26 Sept 2012

Getting Through Thrush With a Milk Donor's Help

I love this story by blogger Michelle Bowman. Her up-front and entertaining piece highlights a common nursing problem and shows us how the gift of donor milk enabled her to overcome it and breastfeed successfully. Like many recipients, Michelle didn't need all that much milk in order to get her own supply back on track. However, the relatively small donations made an enormous difference to her nursing relationship with her baby.

Mom and baby sharing a happy moment next to a flowering bush.
Sharing a happy moment after getting through very difficult times.
A month or so after I returned to work, my daughter and I got thrush. It's one of those chicken/egg deals. Who knows where it started, all I know is we had it.

It was so painful, I cried nursing, I cried pumping. My nipples were raw, red and even fabric hurt against my skin. And thus began the decline of the milk factory. Slowly, we were burning through my precious milk stash. My once ample supply, enough to feed multiple babies, dwindled down lower and lower. The pain I was having was preventing let downs while pumping, so I was no longer producing what I needed to produce for bottles during the day when I was at work. My in-laws were great, but they tended to be a bit liberal with the milk, always having a bottle on hand. Even if it was 4 in the afternoon, they preferred the security of a bottle in case Little Miss A started fussing. And since you shouldn't re-refrigerate a warmed bottle, we wasted quite a bit of milk in November and December.

Once Little Miss A started attending daycare in January, I was frantic for ideas. Hubby was about to leave to train for his promotion, and stress set in. If there's two things you should know about stress, it can affect your milk supply and affect your sleep patterns. I wasn't sleeping well, Little Miss A was still waking up multiple times a night and my milk supply suffered. Some days, I could pump 10-15oz when I was working. But most days days, I only pumped 3 or 4 oz total on my lunch hour. This was with galactalogues and extra pumping sessions.

I started testing formulas midway through January. I would make a bottle, she would either refuse, spit up, or take it. The ones she took, she ended up having such bad diaper rash that I would have to bust out the big chemicals. We tried four different formulas before I felt desperate. We tried three soy formulas. Little Miss A was NOT having it. She did not want a bottle, and she did not want it if it was not mommy's milk.
I started researching milk banks, figuring I could swing the purchase of milk through my flexible spending account. As long as I could get a physician's prescription, flexible spending would cover the majority of the cost. However, milk from a milk bank can cost around$4.50 per ounce, which could be anywhere between $300-$1200 per month depending on how much I needed to supplement. At that rate, I'd burn through our flexible spending in just a few months. Not only did the cost stop me, but milk from the milk banks are reserved for sick babies, usually preemies in the NICU. I was certain there would be a long waiting list for healthy babies to get milk. So, I was at an impasse. I wondered daily if I should wean entirely or if I should force formula supplement at daycare- I just did not know what to do. Now that I am thinking back, I cannot remember who told me about informal milk sharing, but I began connecting with other moms via Human Milk for Human Babies (HM4HB) and Eats on Feets.

I thought to myself: "If she can't get only mommy's milk, shouldn't it be milk from somebody's mommy?"

I met with a few women, one of whom is a nurse for one of the hospitals I work at, and is friends with some of my friends. You know, that whole small world thing? Totally felt that when talking with her. She has two children, a little one month old guy she was nursing and said she had over 100 oz to share. I felt safe feeding my child her milk- because she fed it to her daughter.

On Valentine's Day, I received our first milk donation. I finally could breathe again- I wasn't going to run out of milk for my daughter. This angel provided my daughter with over 150 oz milk. It was the BEST gift I received this year- nourishment for my daughter and with that, peace of mind. Over the next few months, we received a few more donations to fill in the gaps of what I was unable to produce. Now when I had a bad day with pumping, I didn't cry every time I pulled a bag of milk from the freezer. With the help of our "donor mom", as I affectionately call her, we made it to a year with breastfeeding. When I left my job in June, I still needed a little mama's milk for supplementation, but I have been able to rebuild my supply since and Little Miss A has been able to get all my milk again!

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