Grieving mother makes historic breast milk donation after son’s death
Leo was diagnosed with a birth defect called gastroschisis where the baby's intestines stick outside of the baby's body.
Following the death of a loved one, it is easy to be consumed by grief—especially if it’s someone as precious as a child you’ve recently given birth to.
Such is the story of Demi Frandsen.
Demi gave birth to her son Leo via C-section two months early.
Weighing only two pounds, ten ounces, Leo was diagnosed with a birth defect called gastroschisis where the baby's intestines stick outside of the baby's body through a hole beside the belly button.
Leo’s condition was so critical that Demi held him for the first time a month after he was born.
"I will never forget the way his eyes locked in on mine when they finally got him into my arms," Demi told TODAY Parents. "It was the most beautiful moment of my life.”
Leo lived a total of ten months in the NICU of Omaha Children's Hospital and Medical Center.
Instead of letting her grief take over her, however, she decided to use her situation to help others.
“Early on, she was able to pump so much milk that her lactation consultant, Tammi L. Martin, suggested milk donation as a wonderful option to help other small, sick hospitalized babies,” the TODAY Parents article said.
Realizing the value of her milk, Demi decided to share it with mothers who need it.
At first, she maintained her milk hoping that one day her son would be able to consume it.
“I was keeping my supply up for whenever he would be well enough to have my milk," she said. "To stimulate a let-down, I would hold a heated rice bag by my chest to mimic the warmth of a baby while looking at pictures of my sweet Leo.”
Even after Leo passed, Demi continued to pump.
"Telling my body to stop producing milk for a baby that wasn't here anymore was even more emotional than not being able to actually nurse him while he was here," she said.
"It's a mother's instinct to provide for her baby, and I had to make my body stop that instinct."
Her effort yielded a record-breaking result.
She accumulated 17,503 ounces of breastmilk, and over time donated it in honor of her son.
"I know the desperate feeling of needing your baby to be okay," Demi said. "I wanted to help those moms who felt that same ache in any way I could.
“If they needed my milk for their babies, I felt honored to be able to give one tiny contribution to that baby's fight.”
Among the 60 Donation and Outreach Centers partnering with Mothers' Milk Bank, Omaha Children's Hospital and Medical Center was one of the entities that received Demi’s donation.
For lactation consultant Tammi Martin, the record breaking donation was a joint effort of Demi and Leo.
"It was something they did together," she said. "It is wonderful how their gift of donation gives life, even after loss."