How donating breast milk helped one woman heal after losing a baby

WATCH ABOVE: An Edmonton woman who lost her baby found an unexpected way to deal with her grief. She breast-pumped about four times a day and donated a total of 325 ounces of milk. Kim Smith reports.

LISTEN ABOVE: An extended interview with the executive director of the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank

When Stephanie Murphy became pregnant in June, it was following five years of trying to conceive, two rounds of in vitro fertilization and a miscarriage at 15 weeks.

But at 17 weeks’ pregnant, Murphy’s water broke and three weeks later she went into labour. Adelyn was born on Oct. 9, 2018, but at 20.5 weeks she was too small to survive.

“We were really excited that we had made it past the first time of 15 weeks. So at 17 weeks it was pretty devastating that that happened,” Murphy said.

However, different from their first loss, Murphy began producing breast milk.

“I thought, ‘Ugh, this is so cruel. I don’t even have a baby to feed and now I’m going to have this milk and that’s just so unfair.’ It’s another stab to your heart when you’re already grieving and hurting,” Murphy said.

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Initially, the plan was to let her milk dry up, but she and her husband began discussing donating the milk to other babies.

“I thought, just because I don’t have a baby I still have this liquid gold they call it, why not provide that to somebody else?” she said.

Watch below: Murphy speaks about what it was like to donate her breast milk after losing a baby

Murphy began pumping and committed to donating as much milk as she could.

From October to December, Murphy pumped about four times a day and donated a total of 325 ounces of milk to the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank, a Calgary-based organization that provides human milk to premature and ill babies at hospitals in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, B.C. and the Maritimes.

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The NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank had 750 donors in 2018, and about 25 of them were bereaved mothers. Jannette Festival, the executive director, said the number of bereaved mothers who donate breast milk increases every year.

“It serves a purpose in many ways. It keeps their hormones level,” Festival said.

“It gives them a reason to get up in the morning. Often times when these moms are grieving, having a routine that these moms go through can often help with the grieving process.”

Murphy said donating her milk helped her heal from the loss of her baby.

“In the beginning, it made me feel like a mom. I know I’m a mom, my baby is just in heaven, but it gave me that feeling of, ‘I’m a mom and this is what a mom would do,'” Murphy said.

“I can’t give it to my own baby, but I can give it to someone else who needs it.”


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