Shelby's Story

“From the outside, breastfeeding looks so beautiful, simple and natural. But, while it is beautiful, it’s actually not easy. You have to teach your baby how to do it as you learn, yourself,” said new mom and learning specialist Shelby Ambs. “It’s definitely worth the effort, but people don’t talk enough about the challenges of breastfeeding. A mom can feel like she’s the only one struggling, and that just isn’t true.”

Shelby is conscientious about eating healthy and avoiding processed foods as much as possible. She and her husband Mike had always planned that their baby-to-be would be nurtured exclusively on breast milk—which is considered by the World Health Organization to be the gold standard for infant health.

Baby Abby was born in late 2022 at Henry Ford Jackson Hospital. She arrived one week early and was delivered by C-section. Mom Shelby experienced complications, including high blood pressure. While her milk came in nicely despite the complications, Abby wasn’t getting enough to maintain her weight. Concerned about the baby’s weight loss, the pediatric hospitalists recommended supplementing her regular feedings with either formula or donor breast milk.

“Although I preferred that Abby have only breast milk, I didn’t really know much about donor milk,” Shelby said. “I was concerned about the safety of giving Abby milk from a stranger.”

The pediatric hospitalists and lactation consultants on staff assured her that milk donors are highly screened and require physician approval. They further explained donor milk is continuously monitored throughout the processing and pasteurization steps, and every batch is randomly tested for safety. “They had the expertise and willingness to answer all my questions, and I knew the need for the Milk Bank would be short-term. So, I felt comfortable in my decision to choose donor milk,” said Shelby.

Shelby stayed in the hospital for six days, while her blood pressure was monitored, and she continued to breastfeed Abby, in addition to giving her the supplemental donor milk. “The silver lining to the long hospital stay was that I had continuous support from the Henry Ford lactation consultants, and that was a godsend,” said Shelby. “We were provided with enough donor milk for the duration, as well as for the first week at home, until my own milk came in fully.”

Baby Abby continues to thrive, achieving the desired weight gain of about one ounce per day. Shelby continues to check in with the lactation consultants every two weeks. “There are always new challenges, but I firmly believe the support I receive from the lactation consultants, along with my strong desire and determination to breastfeed, are the main reasons Abby remains exclusively breastfed,” Shelby said. “I absolutely love and appreciate those ladies for the help and encouragement they provide. And I am grateful for the Henry Ford Donor Milk Bank.”

Learn how to receive donor milk for your baby.


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