My Breasts Save Lives

Monday, October 13, 2008

I'm guessing, after reading the title I will have the attention of some and will have lost it for others. I can guarantee my brother is not going to read this. :o)

I had the privilege last week of donating my breast milk to the milk bank of Ohio to help premature/ill babies.

I have heard of other women pumping and donating their breast milk that were grieving the lost of their babies. It was healing and good therapy for those bereaved moms.

Here's my story on how I came to be a breast milk donor:
(feel free to tune me out if you get bored...or like in my brother's case, if you're grossed out you can tune me out too)

Cayman was over 4 weeks old before I could really try feeding her at the breast and by then she wanted nothing to do with it. She was still really tiny and weak so we didn't push the issue. If she was eating from a bottle we were just thrilled to not be using her G-tube. So I continued to pump around the clock for her. Seven months later I'm still pumping. It has gotten a little easier. In the beginning I pumped 8 times in a 24 hour period. Now I pump 5-6 times. At each pumping session I have always expressed more milk than Cayman's intake. All the extra milk I have stored in a deep freeze. As the freezer started to fill up I got so excited thinking that soon I would stop pumping and Cayman would have enough food in the freezer for the next several months.

Not bound by pumping anymore would mean a freer schedule and less bottles to wash.
(We go through about 18 bottles a day)

I made it a goal to pump until she was 6 months old.

As her 6 month birthday approached, I started to pull out the oldest frozen milk and thaw it.

Cayman refused to drink it!

I couldn't believe it!! I thought maybe the milk had gone bad. I had been told that breast milk stored in a deep freeze will keep for 6-12 months.

So I pulled out some milk that had only been frozen for a week. Same thing happened. Cayman refused to drink it. I got on the phone with my lactation consultant in a near state of panic. I had calculated over 3000 ounces were stored in the deep freeze and Cayman wouldn't eat any of it!I'll cut the story down for you and jump right to what we discovered was the problem.

My breast milk has an excess amount of Lipase, which is an enzyme that breaks down fat. This does happen but it is not a very common occurrence. When there is an abundance of this enzyme it starts to break down some of the fat in the breast milk during the freezing process. After the milk is thawed it has a rancid odor and taste. That is why Cayman did not like it. The milk is still good but just tastes terrible.

Scalding (bubbling around the edges but not boiling) the milk is the recommended solution for excessive Lipase. Scalding inactivates the lipase then it can be frozen. But once the milk has acquired the rancid smell, treating the milk will not help.

So my 3000 stored ounces were useless to me if Cayman wouldn't drink it. I was devastated to think that my hard work was going to be thrown away.

My lactation consultant told me that my milk could be donated. It gets pasteurized, killing bacteria and the rancid taste, but still preserves the precious antibodies. So I contacted the milk bank of Ohio and got the donation process on its way.

I could only go back 4 months and donate that milk, but that was still around 2500 ounces! The milk bank people were ecstatic to receive my donation.It feels so good to know I'm helping other babies. I confess I did not have such a feel-good attitude the day I learned about my stored milk situation. You can ask Mike, he'll tell you how I walked around sulking. That night before I went to bed, I asked God to help change my attitude about it. When I woke up that next morning I had two beautiful thoughts that completely changed me:
  1. Maybe the extra Lipase helps Cayman be healthy. It is an enzyme that helps her body break down and digest fat and I've been reading a lot about DHA and other fatty oils being so healthy for brain development.
  2. There's a shortage of breast milk being donated. Perhaps my milk donation is answering some mom's prayer for her ill baby.
So now I'm going on seven plus months of pumping because I am convinced that it helps Cayman and all the extra milk goes in the freezer to help other babies.

I hope it becomes kind of a "Pay It Forward" thing.

It's all part of making a beautiful world.

