This Mom Donated 600 Ounces to Breast Milk After Her Newborn’s Death

"I thought of all the babies that could benefit from it. I was honored to be able to give it to other fragile babies that needed it."
ByNehal Aggarwal
Associate Editor
Published
Sep 2020
two hands passing a paper heart between them
Photo: Kelly Sikkema

Brittany Kolb of Kansas City has donated close to 600 ounces of breast milk after the devastating loss of her three-week-old son Elias in April.

After his birth, Elias was taken straight to the NICU and put on a ventilator. He was put on a form of life support and underwent two surgeries three days later. Kolb wasn’t even allowed to touch her newborn without permission for fear that his vitals would drop. Three weeks after his birth, due to significant brain damage and a loss of any additional medical intervention options, Elias passed away.

Kolb and her husband, Trace, who also have a two-year-old son, found out Elias’ stomach was in his chest and might have Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) at their 18-week pregnancy scan. CDH is a birth defect in which the diaphragm, the muscle separating the chest from the abdomen doesn’t properly close in utero, allowing the stomach and the liver to move into the chest and obstruct lung development. The survival rate for babies with CDH is about 50 percent.

While Kolb and her husband took turns holding their son after his death, she noticed her breasts were engorged and in pain. She needed to express breast milk, which only made her feel all the more devastated.

“Pumping milk that I knew my baby would never have the chance to drink was gut-wrenching,” Kolb told Insider.

A lactation consultant at the hospital offered Kolb tips on how to dry her milk supply, but, noticing Kolb’s grief, she explained that was another option. Kolb, who already had a stash of breast milk stored in the NICU, could continue to pump and donate the milk to medically compromised babies who couldn’t tolerate formula or would benefit from the nutrients in breast milk.

“I thought of all the babies that could benefit from it,” Kolb told the outlet. “I was honored to be able to give it to other fragile babies that needed it.”

Kolb quickly got in touch with Mother’s Milk Bank Austin and began the donor approval process, going through several screenings and blood tests. However, Kolb pumped scrupulously the entire time—and stored bags in friends’ freezers after she ran out of space in her own.

“Handing all of my milk over…reminded me again that my baby would not be coming home,” Kolb said, adding that she was happy to have honored Elias’ memory this way. “It was comforting to know that even though my baby was gone, his life made an impact on others.”

Trace has also found his own way to honor Elias’ memory. Following the unexpected loss of his son and his job in the spring, Trace found solace in creating with his hands and began a leather goods company, Elias Drew Leather Goods. You can keep up with and support Elias Drew Leather Goods on Instagram.

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