The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Monday, March 16, 2009


Mother's Milk Saves Son & Others

When my son Nicolas was born at twenty-seven weeks, he weighed two pounds, had jaundice, and was too weak to cry. For ten weeks he lay in a high-tech womb that we euphemistically called an incubator. I was permitted to hold him for one hour per day, then longer as he grew stronger.

Our skin-to-skin contact was essential for our emotional survival, and it caused my breasts to swell and leak. A mother's milk usually comes in right after giving birth, no matter how prematurely. The trick for we moms of preemies is to keep the milk flowing.

If I hoped to breast-feed Nicolas one day, I would have to pump, a lot. I lugged home an industrial-sized breast pump, and the hospital provided me with an ample supply of yellow-capped, seventy-milliliter bottles.

I spend night after night, exhausted, weepy, and worrying to the unforgettable mechanical moaning rhythm of that machine. No replacement for an infant's coo, to be sure, but I was consoled by my actions: I was saving milk for my son. Soon, I filled two deep shelves in the intensive care unit's commercial freezer. My milk had special properties. Breast milk, with its unique disease-fighting properties, is far superior to formula. Milk produced by mothers of preemies is even more potent since the body knows it gave birth too soon.

Oh, what the body knows!

At four weeks old, Nicolas consumed his first breast milk, about three drops of what the nurses called "liquid gold," administered through a tube. Two weeks later, with Nicolas showing the benefits of milk intake, I stood before the open freezer experiencing a rare moment of bliss. I had more than enough milk for Nicolas until he could breast-feed.

Then anxiety struck: What should I do with all that frozen milk? I could never throw it away. "There are plenty of babies who could use it," a nurse offered. "You should donate." I became a regular depositor to the Mother's Milk Bank in San Jose.

Premature or sick babies whose mothers are not able to produce healthy milk need donated milk. Chemotherapy, for example, affects breast milk. Adoption and foster care also create a need for donated breast milk.

There are only six milk banks in the United States. Banks screen donors, then collect, process, and dispense the milk. The liquid gold costs about three dollars per ounce. Most health insurance carriers cover it, but banks tell me they never turn away a prescription. Banks go to extra lengths to facilitate donation, even providing storage containers and paying shipping costs.

Healthy, breast-feeding mothers, including moms of preemies, should donate. Recently I was at the park with Nicolas, and I looked at the pregnant moms populating the playground. Soon they will be spending delirious weeks feeding and pumping. They could pump one extra bottle every time.

They could spin liquid gold.

By Alexandria Giardino

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I hope you're the Alex I know... I would love to imagine you as a mother. Hope to have some news about you and about your work, your writing :) un beso, G Lartigue
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