For those of you that made it through reading this blog (like I said, I'm pretty sure I lost my brother), I'm creating a "Pay It Forward" contest in celebration of saving lives. Here's the rules:
  • All entries will go in a hat and I will draw out 1 name that will be the winner.
  • The prize is a secret (that's just because I haven't chosen it yet. It'll be good though. I promise it will not be breast milk.)
  • You have to spread the love if you are indeed the winner. It doesn't have to break the bank just something from the heart that you want to give or do for someone. This is a cool website telling you "how to pay it forward".
  • Final day for entries will be on Friday (Oct. 17th) at midnight. I will post the winner the next day.
  • To enter the contest you have to comment on this post answering this question:
    Mike and I hope to take a vacation with Cayman next year. What's an ideal vacation to take with a baby?

    For those of you who are technology challenged and can't figure out how to leave a comment but want to get in on this fun, you can email me your comment at

19 Showin' Comment Love:

Lisa said...

Wow Kristen! I can't believe that picture of the freezer. I struggled with breast feeding and pumping. I could never produce more than a few ounces at a time. So to see 3000 ounces of I think it's wonderful that you were able to donate it. What a wonderful blessing to so many babies :)

Now for your question. The perfect place to vacation with a baby...hmmm...I say Washington D.C. We went there on vacation when Alexandra was a one year old and it was surprisingly easy. Donald and I were able to enjoy the sites and all the historic buildings and displays, but still take care of her with ease. We also went to Virginia and visited Monticello and Williamsburg. Such fun!

Hope I win!

The Soldatke family said...

What a wonderful attitude! I think I'd still be crying about all of my "liquid gold" and all my hard work! Oh, I'm almost crying for you! That is a lot of hard hard work! But, what a good way to be able to use the milk and not throw it out! You will be helping so many! What a beautiful freezer full, too bad you can't pasturize the remaining 500 oz and use it for cayman, even if it would only last a couple weeks!

Okay, to answer your question, ideal vacation. I think the first vacation we took Micah on as a baby was to a cabin in the Black Hills. Peaceful and beautiful and rugged! In my dreams though, if I only had one child and a baby, I would go on a cruise! I know that sounds weird, but if you go on a "quieter" cruise as we did last Christmas, we saw quite a few families (we didn't take ours, it was part of mission trip-long story) and they cater very well to them. Everythings pretty all inclusive, you can eat whenever and see some great beautiful sunny areas! I think it would be fun!

Beth said...

That is awesome!! We had to get a small deep freeze after Bella because I was pumping and storing...That is very interesting about the Lipaze...What an awesome gift you are giving!!!

Anonymous said...

Wow!! That is a lot of breast milk! Olivia wasn't able to nurse either...I pumped for 6 months until I found out I was pregnant with Gabe! Then, I had to stop. What a wonderful thing you did for all of those lucky babies!

I would take Cayman to the beach. Anywhere warm where she can curl her toes and fingers in the sand and feel the ocean and you three can just chill out. Hilton Head is my's not touristy and it's beautiful!!

Jennifer said...

OK, first of all, your title and your lines about your brother made me crack up. Secondly, the picture of the milk is astonishing. I even showed it to my dad who was not surprisingly kinda grossed out. :o) I'm also very glad you explained about the pasteurizing process of the milk. I was really grossed out until you explained that. :)

Ok...places to go with a baby. Well, DC is a great idea. Disney World is also a great idea. Especially since she is still young enough to sleep in her stroller and stuff. Cheaper options? Is she a good, sound sleeper? Camping in the mountains this time of year is gorgeous!!!

Jessie said...

Kristen, that's awesome that you were able to donate all that milk! Good for you!!!

Vacations are tricky with a little one! This is an odd choice but we have been to Chicago with Luke a few times and it has been great. It's close to home. You can ride the Amtrak train which is fun. They have an awesome children's museum, an aquarium, too much to even try to tell you. It's a thought!

Take care,

You know who I am!! :O) said...

Arizona is always a great place! You have the Grand Canyon - mountains, snow if you want to see it all year long, and the beach is close enough to be to in just a few hours!! Plus these people that would love for you to come out and see them! We love you guys and miss you all so much!! You are such an amazing person Kris - and a mom that has a heart of gold! :O)If the world had more people like you what a much more beautiful place we would all live in! Love ya!

