Newspaper Article – Charity finds breast pumps for low-income families

From The Baton Rouge Advocate

For moms who breastfeed their babies, a breast pump can be invaluable when they need more rest or if they’ll have to be away from the baby.

But a breast pump’s usefulness is relatively short-lived. After the baby is weaned, the pump goes up on a shelf or in a closet.

Since top-of-the-line, electric breast pumps can cost $200-$300 these days, it seems like a waste.

Prairieville mom Wendy Williamson thought so. A strong believer in the benefits of breast milk, she wondered why there was no place to recycle used breast pumps.

So, she created one – a charity that collects donated pumps and provides them to breast-feeding moms in low-income families.

Named for the infant son that Wendy and her husband, Robert, lost several years ago, the Zachary Williamson Memorial Foundation provides its good works through a Web site -

“Moms love it (the breast pump). They don’t want to throw this expensive machine away,” she said of the women who donate the pumps.

The Web site has been operating for about a year, and Williamson has been getting a donated breast pump delivered to her home about once a week.

Williamson sterilizes every part of the pump that comes into contact with breast milk, and she discards the tubing, breast shield and bottles that come with it.

Moms can buy those items in a kit, new, at baby-supply stores or from hospitals where babies are delivered, for about $25, said Williamson.

On her Web site, Williamson advises recipients that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns of “certain risks presented by breast pumps that are reused by different mothers if they are not properly cleaned and sterilized.”

Recipients are asked to sign a waiver stating they are aware of the FDA concerns.

Williamson said she feels her method of bleaching and steaming the various parts of the pumps provides a thorough sterilization.

To date, she has been able to build up a backlog of donated pumps, as requests for the equipment come in at a slower pace – but the requests are coming.

Since the Web site went up in January 2006, pumps have been sent out to 11 mothers across the country, after Williamson confirmed their income information.

“I have one shipping tomorrow to Michigan,” Williamson said recently.

One of the early recipients is closer to home.

Mary Haynes of Walker and her husband, Seth, are the parents of six children – among them two sets of twins.

Their family includes twin, 7-year-old daughters, Erin and Emily; 5- year-old daughter Madelynn; and 2-year-old son Samuel. Their newest twins, a girl and boy, Sarah and Micah, were born Dec. 18.

Mary Haynes, who home-schools her older children, hopes to breast- feed her youngest twins for a year, as she did her other four children.

“Especially having twins, it definitely makes it easier,” said Haynes of the pump she received through Williamson’s organization.

She learned about the service through her sister-in-law, Rachael Haynes, who serves on a small board of directors of the foundation that directs the work of the Web site.

Among the moms whom the organization has aided elsewhere in the country are two high school students, whose mothers have made the arrangements for getting the pumps, Williamson said.

Another is a college student, who will use the breast pump to continue providing breast milk for her baby, while she stays in school, Williamson said.

Events in Williamson’s own life as a mother are the driving forces behind her creation of the Web site.

Wendy and her husband, Robert, have a 7-year-old son, Seth, and a 2-year-old daughter, Gabrielle.

In the years between the births of those children, they lost their infant son, Zachary, to a heart condition.

It was in his memory that the Williamsons created the charity that helps mothers provide breast milk for their children.

Wendy had always wanted to breast-feed her children.

With her first-born, Seth, she switched to formula in a few weeks, in order to get more rest.

She suffered from post-partum depression, she said, and needed more sleep badly. With the help of medication, Williamson was able to recover from her depression in a few weeks.

She said she wishes she had known more about breast pumps at the time.

“I tried to breast feed. I had so many problems breast-feeding. No one said, ‘You could have a breast pump.’ I would have found it easier,” Williamson said.

Williamson said she knows that some moms find it difficult to pump their breast milk, but for others, it’s an important factor in whether or not they can keep their babies on breast milk if they’d like to.

For her next infant, Zachary, Williamson pumped breast milk, on the advice of her doctor, to try to give him a better chance against a heart defect he had, called hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

The condition leaves the left side of the heart underdeveloped.

Their son underwent surgery, but the Williamsons lost Zachary to the condition eight days after his birth.

Then, two years ago, with the birth of her daughter, Gabrielle, Williamson turned full time to pumping.

“I did try to breast-feed I still didn’t take to it,” she said.

“After three days, I started pumping,” she said.

“I started going to a lot of breast pump (Web) sites and reading forums, watching (other moms’) questions,” said Williamson, who’s 37.

“I had to go from this site to this site. There was no central location,” she said, on the subject of pumping breast milk.

Her Web site answers that need, in addition to providing pumps to moms.

There, readers can find information on breast milk and pumping, read product reviews and purchase baby-related goods, through links with retailers.

Creating and maintaining the Web site makes good use of Williamson’s talents. Always artistic, she does Web development and graphic design work for the Continental Kennel Club in Walker.

It’s a field she gravitated to, said Williamson, a former high school English teacher, after the loss of Zachary, when she “did a lot of soul searching.”

The answers she came up with fell into place, along with an outreach program she hopes will make a difference for moms and babies across the country one day.