Healing Power of Breastmilk Donation After Loss- In Memory of Maya; a #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

 by Ulrike K. Ingram

***Please note, this piece covers infant loss in detail and may be triggering for some.

infant and pregnancy loss

My daughter Maya was stillborn at 35 weeks gestation. It was a sudden and devastating loss to find out that after an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy, she had died due to a cord accident. While still being in shock after her death and birth, I started to think about what to do once my milk came in. I knew early on that I wanted to try to pump for donation purposes, but wasn’t sure if I could really do it, physically and emotionally. I planned to just take it one pumping session at a time. I didn’t want to make a long term commitment and then fail. My milk came in when I woke up on the Friday after she died on Wednesday. I started pumping that day and collected maybe 2 ounces of milk during the first session.

I have two older children who I breastfed. When they were younger, I was working part-time and I only had to pump occasionally. Pumping exclusively after Maya’s birth was a challenge. I tried to pump 6- 7 times in a 24 hour period. Three weeks later, I was consistently getting about 5 ounces of milk per session. I was still taking it one session at a time, always worried that my supply was decreasing, or that I was just too tired to get up in the middle of the night to pump. I was very close to stopping maybe five weeks after Maya was born. I struggled for several days with whether to continue or stop. After talking to my husband and praying about it for several days, I felt a piece in my heart about continuing on this journey. It felt like a God given guidance that it was good to pump and good to continue for longer.

Three months went by and I was still pumping, though not as frequently, probably only about four times per day. I didn’t plan how long I would continue to pump because it my only connection to Maya.

Sometimes when I pumped during the day, one or both of my sons would sit with me, or play on the floor next to me. My younger son would ask, “Mommy, why do you have to pump?” or when I’m done, “Mommy, why are you stopping?” I have explained to them why I pump. Although I wasn’t sure they really understood, I recognized that it was okay. Once my younger son told my husband that he likes to play in our guest bedroom because that’s where mommy pumps.

Almost five months went by and I stopped pumping at the end of July – 4 1⁄2 months after Maya was born. I decreased my pumping frequently from four times to three times per day. I then limited the remaining pumping sessions to 10 minutes, then 9 minutes two days later, then 8 minutes, and so forth. I was eventually able to stop pumping without feeling engorged. It was a slow process of letting go, physically and emotionally.

In total, I pumped for 131 days, and donated 470 breast milk bags, an estimation of 2300 ounces of milk. I donated the milk to local moms through a Facebook page, which matches milk donors with moms looking for milk, who for various reasons do not have enough milk for their baby, or want to provide breast milk to their adopted child.

guest post, leaky to leaky

It has been a privilege and an honor to use Maya’s milk in a meaningful way. It was one of the few things I was able to do in my daughter’s name. It’s part of her legacy. It’s her milk. It was made for her, and I was able to give it to somebody else who needed it. On the difficult days, when I was tired or emotionally drained, I sometimes wondered whether it was worth it. I suspect that the recipient cannot appreciate the value of this milk to the full extent. There is a lot more meaning and love in this milk and the act of pumping and the invested time than the recipients will ever know. I imagine that Maya has been watching over our family from heaven, seeing me pump, and understands that it was for her. It’s her legacy and her memory that is being carried forward and passed on to others.

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If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story, photos, and your bio, with #MyStoryMatters in the subject to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces).

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Ulrike and her husband have two older boys and then got pregnant with their daughter Maya in 2013. After an easy pregnancy, they found out that she had passed away at 36 weeks gestation due to a blood clotting issue. Ulrike pumped and donated Maya’s milk for several months. It was a way to keep her memory alive in one tangible and physical way for Ulrike.
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Comments

  1. Ada, Mom of Andy (9/28-29/1988) says:

    Beautiful story and beautiful tribute to Maya.

  2. I love reading this. I too lost a daughter in 2013 and kept my milk supply to honor my little girl and share the value of this gift my baby could leave on this earth. It was so therapeutic knowing a piece of her was still with me and would live on in the health it would bring. I can relate so much to letting this supply go and saying goodbye all over again. My last day pumping was Valentine’s day 2014. A day I’ll never forget. Bitter sweet, but wouldn’t take back a single moment I put into pumping the 6 months I did.

  3. Thank you for sharing your story. What a beautiful way to honor your precious daughter.

  4. You have incredible strength mama. Your gift is certainly a beautiful legacy for your sweet angel. Prayers for you and your family.

  5. You’re an amazing momma. A beautiful way to honor Maya and help others.

  6. Christina says:

    Such a moving story. Pumping is such a challenge, & such an undertaking in memory of your daughter is touching. I know the families that received your milk were blessed & grateful. I wish you peace.

