In Defense of Milk Sharing

Wednesday, October 23

Oh, the news. Oh, internet. Oh, people with opinions on things that have nothing to do with them.

What are we going to do with you.

In light of the news article that has been circulating over the past few days, I have a confession to make. My name is Sara, I feed my daughter almost exclusively donated breastmilk. Yep. You heard that right. Milk that comes from other women's bodies, not my own.

My baby was born with tracheomalacia, a condition that causes her trachea to collapse in on itself. She'd suffocate when she tried to eat, became exhausted with the effort, and would fall asleep after 90 minutes of trying as hard as she could to get full. She has never been a strong sucker, and as a result, my milk never fully established. By the time I realized pumping was going to be my baby's only option of getting my milk, my body had adjusted to feedings that took an hour and a half. What this meant? I had to pump for AT LEAST 45 minutes to get what Rosie needed for one feeding. I pumped as often as I could--woke up before Rosie, stayed up after she'd gone to sleep, every naptime for her was pumping time for me. So to put this into simpler terms, I was doing two hours and 45 minutes of work for EACH feeding. I fed her, and then I pumped, and that was all I did.
I barely managed to brush my teeth every day, let alone shower or get dressed. And despite everything I tried, and I tried it ALL, my milk supply never increased. No amount of fenugree, blessed thistle, stinging nettle, mother's milk, goat's rue, blackthorn berry elixir, fennel root, raspberry electropacs, rented Symphony pumps, La Leche League leaders' advice, lactation consultant appointments, internet research, books, or sobbing calls to my mother made any difference. I could not get my baby what she needed.
And that sucked. Especially given her genetic condition that makes digestion a literal internal battle, and how awesome is formula for little babies' tummies? Not.
In my fatigued, depressed, and disheartened state, I stumbled upon Human Milk for Human Babies, a worldwide network of women who participate in milksharing. Mothers whose bodies are able to produce an excess of milk (and what I would give to be one of them) donate to babies whose mothers cannot. I found a few donors, gave up pumping, and sobbed. Out of relief, out of exhaustion, out of frustration, and out of gratitude. I meet with my donors when we take Rosie up north for her monthly appointments with the cystic fibrosis team, and I'm usually able to stock up enough to keep her exclusively on the milk that will make her smarter, healthier, and more emotionally and socially adept .
Every day, they sacrifice time and effort from their own lives to keep up an excessive supply that feeds babies that are not their own. They are superheroes. They are incredible women. They saved me. Every day, they're saving my baby. They are paying me a service that I will never be able to repay them, and I will never cease to be grateful.
My name is Sara, I'm a recipient of donated breastmilk, and I could not be more proud or grateful to be able be part of this extraordinary group of women. And if I ever have another baby, (without malacia or CF, that is) I will do absolutely everything in my power to help women the way I've been helped, and to pay it a little bit forward.

Be educated, be aware, be involved, and for heaven's sake, be grateful for boobs.


Julianne said...

Love it. So glad you are able to get donated breast milk! Who on earth would object to such a thing?

Cami Olsen said...

Agree^^! I tried fenugreek would pump after feelings and wake up in the middle of the night to pump and I too was not able to get my milk supply to go up. I did it as long as I could wich was 5.5 months and was so sad when I could no longer breast feed. But we do what we have to. I think it's very admirable that women are able to donate such a special gift and that other women such as yourself can put their pride aside and accept it.

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