Breast feeding is difficult. No one really tells you that. It is terribly difficult. It requires pumping at least every three hours. I was trying to feed on demand to also make sure my baby wasn't hungry, but jeez, I made like no milk.
Every mom has a different body and different capabilities. I had a breast reduction when I was 19. I also became really ill with an allergic reaction and the doctors put me on Plaquenil to kill my immune system. That stuff is toxic and you can't breast feed. On top of that it has a half life of 50 days, so that means even if I could start breast feeding after stopping the medication, I would have to wait at least 50 days after stopping the medication to start feeding. Yeesh! It seemed like the cards were totally stacked against me. As it was I made almost no milk (seriously, I was so happy if I could pump 2oz a day) and that is not enough to feed a baby.
I had to supplement formula for my first child and knew I would have to do with the second, but I had not expected to have to do only formula because of the medicines I was having to take to suppress my allergic reaction to we still haven't figured out what.
Then the terrible happened, my newborn started getting really sick. I know all newborns wheeze like darth vader, they all are snotty, but this just wasn't right. He had a hard time breathing and was miserable. I took him to the doctor and his oxygen levels were low. We couldn't figure out what was wrong, but something wasn't good. All that runny mucus he had predisposed him to sinus infections and chest infections. By two months of age my infant had had two very serious chest infections. I searched everywhere and did whatever doctor hates; I used Google to figure out what was going on. It was there that I read all about benefits of breast milk and milk banking. I had also been reading Mayim Bialik's book on motherhood and all of her info on breast milk. I looked for a milk bank and found one nearby (which was lucky, there are not many). I pleaded to buy their outpatient milk. It is 4 dollars an ounce. Yowza! A soda can full of breast milk would be 48 bucks! But I figured at least if I could get him one bottle a week, it might help with his immune system. I purchased my first bag full of breast milk and started using one a week.
We switched formulas a bunch of times trying to find one that would work for my kiddo. He was gassy and colic ridden. He would scream for hours - 5, 6, 7 hours a night. Our doctor switched us to the crazy expensive formulas that are supposed to be hypoallergenic. They didn't work. Finally, he had gotten so sick and we just brought him back from the ER prescribed to do more steroid breathing treatments, oral steroids, more antibiotics and essentially overdosing him on fever reducers to keep him below 105. I decided to use the breast milk I was planning on spreading out over a few months. I defrosted a bunch and started feeding him only breast milk. His nose cleared up almost immediately. He got better in two days. I had enough breast milk for four days.
On the fifth day I switched back to formula. His nose started running and we had an entire night of screaming. We visited our doctor the next day and I informed her of what happened. She said she had prescribed breast milk for NICU patients before but not older babies. I contacted the milk bank and asked what they needed from the doctor. She ran fecal tests just to confirm he was in intestinal distress from the formula and from there the milk bank has supplied us with milk for my infant. I can't even express what a blessing this was or ever thank them enough for keeping my little one healthy.
If you are one of the lucky mom's who is able to donate, please do. Most milk goes to help NICU babies - but that milk is generally as close to 20 calories as possible. Not all mammas make 20 calorie milk. That milk goes to outpatient use for moms like me, ones with older babies who have special needs because of allergies or other problems.
Please think about donating milk, money, and time, whatever you can if you are a mom who can. If you are a mom in need and have an infant who you think might be severely allergic to formulas like mine, I hope you think about looking into breast milk as an option.