Friday, August 17, 2012

Franklin's Milk

I want to take a moment to write about something good that has come from losing my precious baby Frank. Something that I'm proud of.

The short version of the story: I donated Franklin's milk to the Mother's Milk Bank of Iowa.

You can guess where this post is if that's all you care to know about this story you can stop reading here.

But If you want the details, by all means - read on! Warning, though, there is a lot of talk about breasts and milk in this post!

I am very proud to have nursed Prior and Mason for over a year. We never used or purchased an ounce of formula. My boys made it over a year before ever getting sick (their first cold was less than 2 weeks after I stopped nursing them). And for preemies I felt such a sense of accomplishment by keeping them healthy for so long! Nursing the boys was an extremely special experience for me - almost indescribable. 

When I met with my doctor to discuss the impending delivery of Baby Franklin I said: "Please tell me my milk won't come in!?" She quickly told me that it would.

Dealing with this loss was hard enough. Why did I also have to have physical and extremely hormonal reminders?! Clearly that was not fair. Why couldn't my body just know that I didn't need it!?

When I was told that indeed my milk would come in I briefly thought about donating the milk. I dismissed the thought almost instantly because I thought it would be entirely too difficult and emotional. 

In the days before and after Franklin's birth I spoke to a number of nurses and doctors. They each adamantly told me not to pump. Pumping would just tell my body to produce more milk.

As predicted, my milk came in. And apparently my body has a good memory because it remembered that the last time it produced milk, it needed a LOT of it. It was unbelievably painful and emotional. I tried everything -  ibuprofen, cabbage, etc. It was not getting better and it was not bearable. I needed to get the milk out asap. And after a recent article in Time about breastfeeding 3-4 year olds I even had that crazy hormonal thought cross my mind. (Thankfully Ben was the voice of reason). I think you get the point. I was a complete mess and I was desperate.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do - I wanted to pump for a few weeks and wean to avoid the pain. Just like when I had stopped nursing the boys. There was never a painful moment. But for some reason I felt like I needed permission to pump since I didn't have a baby that needed milk. {Strange, I know.} So I tried calling another nurse line. They told me the same thing. Do.Not.Pump.

Ben suggested I call a lactation consultant. So I called two. And guess what!? They both said pumping would be just fine! Hallelujah!! One of the lactation consultants (the one I had worked with after I had the boys) even said that the Mother's Milk Bank of Iowa was in desperate need of milk. Perfect.

Having the permission that I felt I needed, I hung up the phone and sprinted downstairs to get the pump. This was a reminder to me that only you know your body best! Over the course of the next two weeks I pumped milk. I went from 3x per day down to 2x per day and then 1x per day and naturally stopped. No pain at all. In fact, I found it emotionally relieving and healing to pump the milk. I accumulated approximately 100 ounces of milk.

During those two weeks I began the application process for donating the milk. I contacted the Mother's Milk Bank of Iowa. I completed an over-the-phone interview to determine if I would be a candidate. I was! First hurdle cleared. [Thankfully, there was no minimum donation requirement for bereaved mothers.]

Next I completed the written paperwork which included a long questionnaire and a signed medical form from my doctor.

After that, I had blood drawn - another hurdle crossed! Here's the email I received officially naming me as an approved donor!

Hi, Kristin,

I just received your blood results and they’re negative.

This completes your screening.

You’re an approved milk donor.

Ann will send you a cooler with instructions for shipping your precious milk.  

Special thanks to you and Franklin,

I arranged a pick-up time with FedEx, purchased dry ice, and packed the cooler and prayed that it would make it there safely. Thankfully, the next morning I received this email:

Hi, Kristin,
Your treasure chest arrived today and the milk was frozen solid.
Special thanks to you and Franklin,
Jean M. Drulis
Director and Cofounder
Mother's Milk Bank of Iowa 

One of the most special moments about this process was when the coordinator at the milk bank (a founder, actually) referred to the milk as "Franklin's milk."

I know how precious and important milk is - and I'm so thankful that a little peanut (or two or three) in Iowa will get to benefit from baby Franklin's milk.

Waiting for the Fed Ex pick-up.


  1. Kristin---I am in tears right now. You are an incredible mom.

  2. I can't help but get teary reading this post! You are amazing!! As a mom of preemies I know how important and life saving breast milk is....especially those first few weeks/months! What a gift! Thank you to you and Frank!

  3. I had no idea you donated baby Frank's milk....Kristin that is awesome! A guy who went to the same college as Blake and I lost his wife shortly after his daughter was born and he relied on donated milk to feed his baby girl. This is an incredible thing that you did for families....what a wonderful way for Baby Franklin's memory to live on as well as he literally touched SO many people!

  4. Kristin. I teared up when I read… “Don’t tell me my milk will come in…” and again when the milk bank lady closed the email with “special thanks to you and Franklin”. I am in awe of you. Such strength. You are an amazing woman and mother. I’m glad to read that the experience was, while difficult, emotionally healing as well. You’re right, we do know best about our own bodies! Good for you!


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