Aunt Maddie said...

Aunt Madison says "the ZOO of course...but only if I can go too.."

Grace said...

Hey there, I've been lurking around here for months now, but don't think I've ever actually commented before. That pic of your freezer is amazing. I'm so glad that someone else had that prob with their breastmilk. Mine always smelled funny after it had been frozen and none of my babies would ever eat it. I always wondered why! I guess maybe it's the same thing!!

Kacey Bode said...

Hey Kristen,

That is so awesome that you were able to donate all that milk, you will help so many babies!!!

Vacation, hmmm, since I haven't taken one with either or my kids, I'm probably not the best at giving advice. BUT, Spokane, WA is beautiful and there are a lot of things to do around here, Coeur-dalane, ID is 20 minutes away and is a very resorty type town. PLUS you would have somewhere to stay for free : )

Anonymous said...

I wish I would have know about this. I had pumped some and froze it and Ashalyn would not take it either so I dumped it. But man, nothing like ur!! That's so impressive and so much hard work. :-) U're such a neat person Kris!!

I think the beach would be great!!! We want to take Ashalyn to the beach in a few months!!!
If we go in April or May we have a free place to stay in Florida if u wanna join us!! :-P

Amy J. said...

I never knew there was such a thing! That is so incredible that you had that much stored and it could all go to such a good cause. I am really just in awe over how much milk you had saved up and that it didn't go to waste! You are amazing. I love this contest, but I have already played and won so don't worry about counting me in on the Pay it Forward. I had a blast when I did it though!

Amy J. said...

OK I'm sorry to comment again but those pictures of Cayman two posts below are priceless! I love the last one, very cool. What did you do to get the all black background? They look great!

Uncle Tyson said...

youre right, I'm not going to read this anymore than I will EVER get Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream..

The Donald said...

I have never seen that much breast milk in my entire life! I bet some grocery stores don't even stock that much milk! That is so cool that you are able to help out others!

BTW, You move many notches up my cool person list for quoting the band Cake in my post. Cake is one of my favorite bands. Back when I was a karoake superstar, I used to sing "Going the Distance" all the time!

And for paying it forward, I did it about 2 months ago. I was filling up my gas tank when I noticed a younger looking woman pumping gas into her minivan. She only put in 10 bucks and was about to leave. Seeing how gas was still over 4 bucks that wasn't going to get her far. I asked her why she was only putting in 10 bucks, and she told me that was all she could afford for the week.

To make a long story short, I talked her into letting me fill up her tank the rest of the way. After some coaxing she gave in, and I filled it up. I used my credit card because I didn't want Lisa to know. (oops, I guess that secret is out of the bag now!)But I felt that this lady could really use the help. It feels good when you are able to help out your fellow brothers and sisters.

Anna said...

I had no idea that you could donate or even freeze breast milk! How fantastic!

As for your vacation question, my husband and I rented a house in the Outer Banks last year and it was great. We don't have children (just a dog who is practically our baby), but the convenience of having a whole house seems like it would be ideal if we did. The beach was just a short walk away, and there were other fun things to do...or not do for that matter. We spent a lot of time watching movies, reading, playing board games, etc. It was so much better than being stuck in a hotel! We went during the off season, so the rental price was very reasonable.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're able to donate the breastmilk. Maybe you'd enjoy a trip to Mackinac Island or since you love Christmas so New York City during Christmas!

Lisa said...

So I just read Donald's comment. That was so sweet of him! I can't believe that he didn't want to tell me. Am I that much of a finance tyrant??? I guess maybe I am...oops. But in all honesty I think it's wonderful that he did that for someone else.

And I think that even though I didn't win the contest...I'll go find some way to pay it forward :)

Bonnie said...

You are seriously amazing!!!!!!! WOW, I am soooo proud of you...THat is the best idea ever...Your a angel:)