Get PUMPed, Inc. Feeds Babies In Need
Families access locally donated breast milk
Katie Del Giudice gave birth to her son Travis, now 15-months-old, and decided to breastfeed him, rather than use baby formula. Knowing that her maternity leave would soon elapse, Katie proactively pumped more breast milk than Travis could immediately consume and began freezing ounce after ounce for later use. Soon, she was nearly out of storage space as her refrigerator and freezer were fully stocked with breast milk.
“I had heard stories of mothers who had not planned ahead prior to returning to work, and then needed to supplement with formula,” Katie said. Because she held a part-time position, Travis only drank one bottle while she was at work and barely made a dent in her stockpile. Then, Katie learned that frozen breast milk has just a three-month expiration (if not stored in a deep freeze). “I realized that my breast milk was approaching the usage window and wasn’t about to pour it down the drain,” she said. “I could see how Travis was thriving and knew that breastfeeding him was one of the best things I’d done to impact his health.”
Katie began researching breast milk banks and discovered Get PUMPed, Inc. (Providing Urgent Milk to Parents), an Orlando-based, not-for-profit organization that supplies screened donor breast milk to families unable to provide their own to their babies. Get PUMPed started in 2009 after a local breastfeeding woman unexpectedly passed away, leaving her 6-week-old daughter, Sara, without food. Sara’s father wanted to honor his wife’s wish to breastfeed their daughter for as long as possible and turned to friends for help. Dr. Amanda Pacheco, a family friend, coordinated with local breastfeeding mothers to supply the newborn with breast milk through her first birthday. “It was very exciting when Sara was born and, of course, a complete tragedy when her mother died,” Dr. Pacheco said, whose husband suggested that she transition her good deed into a charity to help other families in need because of extraordinary circumstances. “It quickly became a community effort of people wanting to support the demand of local babies.”
Get PUMPed collected more than 2,000 ounces in its first month and, since then, 58 donors have donated 37,481 ounces of breast milk to 41 hungry babies. The organization prides itself on being affordable, local, and safe. Unlike national milk banks, such as Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas, which ships donor milk around the country and can charge upwards of $5 an ounce, Get PUMPed charges a nominal administrative fee, usually around $0.20 per ounce and never declines recipients due to inability to pay. The organization also offers the Susan Eitelman Dean Scholarship, named in honor of a board member who died in 2012, which sponsors recipient families unable to afford the small financial charge. “Our ultimate goal is to be able to have a scholarship for each recipient,” explains Michelle Seiler, a Get PUMPed board member.
Since formula was invented, according to Dr. Pacheco, new mothers get less assistance from family members on how to breastfeed (i.e. different holding positions and techniques) and even get accosted for nursing in public places. Thus, that pushback can have dire consequences on a mother’s ability and desire to breastfeed.
Michelle, who has three children, and Dr. Pacheco who has two kids, both breastfed their babies exclusively. They each felt compelled to help local families who, because of various tragedies, could not offer the same beneficial feeding experience; whether as a result of the mother dying or battling cancer, adoption, or simply being unable to produce their own breast milk for other reasons. “Every mom is different. Some pump, pump, pump and get just drops and those ounces mean the world to them. Others, like some of our incredible donors, can produce a ton of breast milk…more than their child needs,” says Michelle, who shares that some of Get PUMPed donor moms actually give in honor of their child who did not survive.
Nancy Dunn struggled to provide her own breast milk to her son Andrew, who was born with a chromosomal abnormality and suffers from severe allergies to dairy, nuts, wheat, and eggs. Only able to pump two ounces at a time and forced to supplement with formula, she searched for breast milk that Andrew could consume following the first of his four necessary surgeries. She discovered Get PUMPed shortly after Andrew’s first birthday and attributed his increased strength to the donated breast milk, which had been screened to be dairy-free. “He had always been constipated and become regular after I introduced the breast milk. His acid reflux went away and his eczema improved,” Nancy said. “Andrew is now off the meds and is pretty healthy overall!” Nancy’s only regret is not finding the organization, which she utilized for six months, sooner. “If I could have supplied breast milk to him from the beginning, maybe he would have experienced fewer health problems. I wish other moms would be open to donor milk. I know it’s not for everybody, but it certainly helped my son.” Michelle also doesn’t understand the stigma attached to donor breast milk and stresses that donors are screened for communicable diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis. “People give blood and plasma all the time and it’s no big deal. Yet, breast milk is considered taboo.”
Get PUMPed is currently seeking milk and financial donors, and welcomes new recipients. “We don’t exist without babies in need and we won’t exist without donors offering contributions,” Michelle explains.
For more information, visit GetPumpedOnline.org or call (407) 900-MILK (6455).