When a mom stops nursing, she may have extra milk in her freezer. While some moms simply throw it out, others choose to donate that surplus to a milk bank, which is what one woman in Texas did, with a twist: She dressed as a cow for the occasion.
The Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas documented the occasion and shared a photo on Facebook of a mom named Emily Fulcher who donated milk alongside her three children while dressed as a cow. “When you drop off 545 oz. of mama milk off for precious NICU babies, you might as well dress up as a cow!” the organization captioned the photo. “Ava is allergic to my milk protein, so we are thankful for the opportunity to give and pray for each ounce to help these babies fight and get stronger!”
Fulcher tells Yahoo Lifestyle that she found out Ava was allergic to her milk after she began having blood and mucus in her stool for months. Fulcher was put on elimination diets that weeded out dairy, soy, wheat, and eggs, and nothing helped. Finally, Ava was put on EleCare, a hypoallergenic baby formula, and now is “doing so good,” Fulcher says.
The mom says donating her milk “just made sense” given that she had pumped and saved milk since Ava was born. She actually had the cow costume laying around from one Halloween when she and her family were “cookies and milk” and thought it would be a “silly, fun thing” to do. “My kids thought it was really funny,” she says. “The nurses were laughing too. They said this is the most accurate portrayal of a mama donating milk.”
Emily’s outfit is hilarious, but the donation she gave can have a serious impact on newborns in need. Mary Ashley Ray, community relations coordinator for the Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the vast majority of their donations go toward helping local premature babies who are in the NICU. The milk “can make such a huge difference in the lives of premature and medically fragile babies that we serve,” she says. Moms typically drop off frozen milk they no longer need in bags or bottles, which is then distributed to local hospitals, she says.
Emily said that her extra milk was due to Ava’s allergy to her milk protein — and that’s not a common problem for babies, Jonathan A. Bernstein, MD, an allergist, professor at University of Cincinnati, and partner at Bernstein Allergy Group, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. However, it can happen. “Any allergy can develop in a child with repeated exposure,” Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist-immunologist with Allergy & Asthma Network, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Often the babies are sensitized through breast milk to milk proteins.”
Children who have parents with allergies are at higher risk of developing this allergy, Parikh says, and Bernstein points out that those who also have atopic dermatitis eczema may be more likely to have the allergy. Babies with a milk protein allergy will typically develop rashes, hives, or eczema, shortness of breath, wheezing, diarrhea, or feeding problems, Parikh says.
If you have milk you want to donate, Ray recommends looking on the Human Milk Banking Association of North America’s website to find a bank near you. There are milk banks located throughout the U.S. and parts of Canada but, if there isn’t one near you, you can call the closest one and arrange to have your milk shipped to them. “You don’t have to be in Fort Worth to donate to our milk bank,” Ray says.
Fulcher encourages moms to donate milk, even if they have just a little bit stored in their freezer. “These babies really need it,” she says. “They’re fighting for every breath, and even a small amount can help.” Cow costume optional.
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