This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.
This post was written by MJ Fisher.
Milk sharing has been a huge blessing in our lives! The mamas and families that have donated to us will forever have a place in our hearts and our lives. I believe using donor milk has impacted our breastfeeding relationship by saving it! I was not able to make all of my son’s milk, but so many awesome, generous mamas donated their milk to help feed our baby, which is a pretty amazing thing! Supplementing with donor milk motivated me to do everything I could to increase my supply and save our nursing relationship so I supplemented at the breast and nursed on demand. I’m super passionate and emotional about breastfeeding and milk sharing because I’m so extremely thankful our son has only had breast milk and also because he is 2 years old now and I’m still nursing him despite having a low supply.
When I was 23 years old with 38DD breasts, I had a breast reduction.... for good reasons, yes? Yes, but if I were to do it all over again, knowing that I could possible exclusively breastfeed, I think I might have waited on the surgery. But, then again, I might not have needed donor milk and met all my wonderful donor mamas!! I had my reduction in 1999 and my son was born in June 2011. After having an empowering homebirth, we had a few days of exclusively breastfeeding (EBF) bliss. Then our midwife weighed our son and he hadn’t gained enough and we were fighting jaundice. We got off cloud 9 and made a plan of what we needed to do – nurse, supplement, pump, supplement and repeat through the day and night. I wanted to nurse so bad and we only wanted our son to have breast milk so I opted to use a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) with the donor milk. We nursed on demand, all day, during naps and throughout the night and supplemented with the SNS about 5 times a day in the beginning. It was draining, but I’m thankful now because I believe it only helped my supply. I’m also very lucky that my son was fine with any amount of milk I could make for him, I know some babies get frustrated when the milk doesn’t flow and mine did not when we nursed without the SNS.
Our midwives enlightened my husband and I (as they have done about a TON of things) about donor milk because we had NO CLUE! Even my sister, a post partum doula in LA, knew about milk banks and the decent amount of money they charge. Our midwives told us that there are mamas out there that make more milk than their babies need and they will donate it – my heart just dropped and tears were running down my cheeks, I still have no words! What a selfless act! Taking time out multiple times in your day, away from your children, to pump milk to feed other babies and help them to thrive and if you’ve ever pumped before you know what a PITA that can be! We had our hearts set on our baby only having breast milk, for we knew how beneficial it was to build a strong immune system, resistance to disease and infection, as well as many long term health benefits, so having milk donated to us was a huge stress reliever.
Now that we decided we wanted donor milk, we had to find it. It was always quite a journey, trying to find milk, not knowing if we would get enough, driving all over the county, sometimes out of the county to pick up milk. Meeting other mamas who helped us feed our baby for a one time encounter/donation or for the fourth or fifth time suddenly became our friends, with us even scheduling play dates with our kids. Sometimes my husband would make the milk run – we joked that he was my milk man! Thankfully we got a lot of donors sent our way from our midwives. They would give us a little background on the mama and we found comfort knowing they came recommended from them. We were so blessed to have had a few long term donors, one mama who pumped 45-50oz per day!!! When we would find donor mamas outside of our midwives (we used Eats on Feets Facebook page) there were a few questions our midwife gave us to have the donor answer. Since we had no connection with the mama, those questions helped us get to know her a little better and determine if she was a good match for us, our baby and our comfort level.
Here are the questions - Can you tell me a bit more about you? What’s your baby's age? Do you drink alcohol/caffeine? Where did you deliver, hospital or home? Can you tell me a bit about your diet? I presume no, but any diseases you are positive for?
I know some mamas that feel they don’t need to ask any questions and feel that if the donor mama breastfeeds her own baby then there is no need to worry about anything being wrong with the milk. For us, we liked to get to know the mama and it made us feel better when a donor mama didn't hesitate to answer any of our questions. I would hope she would put herself in my shoes and would do the same thing.
Our son has had about 10 different donors from birth to 1 year old. We'd like to think he's a super baby with so many different mamas' antibodies! I feel like we can never thank our donor mamas enough for helping us feed our baby and giving him the chance to be as healthy as possible with only breast milk. With the help of my midwives (also a LC), my husband, my donor mamas, the SNS and both me and my sons want to EBF we are still nursing at 2 years old!!! We supplemented with the SNS using donor milk until 12 months old. Then we used goat milk in the SNS until 18 months old. All of our hard work paid off when I finally became an EBF Mama! I feel like my supply improved with the use of the SNS and I never would have used the SNS if I didn’t have donor milk.
