Sunday, January 23, 2011

Milk Mommies

I am hesitant to even write this post. I know it will bring up stuff for other people who may then direct it to me. But, well, I've never had a good filter in the real world, so why would I in the blogging one. So, here goes.

As I'm typing this, I'm nursing baby E. This is, apparently, a controversial issue in and of itself, ya know, since I didn't give birth to him and all, but it isn't what I'm about to spill. Mine and baby E's nursing relationship has always involved, and always will, an SNS (supplemental nursing system), which is like a bottle with little tubes coming out of it (also not the surprising part of this post). So, while he nurses and gets whatever breastmilk I produce, he also gets formula from the SNS. But sometimes it's not formula (here it comes). Sometimes it's donated breastmilk. You know, from other mothers. Some of whom I have never met, except when I picked up milk from them. To date, baby E has had the breastmilk of 4 different mommas, including me. Hopefully this week we'll be getting milk from 2 more mommies, each from different parts of the state.

Okay, so before I get into the "why" of our reasons for doing this, let me address the safety concerns many of you now have running through your brains. Yes, (very few) diseases can be passed through breastmilk. Yes, (certain) medications can be passed through breastmilk. Pregnant women are routinely tested for those diseases. The women who pumped that milk , did so with the intention of giving to their own babies. They would not have done so if they were doing anything that could negatively affect their own children. Yes, we are taking somewhat of a risk, but it's minimal. So, here's why...

Had I given birth to baby E, he would have been EBF (exclusively breastfed). As much effort as I put into inducing lactation this time, the actual output is small. I figure I make about an ounce of breastmilk per feeding. That's about 25% of what he needs. Yes, that's great for someone who didn't give birth, and I had resolved myself to it. Then a wonderful social worker who I was in graduate school with mentioned that she had 200+oz left over from her last baby, and that she simply couldn't toss it out, even though her baby was already 18 months old and wasn't drinking it anymore. She had had a huge supply (I believe she likened herself to Elsie the Cow, if I remember correctly) and hadn't even pumped since before her daughter's birthday. She offered, I knew she was healthy, and made healthy lifestyle choices, so I accepted. Hubby was hesitant until we looked at the research and info together - we jointly decided that this was a decision we were both comfortable with.

It was enough of a "stash" that baby E had only breastmilk for almost 3 weeks. And what I saw was that the eczema that had started to pop up, completely went away. And his bowel movements, which had been sporadic and difficult for him to pass, were now frequent and easy for him. He was less fussy and slept better. When the stash was gone, I was sad. But more importantly, baby E's eczema came back within a few days, and with a vengeance. The sleeping went all wonky again and he was fussy!! His belly obviously hurt and bowel movements again became difficult and seemingly painful.

So, I started to research other options. I sent out emails to people who I know have lots of connections to new mommas. And that's when I found Eats on Feets. (Go google them, or do a facebook search. Go on. I'll wait). Basically, for those of you who didn't follow directions, it's a FB page that hooks up mommas with extra milk, with babies who need it. It's free. Their motto is "human milk for human babies". There is little else that makes quite so much sense to me as that statement. Why in the world would I feed baby E anything substandard, when that"liquid gold" is available.

70 years ago, wet nursing was the norm here. Sister, neighbors, friends, servants, all breastfed each other's babies. Then the formula companies came in and convinced us that breastfeeding wasn't normal, that what our bodies naturally do wasn't good enough, that cow's milk was better for babies that human milk. I'm impressed with their marketing. I am not impressed with their product. Around the world, babies are still cross-nursed by other women. It's normal. There is nothing gross, or wrong about it. It is about feeding babies. Perhaps they *have* to and we don't because they don't have formula readily available to them like we do. That, however, doesn't mean it isn't still the *best* option.

I am so grateful for all of baby E's milk mommies. From my social worker friend, to my coworker (baby e got a few feedings from her because she left some milk at work and wouldn't get a chance to get back before it need to be used so she said I could take it for him), to a camping buddy, to complete strangers from all over our state. Each of them is so special to us. I will tell him about them as he gets older, and explain the wonderful gift they gave to him, a gift that I couldn't, a selfless gift. And as hubby said, all we want is the best for baby E. That's all, and that's normal.

32 comments:

Dylan said...

what a lovely story! I love reading about mama's who try so hard to give their babies the best. My daughter has multiple milk mummies too (from when I have had to leave her for unavoidable absences) and I am so grateful to my friends for sharing their nourishment, love and comfort with her. It is a wonderful gift to give and one I don't think I will ever be able to repay. I hope I can return the favour if they ever need me to though!

