Moms hear it all the time from their doctors who say breast milk is best for baby. But not every mother is able to give their child that gift. It could be that these moms can't produce enough milk, or they're sick and taking risky medication.
But thanks to a local nonprofit group called Get Pumped, these women are able to turn to other mothers for help.
Melisa Wilson began pumping breast milk for her son Joshua when he was just a day old. But he was born at 23 weeks, weighing only 1 pound 4 ounces, and had to spend four months in the neonatal intensive care unit.
While she waited for him to grow stronger, and Wilson pumped and pumped. By the time her baby boy came home, Wilson had more milk than she knew what to do with.
“My husband said he didn't want to buy a third freezer,” Wilson laughed.
But she didn't want to waste all of her hard work either.
That's when Wilson discovered Get Pumped the local non-profit group that takes breast milk donations for women who can't breastfeed their own babies.
“People need blood, people need organs, why is it wrong for a child also to get breast milk?” said Wilson.
Michele Seiler, director of donor relations for Get Pumped, said the organization is not a milk bank.
“Our need differs from based on the community and the babies that come to us. If they have a need for it, it’s not just because it’s good for them. They need it to survive. They need it because they have a formula intolerance or maybe it's a medical condition Where we differ from the milk bank is not just anybody could come and pay us $5, $6, or $7 an ounce. We don't charge anybody money for our milk,” explains Seiler.
Wilson donated 2,000 ounces of her breast milk to Get Pumped, knowing that it would be given to those babies in need -- babies like Andrew Dunn who was born with a chromosomal abnormality.
Andrew has been through a number of surgeries and deals with lots of tummy troubles and his mom, Nancy, believed breast milk was the only choice for her baby boy.
“He breastfed for a little bit, but it wasn't enough,” said Dunn.
By the time Andrew went through his fourth surgery in 10 months, Dunn made a decision.
“He was in an almost full body cast and he needed me to comfort him and I was attached to a pump and I was producing 1 ounce in a half an hour and that's a lot of time when I could be holding my own child and I was like, 'I'm done. I can't do this anymore,'” said Dunn.
Thanks to Get Pumped, Dunn was able to find a breast milk donor whose milk was dairy-free. And, more importantly, full of the important anti-bodies she believed Andrew needed to stay healthy.
“Being around the hospital setting and the doctors' appointments, being around all the extra germs, I felt better,” said Dunn.
Dunn never questioned taking milk from another mother.
“If you really have your heart set on breastfeeding and it didn't work out for you just knowing that there is the option out there to continue giving your child breast milk,” she said.
And the donor tested following the the same regulations as Hubana, the Human Milk Banking of North America. Donors are tested for infections like HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and Syphilis.
In the three years since it began, Get Pumped has provided 37,000 ounces of breast milk to dozens of Central Florida babies.