Breast Milk or formula? If you're a mother, you've probably heard this. If you're not, you know someone who has.
For me, I struggled to make enough milk for my twins and the guilt was real, even a little embarrassing. The baby formula worked for us, but as I clung to middle ground, I never once asked myself why not use donated milk?
“His name is Princeton, and when he was born yesterday, he came really, really fast," said NICU mom Raven Taylor.
Inside the Neonatal intensive care unit at Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth, newborns are busy fighting.
"Of course I'm asking a hundred questions," said Taylor. Her baby, Princeton, can't breathe on his own. And moms like her who are scared, sleep deprived and stressed out, can't produce the milk her child needs.
“The first couple of days is very critical. You have this sick child, sick baby in the NICU, and you’re not able to provide the milk. It’s devastating,” said Wendy Dougherty. She’s been a nurse at Cook Children’s for nearly 20 years.
Nurses and doctors know breast milk helps the most fragile preemies. It provides antibodies and nutrients to help them thrive.
Taylor was offered donated milk at the hospital, and she happily took it. “You want your kids to have the best, and if you can't give it to them, then you want to find ways to make sure it happens," she said.
But for other moms, the thought of donated breast milk is foreign, even strange.
In my case, I didn't even know it was an option when I birthed my twins five years ago. And truth be told, probably wouldn't have even considered it if I had.
“The breast milk is safe. Very similar to the way blood banks screen donors. We screen our donor moms that way," said Amy Vickers, executive director of the Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas.
Vickers said there are strict guidelines and blood tests before you become a donor. The milk is pasteurized, tested and re-tested.
"We've not had a case of a baby injured or harmed by the use of donor milk," said Vickers.
And word has gotten out about their success. There's been an astonishing 80 percent increase in the amount of donated milk over the last five years.
"They are donating milk not for anything, but for the feeling of knowing they are helping to save the life of another baby," said Vickers.
Casey Burch is a donor. "I always believe that it takes a village to raise a child," she said.
What's shocking about Casey is that she dropped off 18,000 ounces of milk in just eight months. That’s more than 140 gallons. One of the largest amounts ever donated to the Mother's Milk Bank.
"So it's really mind-boggling, but just to know that with one ounce, you can feed three babies. So that was over 50,000 babies I was able to feed. I was like 'Wow!'" she said.
We all know that it takes a village to raise a child. Now we know a village can also feed them.