Friends Who Donate Milk Together . . .

Milk donor, Rachel and her son, Archie

Here at the milk bank we like to say, “Every ounce, every cent and every story shared makes a difference.” Never has there been a better example of this than Caitlin Stratton and Rachel Leist, two friends who made the selfless decision to donate their milk . . .

A story of friendship.

Originally from New Jersey, Caitlin and Rachel didn’t just attend the same college (Boston University for those of you wondering) they actually lived together! A feat in itself, their friendship not only survived the ultimate test A.K.A. the “roomie-test,” but continued to flourish over the years. 

From graduations to engagements, weddings, and babies, these two have shared moments big and small, high and low. They even welcomed their first little ones, Jackson and Jordan, just weeks apart. What was this like, I wonder? I have my answer before I can even ask. “Incredible!”

Milk donor, Rachel and her three little boys

Welcoming Jackson & Jordan . . .

Both moms had the benefit of being able to ask a trusted friend for advice – or as Rachel jokingly puts it, “Selfishly, I was thrilled Caitlin would have to do so many of the same things for the first time.  I knew she’d give me the inside scoop!” Not surprisingly, their bond deepened as they picked out tiny blankets, discussed ultrasounds and eventually, spent those first few weeks with their newborns which, spoiler alert, were very different.

Both Caitlin and Rachel gave birth in the early weeks of the pandemic (something no one could have prepared for). Those COVID days impacted both the lead up to their births as well as the labor and delivery. “It was really tough not having our normal support systems in place,” they explained and I can almost see the stress on their faces. As if that wasn’t enough, Caitlin also had to contend with an unexpectedly difficult labor. 

Becoming a NICU mom . . .  

At less than 35 weeks, Caitlin’s water broke in the middle of the night. Weighing just over 5lbs, baby Jordan spent the next two weeks in the NICU. 

“It was a really scary and stressful time,” she concedes before adding that she also looks back on it gratefully. “I gave birth in Englewood, New Jersey where we had what was essentially 24/7 support from an incredibly supportive team of professionals – including a lactation consultant. It was almost like attending Baby Boot Camp, we knew we were in the best hands, and still feel so fortunate for that.”

Knowing that breastmilk provides significant health benefits for all babies and is a vitally protective medical resource for fragile and premature infants, Caitlin was more determined than ever to breastfeed her son. Fortunately, her milk supply came in almost immediately allowing her to provide Jordan with the nourishment his little body needed. 

Spending time in the NICU, Caitlin saw that while she was fortunate to be able to breastfeed baby Jordan, other families were forced to rely on potentially lifesaving donor milk to provide for their newborns. Her experience drove home the importance of donor milk as clinically essential for medically compromised babies. And this was when she made the decision to donate her milk if possible.

Sharing the health . . .

“I was really looking forward to breastfeeding my baby so being able to do that meant a lot. But having an oversupply {of milk} that I could then donate? That’s one of the things I’m most proud of in my life,” explained Caitlin.

Of course, we think she should be equally proud of everything she’s done to spread awareness of milk donation – including inspiring others to follow her lead. 

Consider her best friend Rachel. Although equally determined to breastfeed baby Jackson, Rachel’s breastfeeding journey wasn’t quite as seamless as her friends’. “First time around, it took a while for my supply to come in and that was really stressful – especially since I wasn’t able to see a lactation consultant due to the pandemic. When it did come in it was just enough to feed Jackson.”

It was this same worry, coupled with admiration for Caitlin’s selfless decision to donate that inspired Rachel to start her own milk donation journey with baby number two.

By the time second baby Archie was born, Rachel was a breastfeeding pro, with an arsenal of tricks to help increase and maintain her milk supply. With an abundance of milk, Rachel is now able to “very proudly” share the health. In fact, it was at the opening of our Norwood milk depot that we first met Rachel in person – making milk donation number four!

Every ounce . . . 

One ounce of milk can provide a premature baby with up to three feedings. Caitlin and Rachel both made the selfless decision to donate their milk. Now imagine the number of feedings and the number of little lives they have supported.

Like we always say, “Every ounce, every cent and every story shared makes a difference.” Thank you, Caitlin and Rachel, for making that difference. 

Feeling inspired? You may be able to donate your milk. Click here to learn more or fill out our pre-screening form here.

baby Jackson and Jordan
Milk donor, Caitlin and her baby Jordan

Caitlin’s beautiful daughter, Emma Kay, (pictured above) was born December 25 – congrats mama & welcome to the world, little one!

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