She was tiny, only weighing 680 grams, so was quickly rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit at the Rush University Medical Center.
To get ready for their reunion, Amy started pumping her breast milk, and was surprised when it came in without the assistance of her baby’s mouth. “It’s still incredible that your body knows, and that it happens so soon,” she told the Chicago Tribune.
C-section on March 15, 2015 due to preeclampsia, which saw her little Adalyn ‘Addie’ Rose Hanson born premature at 27 weeks.
Amy Hanson with her donated breast milk. Picture: Facebook
After a long month had passed, Amy was finally able to hold her baby. But when she tried to put Addie on her breast, she was too weak to feed herself.
But Amy kept pumping, up to eight times a day – week after week – to get as much of her nutritional breast milk out of her body to eventually feed her newborn. However Addie, who had stayed in the intensive care unit for over five months, tragically passed away on August 23.
“She never turned that corner of getting better,” Amy said. “She just wasn’t meeting the milestones that her lungs needed to meet.”
Even after her baby’s heartbreaking burial, Amy’s body kept making milk for a few more weeks, until it finally tapered off. It was then she stopped pumping.
After losing their Addie in August, Jeff and Amy Hanson soon fell pregnant again and are expecting another baby girl on July 23. They plan to tell her all about her big sister, whose milk helped feed many babies fighting for survival.
“150 litres of breast milk”
All of Amy’s pumped milk was potentially lifesaving. When she eventually found out how much she had collected in a freezer at Rush, she was shocked.
In 22 large crates, were hundreds of bottles, making up almost 150 litres of breast milk – enough to feed about 22 premature babies for a month, according to Rush nurses.
The hospital held a small ceremony for Amy in February to commemorate the donation as well as to remember Addie.
What are milk banks?
The World Health Organisation recommends that low-birth-weight babies, who cannot be fed their own mother’s milk should be fed donor human milk, to protect them from infections and provide long term health benefits.
Amy is one of their 90 donors to the Mothers’ Milk Bank which screens and pasteurises donor mothers’ milk, to families who need it.
“They just absolutely can’t bear the thought of throwing the milk away,” she said. “And they want to help other babies, that’s very universal among bereaved mothers.”
Australia has four milk banks, which run out of hospital’s neonatal intensive care units: the Mercy Health Breastmilk Bank in Victoria, King Edward Memorial Hospital’s PREM Bank in Western Australia, RBWH Milk Bank in Queensland, and Sydney’s RPA hospital.
Summer Kelly, executive director of Mothers’ Milk Bank, said asking a grieving mother about donating their milk was a delicate task, but many were grateful for the chance to make that choice.
Australia’s first community-run milk bank, also named Mother’s Milk Bank, based in NSW’s Tweed Heads, screens and pasteurises donated milk before passing it on to grateful families in New South Wales and Queensland.