Experts usually advise new moms to wait six weeks before expressing milk, but Saab Magalona's case was obviously not the usual circumstance. She gave birth to her twins prematurely at just 30 weeks and six days. Her daughter, Luna Isabel, sadly didn't make it, and her son, Pancho Gerardo, was taken straight to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Saab meanwhile stayed in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). Amid the chaos and emotional turmoil, the new mom was able to find comfort in regularly pumping milk.
"I’m a total control freak, so you can just imagine what I was going through. I did my research, I read so many books, I followed all my doctor’s orders. So with everything around me suddenly in chaos, a routine was exactly what I needed," Saab writes in her blog.
Two days after her daughter died, Saab's big sister, Unna Lu, a mom of four, encouraged Saab to start pumping milk. "We were all trying not to think about my baby boy’s critical condition and as I’m typing this, I’m realizing that my pumping was very therapeutic for me."
Saab expressed milk every two to three hours, and she would even ask the nurses to wake her up to pump on schedule. Unna advised her to pump each breast for about 15 to 20 minutes. "I kind of overdid it for the first few days and strictly pumped both breasts for 30 minutes each every two hours," the new mom shared.
It came to a point where Saab's body was producing enough milk for two babies, but she couldn't breastfeed or cup-feed Pancho yet. The doctors wanted to make sure his digestive system could take it. She donated her breast milk to the Human Milk Bank.
"I’m not a health professional so can’t know for sure, but I personally believe I can attribute my good, steady flow (at times too much) to those first few days. The more you pump, the more your body will produce milk," Saab wrote.
She continued, "I couldn’t breastfeed Pancho for a month and a half, so my body thought my 'baby' (a.k.a. my breast pump) needed to drink an hour’s worth of supply (30 minutes per side), and it produced what my 'baby' needed. Until now, it blows my mind how magical a mother’s body can be."
Now that she can breastfeed Pancho on demand, Saab, who is not taking any supplements, still expresses milk every three to four hours for about 10 to 15 minutes "or else I get clogged ducts and they can get very painful."
Saab understands that breastfeeding could be tiring for some moms. "It would be great to have a family member take care of your baby while you do your thing. Don’t forget that stress can be a factor in lowered milk supply so just relax and keep going as it will take time before your body adjusts to this new demand!" the new mom wrote.
To date, Saab is still able to collect extra milk that she donates to those in need. She has given away about 500 bags of breast milk. "It makes me so happy when moms send me updates on how well their babies are doing," she said.