Coming out of hospital 3 days after giving birth was physically draining to say the least. Watching other mums being discharged before me was probably the hardest thing… and, of course, saying bye to Hubby each night as he went home to our bed. I was stuck in this unfamiliar place, in a ward with the monotonous sound of crying babies. Like a domino effect, once one baby cried it simultaneously set off the next. At the time I thought the midwives were out to get me (honestly those thoughts go through your mind in your most vulnerable state) but it turns out that, as a first-time mum, they were actually just there to help me! For as long as it took to nurture this bewildered mumma into an established feeding routine with my little bundle. I honestly think it was my third night in hospital, continually buzzing at all hours in the night for nipple assistance, that eventually helped me to crack it (no pun intended).
So, feeding securely established, I was discharged! Yay! Home time with the tiny human. Okay, so now what? They give you all kinds of support in hospital and you don’t quite realise how much it is appreciated until that first crucial hour at home when you are on your own with a hungry baby and bulging boobies.
The midwives warned me to expect a change in my milk flow around days 3/4. That creamy colostrum I was used to would turn into a nice stream of milk. However, it decided to come in like Niagara Falls and with it a new surge of hormones. I really wasn’t prepared for the emotional turmoil that followed. My midwife home visit turned out to be her last of the day and, whether it was a mix of sleep deprivation or the fact that I felt so alone, I cried solidly for the most part of the day, awaiting said midwife, who at this stage was the only person who could console me. And I apologise to Hubby, who saw an upset, verging on psychotic, version of me. You can imagine the language thrown his way. *insert a few curse words here*
When she finally arrived, though, she was truly an angel. So helpful with feeding, and a fountain of knowledge for a mum who had done literally zero research on what happens once you bring your baby home! I mean most mums would quite rightly consult with Dr Google on every aspect of parenting, but I guess I kind of half expected ‘mother’s intuition’ to kick in. It didn’t. I surrendered. I needed help from the professionals.
I cannot recommend the staff at the Queen Elizabeth University hospital enough, and a huge shout out to Alison in Team C for her patience and persistence… and the community midwives for their support thereafter. I was reassured that my milk flow was normal at this stage but the midwife did mention that regularly expressing would help reduce my hardening boobies. Ultimately it would’ve become difficult for baby to latch on, had I not.
Then she mentioned to me about the Glasgow Milk Donor Bank.
Naively I was unaware that breast milk donation was a thing so I decided to do some research. It turns out it is SO important and desirable for little premature babies and here’s why…
Nearly 4,000 babies are born prematurely in Scotland every year. For babies who are born early their organs and immune systems have had less time to mature, making them at greater risk of infection, which can be fatal in their critical early days. Often breast milk is the only thing a very sick or premature baby can tolerate and it is rich in the vital nutrients needed to protect new-borns from infection. However, when new mothers have had a shortened pregnancy, it is likely that their breast milk has not had the chance to develop. When a mother’s own breast milk is unavailable, donor milk is the next best option – particularly for a baby that is premature.
I do know some mums who have had a baby prematurely and, after hearing their stories, it made my decision to become a milk donor a very easy one.
Here are the steps I followed next…
I contacted the lovely Debbie at the Glasgow Donor Milk bank who then emailed me through both a consent form and a health and lifestyle questionnaire to fill out and return. It was an easy tick box questionnaire and no questions were too invasive.
Debbie then sent me out a donation box which included bottles, labels, a hanging fridge thermometer and a safe box. The safe box is there as it is a requirement to have bloods taken prior to donating milk and these are then sealed and posted back in your box to ensure that they are screened before milk can be accepted. I then made an appointment at my doctor’s surgery to have my bloods taken. Surprisingly, my doctor had never had a milk donor before and I was asked to bring in the whole pack to show him what it contained. Once posted, I then commenced expressing! Milk is frozen, and labelled with the time and date of each express. Volunteers will regularly collect your milk from home and do not worry about a stranger arriving at your door as all volunteers carry identity cards on them.
Debbie did mention that it costs the NHS between £75-£100 for screening, so once you decide to become a milk donor you need to be committed throughout.
Sound easy? Well not really. It is time consuming. Only commit to the process if you have a plentiful milk supply. You are required to express a minimum of 3 litres of milk and this can be done over a period of months or weeks.
It is, however, a rewarding process so take the time to think about it. Make sure you are happy to share your little one’s milk, and ultimately just go with your flow!
To become milk donor please go to-
https://www.onemilkbankforscotland.co.uk and use the contact form available
Stats and info sourced from- glasgowchildrenshospitalcharity.org