NICU Nurse Donates Milk to Help Preemies: Monica’s Story

NICU nurse Monica Bean talks about donating milk—and learning something special about her own hospital and the babies in her care. 

I am a registered nurse and work at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, DC. I work in a level 3 NICU and we have been using donor breast milk from Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast since 2013. As a NICU nurse, I’ve loved helping moms with breastfeeding, pumping, and even just bonding with their babies during the unfortunate NICU stay.

I knew when I found out I was pregnant in September 2019 with my first child that I was going to try my hardest to be successful with breastfeeding my son. I spoke with multiple lactation consultants (a few of my close friends are IBCLCs), read multiple educational articles, and researched all the best breast pumps, nipple creams, and anything to make breastfeeding successful. But having experience in the NICU and with other nursing moms, I knew that it was going to be hard and I had to prepare myself that it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.

I had a fairly “easy” pregnancy and delivery but my breastfeeding journey started off rocky. My son, Drake, was born on May 15, 2020 at 38 weeks. My milk supply took a little longer to come in and Drake was jaundiced, so we were having to supplement to bring his jaundice levels down. When my milk finally came in, we discovered he had a pretty severe tongue tie and wasn’t able to transfer milk from my breast. Therefore, he was losing more weight than the doctors wanted so I started pumping around the clock to make sure we could feed him my breast milk in the bottle. After a few weeks, we got his tongue tie clipped and he was right on track with weight gain.

Donating a freezer milk stash

I was able to stay home for four months and during that time I built up a large milk stash in the freezer. I was afraid after being back at work my milk supply would decrease, but fortunately it did not. I knew that my stash would eventually expire and I had to do something with the breast milk before it went to waste. I Googled “breast milk donation bank” and one of the first organizations I came across was Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast. I read and really liked their purpose and how they organized things so I reached out.

The screening process was very easy. I had a quick 15-minute interview regarding my breastfeeding journey, how I pump, medications I take, etc. After that interview, the milk bank reached out to my OB-GYN and pediatrician to get additional clearance to use my breast milk. After I was cleared by both physicians, I had lab work drawn and results sent to the milk bank. The donation process was made a breeze and I barely had to do any work. The milk bank workers handled everything for me and told me step by step what was going on. I would highly recommend anyone considering milk donation to go through Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast.

A happy surprise for a NICU nurse

After getting all the clearance and getting all my milk situated to send off, I was speaking with the dietician in my NICU and telling her I was donating. She casually asked who I was donating to and I told her Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast. She was so excited and told me that we get our donor milk from the same milk bank. I’m so thrilled and honored to be able to donate to tiny NICU babies, but even more grateful that my milk could potentially be feeding the babies I’m taking care of. Mothers’ or donors’ breast milk lessens premature infants’ risk of sepsis, necrotizing enterocolitis, and even death. To know that I am helping feed and nurture the sweet babies I care for every day makes my breastfeeding journey beyond worth it.

I’m so thankful for all the hard work that the women and men behind Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast do every day to make the process for donors so easy.

Baby of NICU nurse who donated milk

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.