Throughout her journey as a milk donor, Danielle shared many photos of her baby, Reese. We had no idea her happy baby had suffered from a milk allergy, which led her mom to milk donation. Danielle shared her story with us in the late summer, just after Reese celebrated her first birthday.
I live in Central New Jersey with my husband, Marty; one-year-old milk donor, Reese; our dog, Harper; and cat, Lulu. I’m a special education teacher and will be going back to work in September after an extended leave. Marty and I met in high school and have been together for fifteen years, married for five. Getting pregnant was a challenge and we ended up needing to do IVF. After all that struggle, however, my pregnancy with Reese was truly great and such a happy time in our lives. When Reese was finally born, after all the months and years of waiting for her, she was literally perfect. She is the happiest child, is so curious and determined, and has such a fun-loving personality. It is so much fun to watch her grow and change each day and she brings so much joy to our lives.
Support for Breastfeeding at the Start
Breastfeeding Reese was something I had planned to do before she was born and it was very important to me. It was not at all easy in the hospital and would take the help of Marty and a nurse to get her to latch, sometimes for upwards of 20 minutes. It was very hard and stressful at the start. All the nurses and support staff at the hospital were so helpful, though, and were definitely integral to my success with breastfeeding. Every nurse and aide seemed to have some training in breastfeeding, and I learned a lot from them and the hospital’s lactation consultant during our hospital stay. I also met with a very supportive lactation consultant twice in the first couple months of breastfeeding. She was very helpful as well and enabled me to become more comfortable and confident nursing.
Discovering a Cow’s Milk Protein Allergy
When Reese was about two and a half weeks old she began developing what we now know to be symptoms of a milk allergy, but at the time were thought to be typical newborn things, like baby acne and dry skin. By the time she was a month old she had developed a significant rash, some eczema, cradle cap, and digestive problems. After a sick visit to her pediatrician, I cut out all cow’s milk products to see if that was the problem. Within six weeks nearly all her symptoms were gone. It was clearly evident that she had a cow’s milk protein allergy.
This is the reason I looked into milk donation. I had begun pumping in the mornings for a freezer stash about a week before cutting out dairy, and the allergens took a while to get out of my system, so I had a good amount of milk I would not be able to feed to Reese. I was not at all familiar with the donating process and did not know of anyone who had donated, so I did some research online. I first contacted the milk bank at CHOP and they directed me to Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast. The Donor Intake team was so kind and great to work with and the screening and application process was very easy. It only took a few weeks in totality before I was approved and able to send in milk.
Lots of Extra Milk
By the time I sent in our first milk donation I was over-producing a bit so I packed the milk I couldn’t feed to Reese and then some. I had added another pump session to replace one nursing session with a bottle so Marty could feed Reese, so this coupled with my morning pump session was leaving me with lots of extra pumped milk. Overproducing had been a blessing but also difficult to deal with. I was less anxious about knowing I had enough supply to feed my baby, but I had to be careful about sticking to my schedule. I’ve gotten mastitis upwards of six times, including even a week after Reese turned one!
Despite this I am thankful because I was confident in my supply for Reese this past year, and I have been able to donate nearly 2,400 ounces of milk, with one more donation left in the freezer to send out. My oversupply has turned into a supply that is perfect for Reese and I have stopped pumping. Now I am exclusively breastfeeding and will hopefully continue to do so as long as it feels right for both of us. I’m hopeful that I will be able to donate in the future with Reese’s sibling(s), though.
Advocating for Milk Donation and Helping Others in Need
Donating milk has been such a worthwhile and important experience for our family. Pumping milk helped me to visually see I was producing enough for Reese and therefore know that she was likely eating enough, easing my anxiety. Though she never ended up eating any frozen milk, I knew that the milk would not go to waste because of the work the milk bank does.
I’ve become a huge proponent of breastfeeding, pumping, and donating, and am very open with my friends and family about it. Posting Reese’s donation pictures on social media has sparked several friends and acquaintances to contact me about milk donation and given them the idea to do it themselves. A few have already donated their extra milk. I am so thankful to have found Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast and am so thankful for what you do to help fragile babies in need. Breastfeeding my child has become one of the most important things in my life and I feel so blessed that I was able to help her grow with my own milk and that I was even able to help other babies grow. I’m proud that I’ll be able to tell Reese as she gets older that she helped others in need from the very beginning.
Screening to become a breast milk donor is an easy four-step process. Once accepted for donation, milk can be shipped for free door-to-door or through one of our donor milk depots throughout the Northeast.