To put a cherry on this breastfeeding sundae, all of my donor mamas are now my friends. Some are my soul sisters, a part of the village of mamas I surround myself with to lift me up and cheer me on! This whole experience has enriched my life, my family’s life and given me peace with a decision I made to have surgery. Anything that is “worth” it, doesn’t come easy anyways!
One Breastfeeding Love,
Mj Fisher (Married to Jason, Mama to Jason Jr. ~ 2 years old)
Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today's participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:
(This list will be updated by afternoon August 5 with all the carnival links.)
- An Unexpected Formula-Fed Attachment — Kyle (of JEDI Momster and) writing at Natural Parents Network, exclusively breastfed three healthy babies. So when she was pregnant with her fourth, she assumed she would have no breastfeeding troubles she could not overcome. Turns out, her fourth baby had his own ideas. Kyle shares her heartfelt thoughts on how she came to terms with the conclusion of her breastfeeding journey.
- It Take a Village: Cross Nursing — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares how cross-nursing helped her baby in their time of need, and how that experience inspired her to create a community of cross-nursing and milk-sharing women.
- Random little influences and Large scale support communities lead to knowing better and doing better — amy at random mom shares how her ideas and successes involved with breastfeeding evolved with each of her children, how her first milk sharing experience completely floored her, and how small personal experiences combined with huge communities of online support were responsible for leading and educating her from point A to point D, and hopefully beyond.
- Mikko's weaning story — After five years of breastfeeding, Lauren at Hobo Mama shares how the nursing relationship with her firstborn came to a gentle end.
- My Milk is Your Milk — Lola at What the Beep am I Doing? discusses her use of donor milk and hhow she paid the gift back to other families.
- World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - Celebrating Each Mother's Journey — Jenny at I'm a full-time mummy lists her experiences and journey as a breastfeeding mother.
- Working Mom Nursing Twins — Sadia at How Do You Do It? breastfed her twin daughters for 7 months. They made it through premature birth and NICU stays, her return to full-time work, her husband's deployment to Iraq, and Baby J's nursing strike.
- So, You Wanna Milkshare? — Milk banks, informed community sharing and friends, oh my! So many ways to share the milky love; That Mama Gretchen is sharing her experience with each.
- Milk Siblings: One Mama's Milk Sharing Story (and Resources)Amber, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, shares how her views on milk sharing were influenced by her daughter receiving donor milk from a bank during a NICU stay, and how that inspired her to give her stash to a friend.
- Humans Feeding Humans — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births shares ideas on how we can celebrate all the different ways modern mommies feed their babies. While we are comfortable with the breastmilk-formula paradigm, she proposes that we expand our horizons and embrace all the different ways mamas feed their infants.
- When Breastfeeding Doesn't Go As Planned — MandyE of Twin Trials and Triumphs shares the challenges she faced in feeding her premature twins. She's still learning to cope with things not having gone exactly as she'd always hoped.
- Taking Back My Life By Giving Away My Milk — When Amanda Rose Adams's first child was born, he was tube fed, airlifted, ventilated, and nearly died twice. In the chaos of her son's survival, pumping breast milk was physically and mentally soothing for Amanda. Before long her freezer was literally overflowing with milk - then she started giving it away.
- The Tortoise and the Hare — Nona's Nipples at The Touch of Life discusses why we care about breast milk and formula with everything inbetween.
- Finding My Tribe of Women Through Milk Sharing — Mj, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center shares her journey breastfeeding with low milk supply and supplementing with donor milk using an at the breast supplemental nursing system. She shares the impact milk sharing has had on her life, her family, and how it saved her breastfeeding relationship. Her article can also be found at her blog:
- Human Milk for Human Babies — Sam at Nelson's Nest shares her perspective on milk-sharing after an unexpected premature delivery left her pumping in the hopes of breastfeeding her son one day. Sam's milk was an amazing gift to the other preemie who received it, but the connection was a blessing in the donor mom's life too!
- Sister, I Honor You — A mother feeding her baby is a triumph and should be honored, not criticized. Before you judge or propagate your own cause, go find your sister. A post by Racher: Mama, CSW, at The Touch of Life.
- Every Breastfeeding Journey Is Different, Every One Is Special — No two stories are alike, evidenced by That Mama Gretchen's collaboration of a few dear mama's reflections on their breastfeeding highs, lows and in betweens.
- Quitting Breastfeeding — Jen W at How Do You Do It? share a letter she wrote to her boys, three years ago exactly, the day she quit breastfeeding after 9 months.
- A Pumping Mom's Journey — Shannah at Breastfeeding Utah shares about her journey pumping for her son, who was born at 29 weeks.