In an effort to bring awareness to milk sharing, I want to share my experience of being a breast milk donor. I have been very fortunate and blessed with an oversupply that has made it possible to help mothers who need milk for their babies. Breast milk undoubtedly is the best for baby. It is nature’s perfect formulation of vital nutrients including fats, carbohydrates, proteins, omega 3’s, minerals, etc. Breast milk is bioavailable, which means all the goodness of breast milk is absorbed easily and quickly. Formula will never come close to matching the nutrients that breast milk offers. Breast milk contains more than 600 ingredients compared to 45 to 50 in formula. It is bubbling with amino acids. It is packed with antibodies. The formula industry simply cannot duplicate this liquid gold!
People have asked me, why don’t you just quit pumping, wouldn’t it be easier? Well, here’s why: I am lucky enough to have enough milk for my two children as well as for moms who are in need of milk. I feel like it would be selfish of me to stop when I am in a position to help someone else. Some people donate blood, some people donate money, I donate milk. If not for milk donors like me, many mothers and babies would be left with limited options. As moms, we put enough pressure on ourselves to try to do everything right, and sometimes things just don’t work out as planned. If donating my milk can help relieve some of the stress and worry that a mother has on her shoulders then it is so worth it.
With my first child, I didn’t know about milk sharing and I WASTED over 125,000oz (not a typo) of my breast milk, milk I had to pump because I just kept producing. After I filled up a 7 cubic ft freezer and a 20 cubic ft freezer, I dumped the rest down the drain because I had no where to else store it. I still have 1000’s of ounces of milk in a freezer that is too old to donate but I can not bring myself to throw it out. If I had known about milk sharing, I could have helped a lot of babies and moms. Moms need to know they have other options other than formula. For some families it is vitally necessary.
There are so many reasons donor milk is needed; it could be that a mother has low milk supply or cannot breast feed, it could be that a baby or child can not tolerate formula or has a health condition that can be relieved with breast milk. Regardless of the reason, these families should have the opportunity to use breast milk. It is biologically made for our babies and should be shared, it should be available. Our ancestors shared milk through wet nursing and no one ever thought twice about it. It is time to bring that tradition back. That is why educating on milk sharing is so important to our culture.
I was introduced to the concept of milk sharing by a friend. She referred me to a global network where I found two incredible moms to donate my milk to on a long term basis. I donated to a local friend on a long term basis as well. At one point I was nursing my two daughters and donating to three other families. I could not be happier to have had the opportunity to do that for them.
Milk donation does not have to be local, the breast milk can be shipped. One of the mother’s that I donated to set up prepaid overnight shipping arrangement with UPS. She shipped a box with empty tote coolers and packing materials whenever she was running low on milk. She used totes because shipping is calculated by weight and totes are lighter. Once I got the coolers, I would stock them up with milk and 2-3lbs of dry ice and ship it back. I also want to mention that all of the milk bags (target brand are my favorite) are put into zip lock bags so the corners of the milk bags do not poke holes in each other. Shipping can be expensive, but so is formula.
I feel like the media has tried to cast a shadow on milk sharing. Giving incorrect information and only telling half truths about milk sharing. The truth is, I spend at least an hour and a half everyday pumping. I give my daughter the same milk out of the same freezer that I donate from. I am willing to provide blood tests and paperwork that show that I have been screened and have a clean bill of health. I exercise daily and eat healthy. I do have an occasional cup of coffee, but wait to pump for at least 3 hrs after I drink the coffee to be sure there is not caffeine in my milk. It is also up to the mother who is receiving donated milk to ask questions and voice her concerns before taking donor milk. Any good donor would be more than happy to reveal any necessary information.
I have created such a great bond and friendship with these woman that I will never forget. They have helped mold me into the person I am today. These woman trusted ME with the health of their children. That is pretty incredible. I cannot put into words how I feel that they chose me, so I will just say that I am so honored to have been able to help them!
Three of the babies I was donating to on a long term basis have now turned one. I am still donating to one of them just not as often and have started donating to a dear friend who found herself in need of donor milk. So I am currently pumping for her, nursing my two and donating to one of my long term mama’s. Since I had my second daughter I have been able to donate over 35,000 oz of milk to 8 different families, some long term and some just one time or two time donations.
For me donating to all of these moms and babies has created an incredible bond, friendship and connection that in any other circumstance would not have been created. I feel privileged to have been chosen to help these moms who may have otherwise have given there little ones formula if they had not known about milk sharing.
Milk sharing is not for everybody, but it could be….