Denton resident Alyse Ogletree first became a breast milk donor the way many women have, pumping and filling a hospital freezer for her infant son, Kyle, who was hospitalized with viral spinal meningitis.
A nurse at Children’s Medical Center Dallas noticed that Ogletree was stashing more milk than Kyle would ever need. He suggested that she donate it.
When she became pregnant with her daughter, Kage, Ogletree did the math. She knew, based on how much she’d donated when Kyle was sick, she could smash the world record.
“I’m a little competitive,” she said.
As of this week, according to Guinness World Records, Ogletree holds the world record for donating 53,081 ounces, or about 414 gallons, to the Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. The record counts what she donated when Kyle fell ill in 2011 and what she donated as she was nursing Kage, from November 2012 to March 2014.
She is the sixth woman in the region to hold the record, a number that has risen rapidly since Alicia Richmond of Granbury broke the record in 2012 after she donated 11,115 ounces.
Studies have measured the average intake for breast-fed babies to be about 25 ounces per day. Ogletree said she estimated that she produced about 100 ounces per day.
When she began her second round of donations, she packed up her first stash after she filled the freezer at home and took it to the milk bank’s drop-off center at the Denton County Health Department.
Her donation left no room for others, she said, and the milk bank had to send a courier right away. After that, the milk bank sent a courier directly to her house.
“We had to buy another freezer,” said her husband, Lance Ogletree.
Amy Vickers, executive director of the Fort Worth-based milk bank, said that women who donate bring an average of 100 to 300 ounces that comes in three to four drop-offs.
The typical donor isn’t a stay-at-home mother, either, she said.
“It’s the one who’s working and frantic to fill up her freezer,” Vickers said. “And then she never dips into the stash.”
Denton resident Dori Boyer said she had extra milk that she didn’t want to throw out.
“That just felt wrong,” Boyer said.
She learned how to donate through the lactation consultant at the hospital where her daughter was born. The power of donating came home to her when a friend’s baby was born at 28 weeks’ gestation.
“When the mother’s body isn’t ready to nurse, and if we can provide the milk, then why not?” Boyer said.
Premature babies need breast milk to help coat their digestive tract with antibodies, Vickers said. Even when fed intravenously, preemies still need what breast milk provides to prevent illness, including necrotizing enterocolitis, or the death of intestinal tissue, she said.
“That’s the life-and-death one, and breast milk is about the only thing we have to prevent it,” Vickers said.
Full-term babies sometimes need help, too. As researchers learn more about the nutritional and immunological properties of breast milk, the message to the general public has shifted. Mothers and pediatricians understand that there are risks and hazards for babies who aren’t breast-fed, Vickers said.
Women donate for many reasons, and the milk bank works with them to make it as easy and safe as possible for the donors and the babies, Vickers said.
For more information about the milk bank, visit www.texasmilkbank.org or call 817-810-0071.
PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.