Anonymous said...

I recently helped match a number of milk mommies together with my friend who adopted a preemie. She too saw many of the improvements that you did upon switching from formula to Bmilk! It is genuinely liquid gold.

I was also fortunate enough as a mommy of twins to lactate prolifically and donate my surplus to another mommy of twins with an immune disorder (discovered after weaning)that prevented them from producing sufficient IgB and IgA. She tells me all the time that I "gave her babies their lives back." The milk mommy relationship is rewarding from both sides of the equation.

My real reason for commenting, however, is just to show support and validation for your decision to use donated milk. Like you, I am an intelligent, educated woman (and mom of 3 hoping for more!) with extensive knowledge on breastfeeding and lactation. I have researched milk sharing exhaustively, and am 100% on team milk-mommy. Stay strong and many warm fuzzies for you and your sweet children!

Anonymous said...

Thank you.
I've been blessed to have an over abundance of milk with my kids. I've also been blessed enough to be able to share that gift with other mommies. As someone on 'the flip side of the coin' I would like to say thank you. Thank You (and all other mom's who milk-share) for allowing and trusting moms like me enough to feed your children through these donations. It truly is a remarkable gift to be able to share something so personal.

Shell said...

This is wonderful :) Thank you for sharing, from the other side. I donated to 3 different babies while breastfeeding my 2nd son. I plan to donate again once this new baby is born. Posts like this make it EASY to donate.

Simple Beginnings said...

I am in the process of adopting a baby from Africa. I have breastfead my 4 biological kids and would be devistated if I had to feed this one formula. I hope to relactate, but would give him another mommies milk in a second, especially over formula!

Thanks for your post!

Emms said...

Thanks for sharing! I have donated over 600 ounces to a mom in need through eats on feets! And I think its great!

ali said...

Thank you for this. As a surrogate x2 so far, I've donated hundreds of ounces of milk to other families. I had the proof to backup that I was clean and healthy. I enjoyed doing this and hope to do it again in the future.

I am so glad your child gets the benefit of breastmilk. :)

Susan said...

This made me cry because I could only produce about an ounce or so a day for my baby and I didn't know about these breast milk donation sites. I had friends that produced milk like Elsie the cow, but i would never ask them for milk because they LOATH pumping. You are an awesome mom, especially for using the SNS.!

bekah said...

Kuddos to you!! This is awesome- it brought tears to my eyes..I like your college cohort also equate myself to Elsie the cow...as I produce enough for triplets...I am grateful in that I can share my gift with other families that believe breastmilk is best and for one reason or another can not lactate. Like you- I do get mixed reviews when I tell people that I routinely donate (about 1,500 oz in the last 4 months since my DD was born). You're doing an awesome job!!

newincs said...

Thank you so much for posting about this!! :) There are so many people so upset about sharing milk. So many people just don't take the time to research it to get their facts straight before they start bashing mommas for sharing :) It is so awesome to see blogs about this type of stuff :) It is the only way it is going to be accepted again :)

Amy @ Journey Mum said...

I think it is wonderful. I am proud to be a part of Eats on Feets. :)

Vicki & Jim said...

I have 2 biological children and 4 adopted children, we adopt medically fragile children. I wish I had known about bm donation I would have done this with anyone of my children. I could not bf and wished many times that I could have. If we adopt again, and we really hope to I would love to feed breastmilk. Im so happy its working for you.

Christy said...

LOVE this post! I would happily nurse someone elses baby if they needed me too. I wish I produced more so that I could pump and donate but I am lucky to get 3-4 oz pumping both sides and those 2-3 oz my 20 month old happily drinks (my current nursling is 8 months old.).
I also nursed a baby that we adopted, DD#2 (who is the 20 month old mentioned above) I was able to EBF her because I was still nursing DD#1 when we adopted her. I had to switch over to formula though after becoming unexpectantly pregnant with DD#3. I wish I had known about Eats on Feets at the time.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful! Great post and I admire your resolve to give your babies breastmilk. It's time for breastfeeding in all its forms (including cross-nursing) to be normalized again.

Crystal said...

This is just awesome!

nicole said...

Thank you for doing this for your baby! <3

Andrea said...

Awesome post! You are doing a wonderful thing for your baby, both by inducing lactation and by finding donor milk for him. I have three children, but my milk has now fed 7 babies. Of the four that weren't mine, one was 10 weeks premature and another had horrific and life-threatening medical conditions and is only alive thanks to the amazing foster mom who realized she needed breastmilk to survive. The doctors had given up hope for this baby, who was blind and deaf and had no pancreas. Soon after switching from formula to exclusive donor breastmilk, she regained her sight and hearing. I had the pleasure of attending her first birthday party last year.

cd said...

