Coming Full Circle: My Milksharing Experience

My story is part of the Blog carnival organised by World Milksharing Week, to celebrate World Milksharing Week 2013. Click here to read more stories about milksharing. If you’d like to participate too, please visit this page.

Monday was the first day of World Milksharing Week. This year's theme is Sharing Milk, Nurturing Community. The goal of World Milksharing Week is "Life and Love in Every Drop." In the event that a mother isn't able to produce enough milk for her baby, I believe that human donor milk should be the next option rather than a breastmilk substitute like formula.

My milk sharing experience began as a recipient. My son was 4 days old and had lost nearly a pound since birth. My doula was nursing her 9 month old and gave us some of her milk to help supplement while my milk volume increased. She was generous enough to share her milk with us for the first 4-5 weeks of his life as we wanted make sure he was gaining weight adequately. I remember crying while thanking her for her gift. While we could've used artificial baby milk to supplement, my son was a late term preemie (36w4d) and it was of utmost importance that he receive the benefits of breast milk, even if it wasn't MY breast milk. Our rough start story is here, if you're interested in reading it.

I returned to work at 12 weeks and pumped 3 times day to provide for my son. Since I had started pumping to increase my milk supply since E was 4 days old, I had quite a freezer stash built up already. I was a milk hoarder, I didn't want to give it up because of my past supply issues. Eventually, our freezer was full of breast milk and there was no room for any food. I wanted to donate to another mother and baby in need. I had been taking fenugreek supplements for months to help my supply, and knew this disqualified me from donating to my local milk bank.

My doula put me in touch with a mom of a newborn who had given birth by emergency c-section. She was having issues with her milk volume increasing. Her baby was hungry and not reacting well to formula. She was almost out of donor milk. I contacted her and we set up a time for her to come by and pick up the milk. I was very upfront with her about consuming caffeine, dairy, soy, fenugreek, and the occasional bit of alcohol while breastfeeding and pumping. She didn't mind and took all the milk I had stashed away over the months: a whopping 191 ounces. She had almost a gallon and a half of human breast milk for her baby! I received a very sweet and unexpected thank you note in the mail from her a few days later.

This is what 191.5 ounces of frozen breastmilk looks like

Since that initial donation, I have donated another 200-300 ounces in my almost 22 months of breastfeeding. Another large stash went to a friend's sister who was unable to produce milk for her son, and some to the same friend's sister-in-law who needed to occasionally supplement her twin girls. I have also donated to a local birth center that wanted to have some on hand for moms and babies in need.

I vividly remember my doula's reaction to my tearful thank you. It didn't seem like it was a big deal to her; she was simply giving me something she had a surplus of. I noticed myself having the same "it's no big deal" attitude when getting thanked by the recipients.I may have seemed like a life saver to them, but I was glad to have the freezer space back for ice cream. I had come full circle.