To say that Kelli Russell had an excess of breast milk after her second baby was born is a serious understatement. The North Carolina mom managed to fill both her indoor and outdoor freezers with bags of pumped milk. Russell knew her baby had more than he could ever need, but she was still producing plenty of breast milk, and hesitant about pumping and dumping. "I hate to pour the 'liquid gold,' as it's termed, down the drain," she told her local NBC affiliate. "But I hated to also just ditch it. I needed to figure out some way to be able utilize it."
So Russell decided to donate whatever else she could produce to a milk bank in Raleigh. As any woman who has bent over a breast pump can tell you, it's a true labor of love. Over the course of 14 months, this patient mama pumped every three hours— for more than 140 hours total—while also caring for her baby and toddler. In the end, she ended up donating an astonishing 4,880 ounces (or nearly 38 gallons) of breast milk.
Pretty incredible, right? But even more inspiring is how many babies can benefit from her generosity. Russell explained that just one ounce of milk can provide up to six feedings for a preemie and help prevent infections. Already, the donated milk is being used in more than 40 hospitals along the East Coast.
As a mom who grudgingly pumped every now and then, I'm blown away by Russell's dedication and tenacity. I counted the days until I could say goodbye to the snaking tubes, hissing machine, and godawful suction. Meanwhile, she's working overtime to squeeze out every last drop of breast milk to help babies she'll never meet. Of course, the decision was a natural one for this professor of public health, who says her incredible donation is "one way that I feel like I've been able to give back to the community."
I want to hear from you: Would you consider donating your breastmilk?
Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.
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