My sister and a close girlfriend have both given me some milk so I could keep her ebf for 8 or so months since my body doesn't like the pump so much and I'm a working mom.

Good for you for helping normalize what should be an obvious and common practice.

Melissa said...

I was never able to produce very much milk ( hardly any ) for an of my kids, and used the Lact-aid (liked it so much better than the SNS!) the whole time I nursed, how I wish I had that site back then!

We are talking about trying for another baby, and I will for sure be doing that this time!

I am so happy that its worked out so well for you!!

SusanB said...

I am so happy for you and your family. I wish your story was more of the norm instead of a novelity....

Heather said...

What an awesome story! My first DD had milk from another mom (who was already tandem nursing!) when I had surgery and the pain meds they gave me (pretty sure it was morphine) made me so loopy I couldn't hold onto my four month old. She rushed to the hospital to feed her. In the six hours I had been in surgery, the baby had gone through (spit out most of) the supply I'd spent 3 months building and she was crying from hunger. I barely get anything from a pump and it was a horrible experience. However, my friend came to my rescue and I am so grateful. I felt nothing but gratitude to my friend. It wasn't "weird" or anything. No jealousy, no feelings of a special moment stolen or anything like that. It was as normal to me as her dad giving her the bottles and sippy cup of BM all day.

Neyme said...

Wonderful story and thank you for sharing. It's great that you've been able to find donors to help grow your little boy! I'm a milk mommy to 7 babies in addition to my own. Milk sharing and wet nursing are not weird. They have always been done since there have always been babies who needed milk, and it is only in the last century that people have developed an aversion to it.

Mama Babs said...

this makes my heart happy!

i wanted sooo badly to donate, as i, too, was an "elsie the cow." but unfortunately my milk had an excess of the enzyme lipase, which made long-term storage next to impossible. i had to scald the milk, which depleted most of the nutrients. and ironically, as my son never took a bottle, the whole pumping/storing thing became a bit of a moot point.

anyway, i also wanted to direct you to the "milkshare" website/listserv: http://milkshare.birthingforlife.com/ - they also serve to hook up donor moms and recipients.

wishing you continuing success with your breastfeeding journey!

Amanda (aka Mama) said...

Thanks so much for sharing your story. We are in the process of adopting and I hope to relactate. If I can't get a full supply, I will try to find my own milk mommies.

Paula said...

Wonderful! Thank you for sharing. baby E. is a very lucky baby to have youas his mama.

Kim said...

Beautiful! I'm also impressed by the positive comments! I was hesitant to scroll down, but it looks like everyone's being respectful and supportive :)

Wani said...

I commend you on making it such a priority to get BabyE the best nutrition he can get (which is obviously breastmilk). I am deeply saddened by the way that formula has taken over. The formula companies target new moms while they are pregnant and then in the hospital. These impressionable new mothers are bombarded with gift bags full of coupons and samples of formula right off the bat and their doctors allow them to believe that they are giving their babies suitable nutrition by using formula when it is not true at all. I agree with the World Health Organization that says its best for you to nurse your baby, if you cannot then you should find someone else's breast milk to give your baby, if those options are not possible then as a last resort you should use formula. So, anyway... you're a good momma and don't let anyone give you a hard time for doing your best by your baby boy! God Bless!

Victoria said...

This is so heartwarming and you are a great Mama. As the admin for EOF`Kentucky I have enjoyed chstting with you. So happy to hear how great Baby E is doing.. Best of luck Becky.

Amanda said...

thumbs up...keep up the hard and wonderful work!

Sharing Mama said...

Good for you!!

I was blessed with an abundance of milk and it really bothered me that I was going to have to throw out all that I pumped especially since my daughter refused the bottle. It was devastating to think that all my hard work pumping and CAREFULLY storing my breast milk would be wasted. But with milkshare (their yahoo group at the time) I was able to share with a set of twins and even a friend who wasn't able to continue nursing while pregnant. And with my second, I was able to share as well. I was and am grateful for mommies like you!

Milkyway Milk Sharing Stories said...

Can you please share your story on http://milkywaymilkshare.blog.com? We are trying to gather stories about milk sharing to help normalize it.

Lechelle said...

LOVE this post and LOVE the comments! I had a couple friends donate some milk and I really really appreciated it. I wish I had known about Eats on Feets earlier! I hated making B switch to formula.