Nicki’s NICU Warrior Comes Full Circle

NICU baby

Nicki tells the story of her little NICU warrior, Demitri, coming full circle from receiving to donating milk.

On January 29, 2021, I went in to my OB/GYN’s office because I had experienced some contractions and blurry vision. My mom dropped me off at Massachusetts General Hospital and I can still hear her words ringing in my ears: “Do you want me to come with you?” “No, that’s okay, I should be quick,” I replied. That whole week I felt a slight leaking sensation but I never physically saw anything—and a pregnant mom can tell you a lot can go on down there that can sometimes be normal.

I mentioned the leaking, and they said if I wasn’t in a rush, I could head over to the labor and delivery triage. Right as I was about to be discharged, a doctor and midwife walked in to tell me I was considered PPROM, which means I had ruptured my water. The midwife wrapped her arms around me as I just sat there and sobbed in fear of what this all meant on top of COVID-19 restrictions. I was right under 31 weeks pregnant. I had a two-year-old at home, and I had never been away from her for more than a full day’s shift at work.

Learning about donor milk

With my life flipped upside down, we met with someone from the NICU that night. She handed me a pamphlet regarding donor breast milk. The more educated I became on donor breast milk, the more of a true blessing I saw this option to be. I learned that preemie bellies have a hard time digesting formula, so until my milk came in I could use donor milk.

I ended up being induced at 34 weeks and delivered my son Demitri. I spent 3.5 weeks in the hospital unable to see my daughter and family in person; only my husband could visit me. My son spent 10 days in the NICU and 12 days in the Special Care Nursery. He was intubated the day he was born and then once more a few days after. He underwent several days of jaundice therapy, meaning there were several days where we could only touch him with hands through an incubator.

One of the hardest things for a pumping mother whose baby is in the hospital is pumping around the clock for a baby who is not physically next to you. I had sleepless nights, waking up every couple of hours to pump alone. While my son was in the NICU, there were times I could pump and watch him over the Angel Eye camera, which provided me with so much comfort, but in the nursery they did not have that option.

Once I returned home with my son, I pumped until April. Due to his severe digestive issues with colic and reflux, we made the decision with his gastroenterologist and pediatrician to switch to a special formula.

Oversupply of milk

Throughout my pumping venture, I turned out to have oversupply: I was blessed with enough milk to feed twins, while I only had one baby. The lactation team at the NICU was incredible, educating me on pumping, managing my supply, and using heat before pumping and ice after. This meant I had quite the supply of unused milk once I made the decision to switch to formula.

Demitri graduates as NICU warrior
Graduating from the NICU
Boxes full of milk to donate

I remembered once watching on Total Bellas that Brie Bella had donated her extra breast milk to a local organization, which gave me the idea that I, too, must be able to find a place in my area that would accept milk to help other babies, just like my son was helped.

I came across Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast and I cannot begin to describe what a positive and comforting experience I had with the staff. The screening process was easy to follow, and I was pleased to see how thorough they were. My son and I ended up donating 675 ounces of milk. It was a truly rewarding, full-circle moment, going from donor milk recipients to donors ourselves.

NICU warrior baby is now healthy and strong

Grateful for this NICU warrior

I could not be more grateful for my NICU warrior and all the blessings he brought to our life. In watching his journey and accomplishments on top of the care, love, and support we received from so many, we could not be more inspired to be able to give back to help other babies, children, and hospitals.

Thank you to the staff of Mothers’ Milk Bank Northeast for all that you do and for making this a possibility for us donors and families in need of donor milk for their babies.

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.

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