Standing at just 1.56m, Linette Lim is what you would call petite. But this amazing mum has donated enough breast milk to feed over 20 babies, in addition to feeding her own child, says a report in The Straits Times (ST).
In fact, she’s one of the top donors to the breast milk bank at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital (KKH). The average donor mum gives about eight litres.
The stay-at-home mum reckons that she donated about 120 litres from August 2017 to May 2018 – of which about 50 litres went to KKH. The rest was given to two mothers on a private basis.
How donated breast milk helps
Each beneficiary receives about three litres of donor breast milk over 13 days.
KKH found that the donated breast milk has also led to a drop in the incidence of necrotising enterocolitis. This is a serious intestinal disease which is the leading cause of death among premature babies, the ST reports adds.
Related: 4 tips to pump more breast milk
Bubble tea and durian help her milk supply
Linette’s son, Sherman, is now 18 months old, but she continues to produce about 1.5 litres of breast milk a day. Of this amount, about a litre goes to her son and the rest is donated to the two mothers.
She says that the rate and volume of her milk production hasn’t changed since Sherman was born.
But she no longer donates to KKH’s milk bank because it caters to babies below 36 weeks old, and breast milk’s composition changes as one’s child grows.
“I don’t keep track of how much I donate so I got a shock when KKH informed me about how much I had donated,” Linette says.
She washes and sterilises 15 milk bottles and three milk pumps every day. The milk is put into bags and kept frozen in two fridges, filling them completely.
Linette sleeps for only two hours a night as she has to pump milk every four hours and care for her two children. Her other son is 2½ years old.
She eats foods rich in omega-3 fats, such as salmon and oats, to help boost her milk production.
And bubble milk tea and durian also seem to help her milk supply, she says.
The hearbreaking reason behind her donation
When Linette was 36 weeks pregnant, doctors expected Sherman to be stillborn; if he survived, his chances were pegged at just 5 per cent.
His birth defect is an abnormal opening in the diaphragm. His intestines and liver moved up from the stomach area to the chest cavity, and affect the growth of his lungs.
Devastated, she asked her doctor what to do with the breast milk she would start to produce, and that’s when she learnt about the milk bank.
“My husband and I wanted to donate the milk as proof of his existence, so that, even if he died, he would have been able to help others in some way,” Linette says.
She recalls seeing mothers crying in KKH’s nursing room because they could not produce enough breast milk, which is the gold standard in infant nutrition.
After Sherman was born, he spent 68 days in intensive care and had surgery to shift his organs back in place and to cover the hole in his diaphragm.
As he couldn’t ingest breast milk at that point, Linette began pumping to store milk for him, and donated the excess.
“I have to keep up my milk production because Sherman, till today, drinks only milk. Due to his early experiences with being intubated, he has trauma about being fed and so does not take solid food,” she explains.
“When we learnt about Sherman’s prognosis, we felt lonely and helpless about not being able to do much to salvage the situation,” Linette says. Her husband is an executive director of a development firm.
“But later I realised that mothers can actually do so much for others by donating breast milk because it matters a lot to the mothers to know that their children are receiving the best milk that they can get.”