In a recent clip of this week's Total Divas episode, new mom Brie Bella donates her breast milk to moms in need after visiting a neonatal intensive care unit on the show with her husband, Daniel Bryan. According to E! News, Bella and Bryan visit the NICU and meet a new mom of twins, Pablo and Hector, in Wednesday's episode and decide to help a family out.
The twins have to stay in incubators for up to eight weeks while they get strong enough to leave and their mother is having trouble producing her own milk. Bella is visibly moved when she learns she might be able to help out. The mother of twins tells Bella in the clip:
We decided to do donor milk right now, to accept it because, well, I just started trying to pump and I just get a little bit. We know that it has a lot of nutrients and it's gonna help them a lot, with their growth and development.
Bella vowed to start making donations if she could. "I have extra milk and I don't want it to stay in my freezer forever till I have to throw it away. If babies can benefit from it, then I want to do this," she said in the clip.
Viewers will have to stay tuned to find out how it all goes down, but Bella looks really determined to make it happen.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, breastfeeding is recommended for all children in the first six months of their life. Breastfeeding has tons of benefits for infants, such as preventing allergies later in life and providing all the right nutrients a baby needs to develop. Research shows that formula-fed babies also grow up healthy and develop alongside their peers, but for premature babies in a NICU, breast milk is extra beneficial.
The AAP specifically recommends donated breast milk for premature infants when available as it can prevent sepsis and other infections that their little bodies just can't fight. According to The Washington Post, studies also show that human milk wards off necrotizing enterocolitis, which attacks a baby's intestines and is the leading cause of infant mortality in the United States. So premature babies can really benefit from donated milk.
It's often really hard for moms to produce milk while their infants are in a NICU. Time, stress, and a host of other things just get in the way of being able to produce milk. So on top of not knowing how their child is doing in those incubators, the mother also has to deal with the stress of possibly not being able to provide what the AAP says is "the best" for her kids. Talk about mom guilt.
So, more and more hospitals are leaning on donated milk. There are twice as many hospitals using donated breast milk in NICU's in the United States than there were in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In all, there are 23 accredited milk banks in the country, which is twice as many as five years ago, according to The Washington Post. There are also tons of private banks that you can likely donate to in your area.
It's a huge shift in how hospitals provide to newborns and their moms postpartum. Back in the 1980s, a lot of milk banks shut down in the wake of the HIV/AIDS crisis, according to Fast Company, since there were so many questions about how the virus was spread, which was a shame because it really limited the supply of donated breast milk to babies in need.
Luckily, with new research and fears of disease spreading through breast milk subsiding, hospitals across the country are getting their donation banks back up and running. Donated milk is just as safe as donated blood and just as necessary, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
Accredited milk banks obviously screen milk before passing it along to new moms and infants, which is why experts don't recommend casually "donating" your milk to a neighbor or vice versa. But if you have extra breast milk and want to help moms in need, donating breastmilk through official channels is a great way to do it. (You can find one here.)
Your milk, although different from the infant's mother, still has health benefits for other kids. Whether an infant's mother has passed away or just can't produce milk, it's a great way to "get rid" of your extra milk, especially if you're overproducing. Not only will you help a baby make it out of the NICU, but you'd definitely be giving another mom a good night's sleep knowing her baby was getting everything it needed.
Hopefully, with Bella's latest endeavor on TV screens, the word can be spread even more.
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