  7. Such a beautiful story. What a wonderful mummy you are! Sleep tight little angel Maya <3 xxx

  8. Thank you so much for sharing your story and for the beautiful gift of sharing your milk. Today neither of those things are easy to share publicly & it shows a great depth of strength to do so with sugh grace & dignity.

    Much love to you momma & to your sweet Maya.

  9. May God bless you for your selfless act of love. May He also bless you with His peace. The babies you helped are doubly blessed with the milk you donated. My heart breaks for you, it must have been so hard and yet you continued on for your daughter. You are an amazing woman. Thank you for sharing your story. Thank you for sharing your pain, your heartache and your love with us. I feel blessed to have been able to read about your healing journey. Much love to you mama

  10. Beautiful story. Made me tear up as I read it. Reminded me to appreciate my two girls even when we’ve had a tough day.

  11. Jenny Seagrave says:

    I cannot even imagine what you have gone through. You are such an awesome person for doing this after such a tragedy.
    Such an amazing thing to do.

  12. Beautiful story. So sorry for your loss , what a beautiful tribute to your daughter.

  13. Mama, my heart is both broken and uplifted. Maya’s legacy continues on with those babies you nourished. All donor milk is liquid gold and yours had some additional tears in it. As a mother that relies on donated breastmilk, please know that I can thank donor moms enough. You are nourishing and growing my baby in a way that I can’t.

  14. Terresa D. says:

    Heartbreaking, yet beautiful…

  15. You are an amazing woman. Such strength to do something so wonderful for others in the name of your sweet angel. You’ve done a great job, Momma!

  16. Beautiful story and tribute to your little angel. And such strength!!

  17. What a beautiful gift Ulrike was able to give to other families in honor of Maya. It was such a positive way of dealing with her grief and beginning the process of healing for her and her family.

  18. I’m so sorry for your loss of your beautiful baby girl. What amazing strength you have to be able to take such an active role in your grieving and to help another mom, another baby in the process. Thank you so much for sharing, for being such an amazing woman and mother.

  19. What an incredible story and you are an amazing woman. This breaks my heart but I am so inspited and impressed by how you are processing. Thank you for shareing. May you continue to heal and never lose the great love you have. What a journey.
    Good Strength to you sweet mama

  20. Such an amazing journey. You are very strong mama and it’s an amazing fm gift that you were able to provide to others in her name. I am sure she is very proud of you for your decision to pump and donate the milk.

  21. I’m so sorry for your loss. I admire your strength to pump and donate Maya’s milk. I know that there are so many mamas out there who appreciate your efforts also! God bless..XOXO

  22. What a beautiful and amazing story. You are truly a spectacular woman to have gone through what you did and still be so determined to help others in such a wonderful way to give memory to your little girl. Your children should be so proud to have you as a mommy and I cannot imagine how thankful the recipients are. ♡ Thank you for sharing.

  23. I’m so very sorry for your loss, and I think you are amazing for pumping that much milk for other moms to be able to use.
    What an amazingly unselfish way to turn your loss to someone elses gain.

  24. I’m so sorry you lost your Maya. What a beautiful thing you did to help others. Thank you for sharing your story.

  25. Elizabeth Richter says:

    What a beautiful tribute to your girl!

  26. Beautiful. What an amazing mom and person you are. Hugs.

  27. Wow how incredibly inspiring! I’m sure the mothers/babies might not fully know the back story but are 100% thankful for you being so brave and kind hearted! I don’t know how you did it each day I can only imagine the strength it took but I’m so appreciative that you did and that you shared your story! May Maya’s legacy live on!

  28. Thank you for sharing your story. I cannot imagine how difficult your journey has been, and I am humbled by your generosity and selflessness. What a beautiful way to honor the memory of your daughter. I hope your donations helped you to process your loss as much as it helped all those hungry babies and grateful mommas. Thank you and I wish the best for you.

  29. You are so beyond amazing! I can’t imagine experiencing that loss but you took it and made it a great situation for someone else! You are someone that people should emulate. I pray for your loss and your beautiful little girl❤️

  30. You are a beautiful and generous soul. I don’t know if I could do what you did, but I so admire you for it. I am very sorry for the loss of your sweet Maya. I know she is proud of you. Thank you for sharing your story.

  31. I’m so sorry for your loss. You have a beautiful story and have honored your daughter in a very meaningful way. You are a strong woman.

  32. You are stronger and braver than I could ever hope to be. What a beautiful gift from and tribute to your sweet Maya!

  33. you are a true hero momma. I am so terribly sorry for your loss and am humbled to the core by your grace. Thank you for being a light in this world.

