Hurricane Harvey left Texas residents without homes and resources, and one local group is doing everything they can to help mothers and breastfeeding children in Texas.
Nicole Edwin, a pediatric feeding therapist, is working to bring mothers from across the country together. Despite having three kids, a full-time job and another child on the way, Nicole still found a way not only to organize donations of breast milk and other supplies, but to hand-deliver them.
The decision to travel across the country was made only twenty-four hours after the opportunity presented itself, according to Nicole. Due to her job as a pediatric feeding therapist, she is connected to mothers and women through a variety of online communities. A mother in the Dallas area was concerned about breastfeeding mothers in the area not getting the supplies to support their babies. She messaged Nicole asking if she knew how to get supplies, such as milk donations, to these moms.
24 hours later, Nicole and her midwife, Tarina Knarr, were on their way to Texas with an SUV and trailer filled with donations.
Nicole said she had a client who had already started donating extra milk, but was concerned with how to properly ship it and make sure it was delivered to those who needed it.
“It was easier for me to transport this milk,” Nicole said.
Once the decision to go was made, Nicole put out a call to the community to donate whatever they could. They were able to load the SUV and trailer with diapers, formula and other babies supplies, and personal hygiene products. A deep freezer was donated to help transport the milk.
“In that first trip we had collected (breast milk) from five different moms,” said Nicole.
Once in Texas, Nicole and Tarina made contact with the woman who initially made contact with Nicole, and used her garage as a base of operations to hold the supplies. They spent the entire next day trying to reach out to everyone they could possibly think of, according to Nicole.
Many of their connections were able to be made thanks to their ties to the Guiding Star organization. Nicole also serves as the president of Guiding Star Mid-Missouri, and was able to work with the group to find families and mothers in need.
One of these cases was a mother of five, who lived with her husband and children directly on the coast, south of Houston. The family left within 24 hours of the hurricane hitting, with what they had on their backs.
“She was going through chemo (chemotherapy) and could no longer breastfeed her daughter,” Nicole said. “She left 2000 ounces in a deep-freezer in her house, which they had to evacuate.” Two of the children had autism, and the breastfeeding daughter had allergies and wasn’t doing well, according to Nicole. Their church had supported them by helping them get back to school, with clothes and other supplies, but items such as diapers were still needed.
Nicole said she was able to acquire 1000 ounces of donated milk through generous local mothers, as well as weighted blankets for the two children with autism. The family was also put in touch with donors who would be able to provide milk in the future.
“Being able to help her was really powerful,” said Nicole.
The average baby consumes 24 ounces of breast milk a day, according to Nicole. So losing, and then gaining, ounces of milk measured in the thousands can make an enormous difference in a breast feeding mother’s life.
On the way back from their first trip to Texas, Nicole and Tarina came up with the idea for their Facebook page they are now using to connect with more mothers looking to help. Nourish Notion: Moms in Motion has members from all over the country.
“There’s moms reaching out to us from California, Washington…everywhere in the country,” said Nicole. They made their first trip on a Sunday, and by the following Sunday had more mothers ready to donate supplies and milk. One married couple from Rolla volunteered to accompany Nicole and Tarina on their next trip.
“We’ve really pulled together a lot of people in this community and it’s blown my mind how quickly people will rally to help others in Rolla,” said Nicole.
They also received a gift from Brewer Science in the form of special foam bricks that stay frozen for long amounts, greatly assisting the transportation of breast milk, which needs care when delivering. The milk is packed and specially frozen with the bricks from Brewer Science, and arrives in 8 hours where it is placed directly into a deep freeze and then hand delivered. The milk is frozen for less than 24 hours and the deliveries are made by mid wives and lactation consultants, according to Nicole.
This network of mothers-helping-mothers, gives aid to a population of breastfeeding children that were otherwise going underserved, according to Nicole, who spoke about the large population of mothers who are, for some reason or another, unable to breast feed their own children. These mothers are reliant on pumps or formula, both of which are hard to come by and use following the damage dealt by the hurricane.
“These are babies that are being forgotten about,” Nicole said, and these are the babies she, Tarina, and every mother connecting through Nourish Notion: Moms in Motion are working together to save.
Nicole said she would like to see the group become a grassroots, non-profit organization, and has already partnered with Guiding Star. As she prepares to have another child, she won’t be making another delivery in person, but will be continuing to bring mothers together and send help to where it’s needed.
“When a community of mothers can get together and support each other, I think there’s no greater gift,” she said.