Demi Frandsen’s son Leo spent all 10 of the precious months he was alive hooked up to machines in the NICU at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska. As WOWT New reports, despite the fact that Leo couldn’t handle much breast milk, his mom pumped for him religiously — and ended up donating whatever he couldn’t eat to other NICU moms.
17, 503 ounces of breast milk to be exact. In other words: 131 gallons! Amazing, huh?
Demi’s donation has broken records, in fact. She’s become the largest milk donor at Children’s Milk Depot in Omaha, and her story of love and generosity is capturing the hearts of parents everywhere. Demi performed this act of kindness for her fellow NICU moms, WOWT New reports, but also to honor her sweet son, who unexpectedly passed away on October 22, 2015.
As Demi tells WOWT news, Leo was born two months early and was diagnosed with gastroschisis. “There was no skin to pull over his exposed organs. It was kind of a new case they had never seen before,” Demi shares.
Leo spent his short, but much-loved life in the NICU. His parents savored every moment with him — taking a video of the first time he got to go outside, when he first learned the sign for “Mommy,” and his special moments of bonding with his big brother, Sawyer.
“We’re still trying to figure out how to have a life without such a big part of it … a little piece of our soul,” Demi said, about trying to go on after the death of her baby. “We miss our Leo. It’s not even day to day. It’s moment to moment,” she told WOWT News.
Demi also shared with the outlet that Leo couldn’t be fed large amounts of breast milk because of his condition. “With a Q-tip, we’d put it in my milk and we’d swab his mouth,” Demi explained. But she still felt that pumping breast milk was one of the most tangible and healthy things she could do for her son. She ended up pumping much more milk than he could drink, and decided to share the rest with others.
Demi pumped every three hours, day and night before she donated the 17, 503 ounces — or what she jokingly calls “a dairy. aisle, basically.”
But it was no joking matter — what she did was generous beyond compare, especially given what she was struggling with in her own life. As Tammi Martin, a lactation consultant at Children’s Hospital, told WOWT News, “With all that was going on in her life she found it in her heart to give to other babies.”
Of course, it wasn’t easy. “Donating milk that was supposed to be for my son was emotional,” Demi tells Babble. But through it all, it was Leo that kept her going.
“I pumped every single ounce for him,” she says. “He is the reason for all of this. But if he couldn’t have it, I am so grateful that other babies like him could benefit from it. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for my Leo, and I know other moms feel that desperate love as well. I am glad I can help those moms provide for their little fighter. Other babies surviving from Leo’s milk is just another way his life has affected and bettered the lives of so many others.”
And according to Martin, that contribution was tremendous. Babies in the NICU are often most in need of breast milk, Martin told WOWT, and many of their moms simply can’t provide the milk they need. “We talk about all the good, positive qualities of breast milk that formula doesn’t have and our smallest babies need those antibodies, those protective factors and growth factors,” said Martin.
No mom knew this better than Demi, who had endured 10 hard months of worry for her fragile son.
“He was worth it. He was worth all of this,” says Demi, “His life in 10 months was the best 10 months of mine.”