  34. Beautiful story mama. Your story definitely matters to so many. Thank you for sharingn your painful yet beautiful story. I know many other mamas out there will feel encouraged and will know they are not alone in their journeys ❤️

  35. You honored your sweet Maya in the most beautiful way possible. I’m sure she is looking down at all the beautiful babies being nourished by her milk, and is proud of her mommy for providing the love to them that is pouring from their bottles. Much love to you and darling Maya.

  36. Such strength you have. What a beautiful gift to give. Hugs mama ❤️

  37. I can’t think of a better way to honor and celebrate ones child. You have given an immeasurable gift to others. Blessings to you, to sweet Maya, and to the babies and parents that recieved your goodness.

  38. What a beautiful soul you have to think of others in need in your own time of heartache! You truly are a blessing for the babes you donated to, be very proud of your accomplishment and strength.

    Know there is a community of mothers out there supporting you, willing to love on you and give you encouraging words if you need them! I do not understand the depth of your ache, regardless, my shoulder is still here to lean on.

  39. Thank you for being so resilient. You honored your baby’s memory. I send you many hugs

  40. Such a beautifully bittersweet story. What a wonderful way to remember your daughter! Thank you for sharing something so personal and for helping to provide for and comfort others while Going through such s difficult time. *hugs*

  41. Thank-you for sharing this story. You are an amazingly strong momma. You found a way to mourn your daughter while helping other wee ones. My heart goes out to you and your family for your loss.

  42. Such an amazing act of kindness!!!

  43. An amazingly brave, strong and selfless gift. Such a beautiful way to honour your daughter. Sending love xx

  44. thank you so much for sharing your story. I cannot even imagine the loss and pain you feel. You are very strong and brave to see beyond your pain and look at how your situation can help others. Thank you again for sharing.

  45. Amazing. What a wonderful and selfless thing to do. I’m so sorry for your loss. ❤

  46. I am so sorry for your loss. Losing a child is one of the most unimaginable and indescribable pains. I lost my baby early in my pregnancy. Your daughter left a great legacy, she helped other babies thrive and gain nourishment from her milk. As a low supply mama, thank you for your selflessness, I’m in awe of you both. I wish I could hug you, you are amazing.

  47. Kristen Jeffers says:

    Beautiful story and thank you for sharing!

  48. What a beautiful and amazing tribute to Maya! Your strength is an inspiration

  49. I lost my son at 24.5 weeks gestation. I purposely did nothing to dry up my milk, but I was not brave enough to pump it. I just wanted to feel the physical pain of the engorgement to go along with the emotional pain I was feeling. Your Maya gave a gift to so many babies through you.

  50. What a wonderful story! You are stronger than most. Not only for being able to share this story but for being able to pump and help out others. God Bless.

  51. What an amazing and priceless gift

  52. I want you to know how awesome you are. You went though something that no mother should ever have to go through, and you have the most amazing, selfless gift to those families who received your daughter’s milk. You’re right about them not probably ever knowing the extent of how much went into being able to give them that gift, but you know and Maya knows.

  53. Thank you for sharing, what an amazing story! I hope you continue to find ways to honor Maya

  54. Wow! This made me cry…What a Beautiful heart you have! This was such an act of Love in Maya’s memory. I’m sorry for your loss!

  55. God bless you, momma. For every teardrop and drop of milk.

  56. Thank you for sharing your beautiful and loving story. I’m sure Maya is watching over your family and so proud of you for donating her milk to a family in need. Sending you hugs…

  57. Ulrike, It was an honor to read your story. Your selfless act in the face of such grief is truly inspiring. I can not imagine what you went through but your grace shines through. May God bless you, your family, and the family(ies) you blessed with “Maya’s Milk”!

  58. Heather Edwards says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this story. What a beautiful tribute to your daughter.

  59. Maya is beautiful and you are an amazing mom! Thank you for sharing your journey!

  60. what a wonderful, selfless thing to do. I honor and respect this so much. You are an amazing mother and woman. I believe you did exactly what Maya would have wanted. Cheers and blessings to you, Mama.

  61. Wow, you are an amazingly strong woman. I am not sure I could’ve done that. I love that you also shared that special time with your boys. Thank you for sharing.

  62. Such s beautiful story. I can’t begin to imagine the pain you felt. Nor imagine what it is like to go through. But you are an amazing woman, such a beautiful way to tribute for maya.

  63. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story. You are one strong momma!

  64. What an absolutely beautiful gift you have given. I am so sorry for your loss. It is so great that you were able to help out so many babies with the best gift, breastmilk.

  65. What an incredible act of love. I am beyond humbled and inspired by your courage and generosity.
    Thank you so much for taking time to share this beautiful story.

