Moms help out after infant's mother dies.
Published: July 31, 2017
By: Emily Reed
The day Liberty Latisha Fruhauf came into the world, a community of mothers throughout Alabama and surrounding states was born.
As the newborn baby girl breathed in the first moments of life outside of the womb on Oct. 12, 2016, her mother, Tisha Fruhauf, died from a rare amniotic embolism. The condition, caused by the amniotic fluid mixing into the bloodstream, caused cardiac arrest.
Tisha Fruhauf, a mother of seven children at home, was an avid supporter of breastfeeding, and planned to breastfeed “Libby,” her eighth child, according to Tisha’s husband, Kerry Fruhauf. “Tisha was looking forward to bonding with Libby in that way,” Fruhauf says.
As news of Tisha’s tragic death spread throughout the family’s Millbrook community, mothers near and far began quickly coming up with a plan to make sure Tisha’s desire to breastfeed was carried out.
“Tisha and I met over Facebook, and Tisha had the biggest heart and loved her family through and through,” says Allison Cash Goodwin, one of the women that collected breast milk for Libby since the beginning. “When I found out that Tisha had passed away, I knew Tisha’s passion about breastfeeding and started speaking with other ladies who knew her. We talked to Kerry, and he was willing to accept our help in collecting breast milk, so I started reaching out in breastfeeding groups on Facebook, and then we started our own group.”
Within 12 hours of Tisha’s death, a group of women had collected more than 2,000 ounces of breast milk. “We were all amazed,” Goodwin adds. “We were very careful in collecting. For example, donations came from those we personally knew, or had a mutual friend from the person donating. I think what amazed me the most was the response. The outpouring of love from mamas who all are tied together as one because they breastfeed their babies. Every woman who has donated has a connection.”
Goodwin says the Facebook group “Breastmilk for Libby” was created to collect enough breast milk for Libby’s first year of life. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends “exclusive” breastfeeding for about six months of life. Exclusive breastfeeding is identified as no water, formula, other liquids, or solids.
“Breastfeeding should then be continued for at least one year and thereafter as long as mutually desired by the mother and baby, with the appropriate introduction of complementary foods beginning at about six months of age,” according to aap.org.
Sylvia Edwards, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant who works for the United States Lactation Consultant Association says one of the benefits of a child receiving breast milk is the immunity that the baby receives, which helps prevent childhood cancers, decreases incidents of diabetes, and is healthy for the GI tract. “We consider breast milk as medicine for our premature babies because there are so many things it can help with,” Edwards says.
Edwards also serves on the board for the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Alabama, which collects human breast milk to give to area hospitals in an effort to give vital “first-food nutrients” to newborns.
Several of the group’s administrators collect breast milk donations every few months to transport to Millbrook, where Kerry Fruhauf keeps the milk properly packaged and sealed in freezer space at the family’s home.
Mary Catherine Quinn of Birmingham was one of the women who stepped up to help donate. Quinn, a mother of an 11-month-old daughter, Anne Ellington, exclusively pumped for nine months to provide breast milk for her daughter. “Anne Ellington was born at 28 weeks, and spent 89 days in the NICU, so I pumped early and developed a surplus of milk,” Quinn explains. “I introduced frozen milk to Anne Ellington around 8.5 months and she did not like it.”
Quinn learned of Libby’s need when a friend on Facebook contacted her.
“Being a NICU nurse myself, we use donor milk with our babies when needed,” Quinn says. Quinn donated roughly 300 ounces of breast milk to Libby.
Charlene Earl, a mother of a 5-year-old and five-month-old learned of Libby’s need for breast milk and shipped roughly 1,700 ounces from her home in Hartsville, SC. “I met Tisha online from buying and selling children’s clothing,” Earl says. “There were a couple of ladies that knew how strongly Tisha felt about breastfeeding and reached out to our group to see if anyone could help with Libby’s needs.
“It meant a lot to me to be able to help out in this way,” Earl explains. “It warms my heart to know that this is what Tisha would have wanted, and she would have done this for any one of us that stepped up to donate.”
Christina Skrobak, a mother of two who lives in Woodstock, and breastfed for 42 months, donated 623.25 ounces of breast milk to Libby. “I would want, and hope, that if my children were ever in a similar situation, other moms would help my kids as well,” Skrobak says. “Breastfeeding moms are a tight knit, extended, family,”
Leslie Casey Sansing, an administrator to an Alabama-based breastfeeding Facebook support group “Mom’s Best-For Breastfeeding,” which currently has more than 4,000 members and serves as an open forum for breastfeeding mothers, says oftentimes individuals do not realize the benefits to breastfeeding, which include antibodies that are contained in the milk that can help a baby fight off viruses and bacteria.
“Some people question whether there are risks involved with using donor milk, but they do not seem to consider the risks involved with using formula. Life comes with risks, but for many moms the benefits of donor breast milk far outweigh any small risks of receiving donor milk,” Sansing says. “Since donor milk comes from other mothers, and knowing that another mom would not knowingly give her own child milk that would be harmful, a recipient of donor milk can be somewhat comforted the donor milk will be equally safe and beneficial to their own baby.”
“All of the women who stepped up to provide milk for Libby have been a blessing,” Kerry Fruhauf says. “We are so thankful for all that they have done. Liberty is currently doing great. She is healthy, and growing well.” As of March, Goodwin says more than 5,000 ounces of milk had been collected for Libby.
While collections for Libby are no longer needed, Edwards encourages mothers interested in donating breast milk to contact www.mmbal.org.
Emily Reed is a freelance writer and stay-at-home mom to her son, Tobias.