Milk Donation - A Story
By Stephanie Cilia
"For as long as I can remember, I’ve always identified myself as someone who wanted to help and give in any way that I could. It was September of 2016. I had just given birth to my first son (though my husband and I thought we were expecting a baby girl). His birth was traumatic and difficult which landed him in the NICU for breathing and blood sugar issues, even though he came into this world at a very hefty 10lb, 1oz. Both of us were taken aback by not only the care and attention our son received but by how many other families were struggling because of their fragile little babies’ health. While our son did quite well in his short stay in the NICU, we were very aware that that was not the norm, and that so many families were feeling so helpless, scared, and unsure of what the future held. Naturally, a series of synchronicities put Fabiana in my path, so I had seen the amazing work she was doing for families of preemies in the NICU. I knew I wanted to honor my son’s experience by helping her organization. So, I volunteered to assist in the distribution of the Christmas baskets. She also happened to share a post on Facebook one day from the Rogers Hixon Milk Bank that stated they needed breast milk donations. I instantly knew this was an even better way I could give back to those babies and families who would give anything to graduate out of the NICU. I was able to donate a little over 300oz of milk at that time. I was so honored. Flash forward to 2021, where I had just given birth to my third son, another difficult and complicated birth, and another baby boy who was being sent to the NICU for some monitoring. All I could think was ‘oh God, not again!’ He responded extremely well and was released quickly, yet again my heart went out to families whose babies had extended and prolonged stays in the NICU. So, to give some meaning and intention to my days at home, and to make use of what I discovered (after my second boy was born) was an overproduction of breast milk, I made the choice to pump my excess milk to donate again.
Because I started this process to donate earlier than my first donation experience, I was able to take advantage of those early days of milk production before my body regulated the amount of milk it was producing. So, this time, I was able to pump approximately 770oz or just over 22 L of milk. I am still in awe that my body was able to produce that volume of milk (in addition to what is produced to feed my always hungry boy). It truly feels incredible that I could donate that much milk to help support some of the most fragile babies in such a unique way. I am forever grateful for what my body was able to do and hope that my milk has helped many NICU babies grow stronger, or helped the families have some peace knowing their little babe was receiving breast milk to nourish and support their development. "