Did you know that August is National Breastfeeding Month?
When we found out, at about 26 weeks, that Piper had duodenal atresia, I knew that, if I wanted to nurse her, I’d have to pump for a substantial period of time. And maybe that’s why it was a little easier for me than some of the other moms in the NICU- I knew it was coming. My pump became my fifth appendage. I learned to pump in the car (no, I wasn’t driving) and at other peoples’ houses. I spent way too many hours attached to the darn thing.
When Piper was finally up to full oral feeds (at about a month old), she was taking less than an ounce a feeding every 3 hours. 8 ounces a day.
My problem? I was getting more than that a pumping. I was getting somewhere close to 60 ounces a day.
No, I’m not exaggerating. Our nurses in the NICU laughed in flabbergast. Literally. I began thinking I was part Guernsey.
And it got worse. And worse. And worse. There was no way that Piper could ever eat as much as I had.
Piper and I worked really hard to get her breastfeeding. Being a preemie, she couldn’t take in as many calories as she needed to without supplementing her milk with extra calories (she was maxed out on the daily volume at 27 calories). But, when she was about three months old, her skills started getting a lot better, and she took off from there. By the end of August, she hated her bottles. And she never looked back.
Once she was nursing exclusively, I had to keep pumping because I was afraid that if I let the supply drop, it would drop completely. So, she’d nurse. I’d pump.
It was a great life… (notice the sarcasm???)
After a few months of this, I looked into donating to the local milk bank. They collect, test, and pasteurize donated milk and send it to hospitals around the nation so that babies, mostly preemies, who are too young and fragile to handle formula, and who don’t have mother’s milk for whatever reason, can eat.
In order to donate, you have to start before your child turns 6 months old. I had to have blood tests (just like the ones they run before you can donate blood) to ensure that I was healthy enough to donate. I had to answer a questionnaire of about 200 questions (not quite, but sure felt like it) asking some of the most bizarre things ever.
I started donating last July. I quickly came to the conclusion that it was nice having something other than breast milk in the deep freeze. Every few weeks, someone from the bank would come by and pick up (or I would drop off) all my extra milk.
You have to retire when your child turns one. And as you know, that was in May. In June, I dropped off the rest of what I had in my freezer. And got my totals.
Drum roll, please…..
In addition to Piper being exclusively breastfed, I donated 5780 ounces. That’s 42.5 gallons. 360 pounds. And over 115000 calories.
Yup. That’s alotta milk. And a lot of quality time spent with my pump. About a week before Piper’s birthday, I decided I was done, and packed it away. I sighed a BIG sigh of relief. And my schedule magically opened.
So what do all the items have in common?
Six wine refrigerators, one granite-topped double vanity, 9 bags of dog food, two pallets of chips, a couch plus a chair, the kitchen table set, and a treadmill all way about the same amount.
482 cans of pop and 42 gallons of milk is about 5780 ounces.
If you consider that every ounce of milk has about 20 calories, 5780 ounces is the same as 580 Kitkat bars- about 115,000.
The moral of my story? I know that a lot of moms out there have to pump, too. If you ever find yourself in a position where you have an excess, please consider contacting one of the banks around the country. There is a huge deficit right now- it started with flu season (you obviously can’t donate if you, your baby, or anyone in your house is sick), and they’re having a tough time. For the babies that get this milk, it can mean the difference between life and death. There are only a handful of banks around the country, but if you don’t live near one, contact them anyway- if they’re in enough need, they’ll arrange for you to mail it to them. You can find more info here.
The pump has been packed for a couple months now. And I can honestly say that I hope and PRAY that it’s never used as intensely has it has the past year.
But would I do it again? Absolutely.
Besides- I’ve decided that this, forever, relieves any guilt I may feel for being too big a wuss to donate blood. I’m just thankful that they don’t have t-shirts that advertise how many gallons of milk you’ve donated. I may feel like a milk cow, but I don’t need to advertise the fact…