  66. That’s amazing that you did that! I’m so very sorry for your loss ❤️ Rest in Paradise Maya ❤️

  67. Such a beautiful story!! Sorry for your loss.

  68. What a beautiful tribute to your sweet Maya. Maya has a strong loving Mother!

  69. What an amazing thing you did in the face of a loss. Hugs to you mama, you are so incredibly strong. May God continue to give you strength.

  70. What a beautiful way to honor her life.

  71. What an amazing tribute to sweet Maya! Your strength and kindness are inspiring. Sending love and hugs your way!

  72. Beautiful. I am in awe of you to be able to do what you did. The courage and determination it took for you to pump every single day is amazing. God bless!

  73. Wow. this is such a sweet story that you have. Such an amazing tribute for your sweet baby. Such a strong and thoughtful woman you are for blessing all of those babies with mayas milk. i wish you and your family all the strength in the world for healing. baby maya will always watch down on you from heaven. you have a very special angel up there.

  74. Thank you for sharing mama. Beautiful story.

  75. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing!

  76. What a beautiful gift and tribute to your daughter. Thank you for sharing your story!

  77. Danielle Kwan says:

    I’m sorry for your loss. It is truly unthinkable. What a great thing you did in memory of Maya. I had trouble pumping enough milk for my babies – it was so frustrating. The fact you did it for others without an oversupply is so incredible.

  78. This brought a tear to my eye. What a beautiful way of honoring Maya, what a selfless gift you gave to other families during a very difficult time. Thank you for sharing your story <3

  79. Wow. I am amazed by your selflessness and strengths. This is beautiful.

  80. A beautiful story! You showed great dedication and the legacy your sweet Maya shares is a beautiful one. Thank you for sharing your story about loss and pumping after, your courage will indeed encourage others!

  81. Bless you! I am so sorry for your loss! What a great mother/person you are! I’m sure you touched many lives through doing that! I pray you will continue to heal, I know that must be the hardest experience ever to go through.

  82. Mama, I’m so incredibly sorry for your loss. You are one strong, amazing woman!

  83. What an amazing story and such a wonderful, meaningful tribute to your precious daughter. I am so sorry for your loss.

  84. Thank you for sharing your story. What a beautiful way to heal and help others. Well done,mama. Love, light and comfort to your family.

  85. What a wonderful gift! Maya’s memory will live on in all the families who received your milk!

  86. The best ingredient in breastmilk is love and yours had so much. Great story. Thank you for sharing!

  87. It is so amazing what you have done! Bless you and little Maya she will be so proud of her mummy! Sending you a big big hug can’t even begin to imagine how tough it has all been for you cxxx

  88. What a wonderful legacy your daughter has left. You did her proud, and she and you touched so many lives in your selfless act xx much love mamma xxx

  89. Krista Moon says:

    Wow. I am just amazed at the selflessness this mother has shown. What a beautiful donation and beautiful tribute to your beautiful girl.

  90. Thank you for sharing this. I’m sure Maya is with you every day and you’ve shared her with so many. Bless you.

  91. You are a wonderful woman. You gave of yourself so freely and kindly when you were, and probably still are, grieving. It is a beautiful legacy that you and your daughter left for others. I’m sure she’s smiling down from heaven then and now. Hugs!

  92. Ry Crevatis says:

    Beautiful way to honor your daughter. Stay strong mama, because of your daughter you gave a gift to many babies out there.

  93. Beautiful story, what a great way to honor her!!! Your strength is amazing

  94. Thank you for sharing. What a beautiful way to honor your daughter.

  95. What an amazing thing to do to celebrate and remember your little one. You are a strong momma. Hugs and prayers to your family!

  96. May God bless and comfort you, hugs. You have done amazing work mama!

  97. Absolutely beautiful story! What an amazing thing you did!

  98. Beautifully written. I’m so sorry for your loss. You chose a beautiful way to honor Maya. I know those families are so grateful for the amazing gift. Hugs and peace to you.

  99. You are so amazing. I’m in awe at your strength. I lost my daughter at 36 weeks 4 days gestation, also due to a cord accident. My milk came in and I just cried. To pump and dump just killed my heart. I wish I would’ve thought about pumping and donating.
    Your story is incredible. Thank you for sharing..

  100. What an amazing story. Your little Maya is beautiful, and what you did with her legacy is beautiful too. You are a brave &wonderful mom.

  101. Jodie-Ann says:

    You are an amazingly strong woman. You processed such an unimaginable event in the most beautiful way imaginable. You honour your daughter and yourself with your actions. This story is amazing. So sorry for your loss <3

  102. Elisabeth says:

    That is such a beautiful thing. There are tears streaming down my face right now. We lost our little girl too early for my milk to come in, but when my sister lost her little boy to stillbirth she pumped and donated too. i think it really helped for her. It’s the most beautiful gift you could give in your baby’s name, and such a wonderful way to remember her.

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