FORT WORTH, Texas - A tiny baby is now an energetic toddler living in Forney, here in North Texas. His family gives partial credit to the breast milk donated to him.
FOX 4’s Jenny Anchondo shared his mom’s journey from a milk recipient to a milk donor.
“When they wheeled me to the NICU, I promised, ‘I will fight for you.’ And I said please, ‘Don’t stop fighting for me.’ He has fought every day since then,” said Sandi Allred.
When Sandi’s fighter, little Rich Allred, was born via emergency C-section at 24 weeks he weighed less than a pound and was less than a foot long.
As a nurse who often worked in the NICU, she knew survival would be a miracle.
“I said, ‘Did he make it?’ And he showed me this picture. And it’s Rich holding Casey’s finger. And he was like, ‘He made it. He made it,’” she said.
The stress of the surgery, Rich’s health concerns and months in the NICU made breast milk production a struggle for Sandi.
The neonatologist prescribed donor milk from a milk bank to help Rich grow. Yes, there is a bank for human milk.
“Because of his small gestation and how premature and underdeveloped his organs were, he really needed that crucial breastmilk,” Sandi said.
In 2016, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended human donor milk for high-risk infants. Since then the demand has skyrocketed 80 percent at the Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas in Fort Worth.
“As you know, as many women know, pumping is a labor of love and takes hours a day every day. And I was just so thankful they shared their blessing with us,” Sandi said.
In a medical setup, the milk goes through a highly regulated pasteurization process for human milk.
“It actually kills bacteria and viruses while maintaining the benefits. So the milk is not compromised in any way,” said Amy Trotter, a spokeswoman for Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas.
The milk is tested for communicable diseases and moms are tested before being approved to donate.
The bank dispensed 4,000 ounces when it first opened in 2004. It now dispenses more than half a million ounces per year and is on track to process more than ever in 2018.
Rich is now a thriving 3-year-old boy and Sandi is giving back to the milk donation process. She gave birth to her 7-month-old in August and arranged her schedule to pump as much as possible.
“You need support from not only your family but also your job. My boss and co-workers are really supportive. You have to set up a place that’s private and comfortable,” she said.
Every extra ounce is frozen, packed up and given back to the milk bank.
“I just hope that in some small part, many other people are going to walk out with their healthy baby and hopefully I'll play some small part in that,” Sandi said.
All the effort and all the extra work is in honor of Rich’s fight.
“He is truly my hero. And I don’t know how many people get to meet their hero but I’m just so thankful he’s such a fighter. He’s really an amazing child,” Sandi said.
The Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas said every feasible inch of space has been converted for milk storage and processing because of the increased demand for milk.
The bank is in the middle of its “More Room for More Miracles” capital campaign to expand into a new space. That way more milk can be processed.
Anyone interested in becoming involved in the campaign or donating milk should visit www.texasmilkbank.org/donate.