Sometimes our donors have overcome incredible odds to be the generous milk donors who keep the milk bank going. Leah and baby Nixon have shared their harrowing birth and NICU story and reasons for donating their precious milk to other fragile babies.
"It humbles me today to be able to donate our breastmilk and share our journey. Our first pregnancy was going so well, with no complications, and I was enjoying every minute of it. We were expecting our first baby in January 2023. We knew we were expecting a baby boy but kept it a surprise!
"Everything changed in November when, despite our best efforts, I became extremely ill with COVID and another unknown virus during the time of the triple-demic (COVID, RSV and influenza). I was hospitalized at 31 weeks pregnant but discharged as everything was looking normal. I was sent home and told to let the viruses run their course.
"I will never forget the term, 33 and 4. I went into labor and delivered my son Nixon at 33 weeks and 4 days. Despite his delivery being fast and uncomplicated, he remained in the Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital NICU for 3 weeks to gain strength and stabilize his breathing. Nixon continued to be referred to as a “33 weeker”. Morning rounds with all of the health care professionals started with the same introduction: “Nixon, 33 and 4”.
"Unfortunately, my milk did not come in for a few days and Nixon was not premature enough to qualify for donor breastmilk from the hospital. Therefore, he was formula fed until my milk came in. This was the beginning of our breastfeeding journey. I began pumping around the clock, waking every three hours at night to pump for a baby who was not in my arms. It was a heart-wrenching experience that came with many tears.
"The hospital provided us with bonding swatches, which were pieces of material that we could swap with our babies to share our scents. I was encouraged to smell Nixon’s swatch while I pumped to get the oxytocin flowing. I did this each time I pumped while he was in the hospital. I was determined to provide my little baby my breastmilk.
"Once Nixon was discharged, we began working up to nursing. However, he struggled to latch and remove milk efficiently. Premature babies often lack the strength, stamina, and coordination to breastfeed. Therefore, for months we did the “triple-feed” where every two hours we nursed, I pumped then bottle-fed him. Nixon also had a lip and tongue tie that required dental laser release.
"Once Nixon was about three months old, he was able to breastfeed exclusively. This was a milestone for us. At this point, I had accumulated quite a stash that I knew I wanted to donate to NorthernStar Milk Bank. We later uncovered Nixon’s cow’s milk protein allergy that required a significant diet change on my part. I am grateful that I am able to donate breastmilk that is also free of dairy, as cow’s milk is a common allergen for these little ones. I am also honored that we are able to give back to NICUs across the country where amazing work is done each day and breastmilk continues to nourish and help the most vulnerable babies.
"NorthernStar Milk Bank has made this process seamless, and I would encourage everyone that is able to donate! Thank you NorthernStar!"
We are the ones who should thank Leah, as her donations of 15L of milk have gone across the country and helped so many babies whose health depended on it!