of newborn life and living in a hospital I truly didn’t realize how little sleep I was getting. Every 3 hours, I would wake up, change my son, breastfeed 10 minutes per side, burp, try a bottle, and then feed him my milk through an NG tube while holding him over a 30-minute period. Then I would pump, clean my pump parts, get my milk put away, and try to get about 45 minutes of sleep before doing it all over again. My milk came in fully on day 8 at our 2:00 a.m. feed, that pump I got 18 ounces. By day 14, I was pumping between 12 to 16 ounces every 3 hours and was on the road to my first case of mastitis.
Mastitis is an infection in the milk ducts from milk not being removed or clogs of fat developing and getting infected. My temperature quickly skyrocketed to 105 degrees and my breast was so painful I was in tears. I quickly got on antibiotics and got it under control within a few days. We got discharged from the NICU the next day, which was one of the best days of our lives! We finally got to take our son home.
Life at home with a newborn was an adjustment, but my milk supply was something I was not at all prepared for. Little did I know, having a massive oversupply meant a whole lot more than having a lot of milk. It meant pumping all hours of the day and night. It meant just about drowning my newborn with my let-downs and leaking all of the time. It meant mastitis and painful clogs weekly. 3 weeks out of the NICU, I had well over 800 ounces of milk saved up in my freezer. I started periodically donating privately to mothers I found on a breastfeeding support website from my state. I knew the power of breast milk and how important it was to other families because of how important it was to me those first few days we needed help. I had this incredible gift to help other families and I was happy to do so.
Almost a year after my first was born, I made my first donation to the Mothers’ Milk Bank. I vividly remember driving there with him and a huge cooler full of milk, sobbing. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude, like the universe was aligning with me as I donated my milk to the same NICU that saved our son. I got to see my favorite nurses, they all loved my son and his big blue eyes. Then, we all hugged as they told me I was doing an amazing thing and helping so many babies that truly needed it. It was a beautiful moment I will never forget.
Over the next 2 years, I donated around 3,000 ounces privately to mothers with low supply, babies with dairy protein allergies, or even to babies who had lost their mothers. I also donated to a couple of friends and even started pumping again after weaning from the pump to donate to a friend and her new baby. At that time, I had gotten my supply under control enough I would only pump 10 to 13 ounces in a whole day, which I was happy with. It was just enough to help keep her baby on breast milk but under control enough for me to not have to suffer from clogs and mastitis.
I then got pregnant with our second. We sadly miscarried which ended with a D&C at 12 weeks. After that, I continued breastfeeding but quickly put away my pump. Just 3 weeks later, we were pregnant with our third. I breastfed through my entire pregnancy, high risk and all, with the support of my doctors. I even nursed through my labor and tandem fed both my sons just minutes after giving birth – another beautiful moment of this journey I will remember forever.
As expected, my milk came back in full force. This time, I decided I wouldn’t touch an electric pump until 6 weeks. I had set a goal for myself to donate 10,000 ounces before stopping. I was stubborn and dedicated to seeing this through, no matter how difficult. I used a Haakaa, a silicone milk catcher, for those first 6 weeks, in addition to feeding my almost 3-year-old and newborn. I would get between 40 and 50 ounces a day with just the Haakaa while nursing two! My second son had some of the same issues as my first: oral ties, food allergies, and reflux. We ended up needing to get his tongue and lip ties lasered and started feeding therapy. When we got into feeding therapy, I started having to pump at least one let down off before I could feed him to make sure he was getting fattier milk to help him gain weight. I would use a hand pump and pump close to 4 ounces off in about 3 minutes. Once we got the ties fixed and feeding better, it all worked itself out and breastfeeding went off without another hitch.
With having such an enormous supply, came mastitis again. As well as milk blebs, and countless clogs. Thankfully, this time around I knew what helped me most and what didn’t. I started taking sunflower lecithin daily to help prevent clogs and mastitis. Even with that, I got mastitis a total of ten times. Yup, I said it, TEN times! Each time was just as bad as the last. Painful breasts, red, hot to the touch, fever spikes to 105 degrees, and more pumping to try and get the infection out. But each time, I got a little quicker at picking up on the signs and getting ahead of the infection. Even though at times I felt like I was dying, I pushed through because I knew my milk was helping to save babies’ lives and helping so many mamas that wanted breast milk for their babies.
I was approved to donate to the Mothers’ Milk Bank but I still donated privately as well for that first year after my second son was born. I tried to donate half and half. With my second having so many food allergies, I needed to take eight food items out of my diet. This made my milk highly desirable to moms with babies who had the same allergies as my son. Every time a new mom would come and pick up breast milk and I got to meet their sweet baby that was going to have my breast milk, it brought a new type of joy to my life. These moments of joy helped so much because I had been suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety pretty severely after my second. I struggled day-to-day keeping my head above water but knowing I was doing something so important, to so many, helped me hang on just a little bit more each day.
I slowly started weaning from the pump after my second son turned one. By the end, I would pump one time a day, 10 minutes or 10 ounces, whichever came first. On New Year’s Eve 2019 I hit 10,000 ounces donated! When I added it up and realized I hit my goal, I sobbed. I was filled with so many emotions. It had been such a long road and so many hours of time to help these precious babies. I have donated privately to more families than I can count on my hands and I will never know the exact number of premature or sick babies that got my milk from the Mothers’ Milk Bank in the NICU or PICU, but it is something to this day I thank the universe for! I called and celebrated over the phone with my parents. I celebrated with my husband and children about this huge milestone in my breastfeeding and pumping journey. On that day, so much love poured in. Mothers I had donated to write about how much it helped and meant to them their babies received my milk, it is a day I will never ever forget.
Since that day, I have continued breastfeeding and plan to self-wean both of my children. I have donated a handful of times to close friends who have struggled with breastfeeding but am now dedicated to inspiring and supporting others with my story.
To any moms who feel like they are struggling, just know you are doing amazing! Breastfeeding may be natural, but that absolutely does not mean it is easy. There have been so many times I hear from a mom with a low supply she just wishes she could have been like me. I have to remind them I suffered as well, just in a different way. I was sick a lot with clogs and excruciating bouts of mastitis. I couldn’t go more than 2 hours without nursing or pumping without being in pain and leaking through everything. My sons had a hard time gaining weight and being able to efficiently breastfeed because of my supply being so large. We all struggle at points in our journey, just in different ways. No matter what end of the spectrum we land on, we should always be here to support one another. Reach out for help from IBCLCs and educate yourself. Most doctors and pediatricians are not trained in lactation, so finding a lactation specialist is imperative for success.
I have had an incredible journey and it is still not over but, I am happy to have my pump packed up for now and only break it out for family or friends who need a bit of help. Every sleepless night, every hour pumped, every bout of mastitis and clog, has been so worth it to share such a magical gift to those in need. I have been incredibly blessed to have been able to donate my breast milk to babies in need and I will never take that for granted.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Delany Me of Colorado, USA. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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