It is World Breastfeeding Week. We introduce you to an Omaha mother whose son unexpectedly passed away at 10 months. To honor him, she donated 131 gallons of breast milk for other babies.
His name was Leo. He was described as a bright light in this world. He was loved.
"Leo was born 2 months early and he was diagnosed with gastroschisis. There was no skin to pull over his exposed organs. It was kind of a new case they had not seen before," said Leo's mom, Demi Frandsen.
Leo spent 10 months in the NICU at Children's Hospital and Medical Center. He never got to say his first word, but he found a way to make his voice heard. His mom and dad captured every moment. The first time Leo got to go outside, the precious moments he got to spend with his older brother Sawyer, and how Leo learned how to sign "Mom."
"We're still trying to figure out how to have a life without such a big part of it...a little piece of our soul," said Frandsen.
Leo unexpectedly passed away October 22nd.
"We miss our Leo. It's not even day to day. It's moment to moment," said Demi.
Demi says she often felt helpless as she watched her baby boy in the NICU. Breast feeding was the one way she felt she could help him.
"With a q-tip we'd put it in my milk and we'd swab his mouth..." she said.
Leo couldn't handle much milk, so Demi found it in her heart to give to others. She woke herself up every 3 hours to pump.
"My final donation was 17,503 ounces...which is 131 gallons. So, a dairy aisle, basically," Demi said.
She became the largest donor ever at Children's Milk Depot.
Tammi Martin, a Lactation Consultant with Children's, has seen their Milk Depot grow since it opened in 2013. She worked with Demi while Leo was in the NICU.
"With all that was going on in her life she found it in her heart to give to other babies," said Martin.
Children's sends the milk donations off to the Denver Milk Bank. The milk is then sterilized and pasteurized before being sent back out. It often ends up right back in the NICU.
'For our babies that are very small, for our sickest, tiniest babies whose mothers can't provide the milk they need," said Martin. "We talk about all the good, positive qualities of breast milk that formula doesn't have and our smallest babies need those antibodies, those protective factors and growth factors."
This was the reason Demi kept pushing on. She wanted to provide for babies like her son-who spent the first part of their lives hooked up to hospital tubes, fighting, and surrounded by love.
"He was worth it. He was worth all of this. His life in 10 months was the best 10 months of mine," said Demi.
So far, Martin says 81,000 ounces of breast milk have been donated at Children's Hospital in Omaha.
If you would like to donate, the Denver Milk Banks likes mothers to donate at least 150 ounces. You have to get a blood draw, which is provided free at Children's.
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (402) 955-6152.