While Amy Anderson was grieving the loss of her baby, Bryson, who was stillborn at 20 weeks, she decided to go against her doctor's orders to bind her breasts and instead started pumping milk to donate.
"I thought to myself, OK, I have this milk. Now I need to figure out what to do with it," Anderson told TODAY.com.
She started pumping regularly after finding out all the benefits of human milk, but when she asked her former employer if she could take regular breaks to express milk, they looked at her and said, "Your baby is dead."
They told her that the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law didn't include bereaved or surrogate mothers, which is when she left the company and decided to fight to change the terminology of the law to be formally inclusive of all lactating women. She recently heard back from a state legislator who offered to help.
"It doesn't matter whether or not you now have a baby to hold. I was a lactating woman with physical needs," Anderson, from Caribou, Maine, told TODAY.com.
Anderson and her husband, Bryan, both 34, found out at 15 weeks' gestation that their son had a lower urinary tract obstruction (LUTO), and fought for his life for the next month. The couple, who have two other kids together — Brody, 8, and Owen, 2 — discovered he died on Oct. 28, 2010 and she delivered him two days later. By Nov. 3, she started pumping.
Bryson isn't Anderson's only "angel baby." In the past eight years, she's lost three other babies to miscarriages, but after hearing Bryson's heartbeat and actually being able to hold him, she felt the greatest connection to him — which led her to want to make an impact on the world.
"This was Bryson's life purpose and I'm going to embrace that," Anderson said.
She actually found pumping milk to be very comforting. She looked at his photos from the ultrasound and wonders where he'd be at that moment.
"That was my time to unwind and be with my angel," Anderson said. "It helped me work through my grief."
She also used that time to do a lot of research, which is what led her to find out about necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a painful bowel disease that causes parts of the intestines to die and is the second leading cause of death for premature babies. The use of human milk can lower risk of NEC by 79 percent.
After pumping for eight months, she donated 92 gallons of breast milk to five milk banks in four different states and Canada, which resulted in more than 30,000 feedings.
While fighting to change the law, Anderson is currently volunteering for Mothers' Milk Bank Northeast and working toward completing her certification to become a breastfeeding consultant.
"Family and friends were always so nervous to bring up Bryson's name and didn't realize that I needed the acknowledgement, but now with what I'm doing, he gets brought up every day, which makes me smile."