Mothers who can't breastfeed are finding refuge in milk banks

DENVER - More than one in ten women is unable to breastfeed their child after birth. But that doesn't mean breast milk isn't an option for these new mothers.

For Ashley Giger, feeding her newborn son Breck is a nice quiet experience. Or not. Her two other sons can get a little loud sometimes playing with their toys together. And this calm to chaos is a pretty accurate reflection of how her feeding experience went with Breck compared to them.

“Both of them were losing weight,” Giger remembers. “Both of them were getting jaundice like all the same issues that I was worried about with him.”

Breck and Giger’s oldest sons were all born prematurely. The difference? Giger was able to feed Breck donated breast milk in the hospital when her body wasn’t producing enough.

“He didn't hardly lose (weight) at all,” Giger says. “And compared to the other two, that both lost like 10 percent and bot almost had to go under the bilirubin lights and have to be readmitted to the hospital.” 

Breck was fed breast milk from the nutrition center at Presbyterian/St. Luke’s Medical Center in Denver. It is where mothers like Giger, who don’t have enough milk while they are still pre-term, turn for more.

“Many moms need some supplementation to reach them through that, where their milk is fully coming in,” said Dr. Anna Zimmermann, Giger's doctor.

Zimmremann says 15 percent of moms don’t have the supply to breastfeed exclusively for different reasons. She wants mothers to know they have options at breast milk banks, like Mothers' Milk Bank. Moms are screened and their milk is pasteurized, and it can positively impact a child’s development.

“There's some good immune system properties in breastmilk that are important over those first several months of life that infants can't get from other types of feedings,” Zimmermann said. 

Zimmermann says often moms turn to formulas once their child is older or healthier, which she says some may feel bad about — but shouldn’t. 

“I use the term 'fed is best,'” Zimmerman said. “So if you have a healthy growing baby — whether you were giving them breast milk or formula — you were doing a phenomenal job as a mom.”

Now with three healthy sons, Giger is grateful for the women who donated their milk to make is possible, and for having the opportunity to use it altogether.

“I know what a blessing it is to just be able to have that option because it wasn't always there,” Giger says.

 

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