LELAND, N.C. (WECT) - A Leland woman donated 8,000 ounces of breast milk—and doctors say it could protect babies from contracting viruses.
Katy Bannerman knew she wanted to breastfeed her sons from the start—but it wasn’t easy.
“With Silas, I had a really hard time nursing,” said the mother of two. “Straight from the hospital, right after we got home, we had to go back to the hospital. It was difficult when he’s hooked up to all the things to nurse. I tried pumping, but him being in the PICU was difficult, so I ended up giving up when I didn’t want to.”
The CDC says 60 percent of mothers stop breastfeeding early for a number of reasons, including problems with lactation.
“Most problems come from a lack of education and knowledge for first-time moms,” said Natalie Ward, a lactation consultant at The Milky Mermaid. “Right now, in this pandemic, I would say it’s a lack of support because your family might not be able to come visit and help you out when you have a baby.”
When she gave birth to her second son, Bannerman started seeing a lactation consultant and before she knew it, she was over producing.
“Anytime that you produce more than your baby needs, that’s overproduction,” said Bannerman. “I found myself pumping 70, 80, 90 ounces a day.”
In the middle of a pandemic, Bannerman says she met many mothers who were eager to breastfeed but couldn’t always provide. With so much extra milk on her hands, she looked for ways to help.
“It was the best feeling in the world, honestly,” she said. “I think moms—breastfeeding moms—get really attached to our milk, especially if we’re an overproducer. At first it was difficult to let go.”
But it was worth it. Not only did she help babies, but being a school teacher that’s often exposed to many childhood illnesses, she may have important antibodies.
“Antibodies can fight off the flu, lots of different lower and upper respiratory infections, viral infections like colds,” said Ward.
Some of those antibodies could even protect from coronavirus, even if the mom is asymptomatic.
“If you are asymptomatic when you’re pregnant and you’ve had it and just don’t know it, then breastfeeding your baby is so important because they’re going to get antibodies to COVID-19,” said Ward.
Bannerman has not tested positive with COVID-19, but if at one point she was asymptomatic, her breast milk may have kept a child from contracting the deadly virus.
“More than ever during the middle of a pandemic, I found that women who might be struggling with providing breast milk to their babies really wanted to provide that extra bit of protection, antibodies, and all of the things that breast milk provides. That gave me even more incentive to donate.”
Bannerman made her last donation in December. Her effort inspired her sisters-in-law to donate their breast milk as well, helping plenty of local families keep their babies fed.
Breastfeeding is not for everyone and Bannerman wanted to express that fed is always best. If you want to breastfeed and are having trouble, there are resources available.