This mom of two from Leland, North Carolina, has donated over 8,000 ounces of breast milk to other mothers struggling with their supply and facing breastfeeding issues.
Katy Bannerman, a middle school teacher, experienced an oversupply of breastmilk after her second child was born in October 2019.
But with her first child Silas, it was an entirely different picture. When Katy gave birth to him, she experienced lactation issues. As a newborn, Silas also ended up in the pediatric intensive care unit with jaundice.
Katy had wanted to nurse him for as long as possible, but she wasn’t able to do so. And like many mothers trying their best to fulfill their new role, Katy resented herself for not being able to breastfeed her son.
“I was distressed, and stress is one of the things that is not great for breast milk supply,” she said. “It was a tough start.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants are exclusively breastfed for about the first six months. However, the numbers show that only around 25% of infants are.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 60% of mothers stop breastfeeding earlier than they want to. This phenomenon is caused by several factors, including lactation issues and lack of support from family and workplaces.
Katy didn’t want that to happen again, so during her second pregnancy, she sought the help of a lactation consultant. This professional suggested using a different pump and gave her other useful advice, such as staying hydrated and keeping up a more regular schedule of pumping or nursing throughout the day.
“She was totally crucial to my success,” she recalled. “I just wasn’t aware of all the things that you need to do the first time around.”
Katy gave birth to her second son, Avery, in October 2019. A few months in, she found herself pumping 70 to 80 ounces of milk in a day. This amount was way above what Avery was consuming. The pandemic also gave her more time to pump since she was home.
She was producing so much milk at one point that she planned to cut down her supply, asking advice from other moms online. An oversupply is a double-edged sword because it can lead to blocked milk ducts and a painful infection called mastitis, which Katy suffered from.
Katy thought of storing her extra breast milk in a deep freezer. At first, she planned to just freeze 900 ounces by a certain date, then she would stop pumping altogether. But once she reached that number, her supply just kept kicking. So she just kept going.
Her stored frozen milk started accumulating. And when Katy realized that her supply wouldn’t be an issue this time around, she looked for ways to donate her extra breast milk. She eventually found a local Facebook group called the Port City Milk Fairy, a mom-to-mom milk-sharing support group.
“I put up a post that I had several thousands of ounces to donate, and it was not hard to get it allocated,” Katy said.
Within a year, Katy was able to donate over 8,000 ounces of breast milk to other families. Her last donation was in December 2020.
She says getting a tremendous amount of support from her family significantly contributed to her success. Her mother would constantly help her around the house and cheer her on as she pumped over the months. Meanwhile, her husband would stow the milk away in individual storage bags, carefully measuring and labeling each one.
Katy encourages other moms to look for help when they need it, be it a lactation consultant, online support groups, or their own family.
“That’s another reason why donating was so important to me, is that women were able to still take care of themselves and take care of their babies without that guilt,” she said.
It’s so important for moms to help each other out, especially during this time. And that’s exactly what Katy did for other struggling moms and their precious babies.
If you’re a mother facing lactation and breastfeeding issues, don’t hesitate to seek help from your loved ones or your community.
Please share this story with your family and friends.