NORFOLK, Va (WAVY) – Marleigh Hairston sat quietly on her mom’s lap, her big brown eyes taking everything in, as her parents recalled the day she was born.
“The whole situation was scary for me,” Marty Hairston says. Marleigh was considered a micro-preemie born at 26 weeks and weighting a little over one pound.
“They had to use this tape across her abdomen because her skin was so thin and fragile that anytime they had to do anything it would kind of like,
come off,” Cherese Hairston says.
Cherese says then her own body failed her when she was unable to pump breast-milk for her fragile little girl.
“It was very tough to just see her in the NICU, and then to know I can’t even do the one simple thing of getting breast milk,” Cherese says.
Ashlynn Baker witnessed this all too often as a Neonatal Intensive Care nurse
“Seeing the devastating outcomes that could happen to these premature babies when they’re formula fed versus receiving human milk, which is our own species nutrition. I just knew that we had to find a way to provide this treatment,” Baker says.
That’s how the Milk Bank at Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters was born two-and-a-half years ago. Since then, they’ve received over half-a million ounces of donated milk for babies at CHKD and countless others at 25 hospitals up and down the East Coast.
The challenge Baker explains, unlike blood donation, is constantly recruiting donors.
“You have a blood donor for life, in milk banking you only have a donor for that short period of window which is maybe one to two years while they’re
breastfeeding,” Baker says.
Marleigh got the “liquid gold” for 16 weeks in the NICU her dad says, the results are priceless.
“She’s the strongest kid I’ve ever seen,” Marty says.
It doesn’t take a lot of milk to help, one ounce, or two tablespoons full, can treat four preemies. They’re also using the milk to treat toddlers with cancer and other sick kids.
If you would like to donate, or know anyone in the country who would, call (757) 668-MILK to start the screening process.