Breastfeeding can be a hardcore subject. If you nurse your baby, for how long? If you don’t, why not? If you do breastfeed, are you allowed to do it in public?
But one thing that most breastfeeders don’t think of is this: Would you donate your breastmilk?
Breastmilk donation came in my mind again when I wrote the blog about Salma Hayek breastfeeding an infant in Sierra Leone while on a vaccination (tetanus) campaign. And when I read about Nadya Suleman breastfeeding her octuplets, I wondered: If we’re not naturally meant to give birth to this many babies, will she be able to keep her supply up? Or will she have to turn to milk donations?
Sharing breastmilk? This may seem weird to even you natural parents. Sure, I do crafts with my kids and cloth diaper my baby, but donate my breastmilk? Yikes.
When Baby E was a newborn, I pumped almost every morning. Some nights we had hardcore co-sleeping/breastfeeding sessions. But often, he’d let up about halfway through the night, leaving me “full” the next morning. So the next morning we’d settle down together with the Medela and I’d kick out 10 ounces, no problem.
But I was a WAHM. When was I ever going to need all this liquid gold? My dh couldn’t possibly take me on 150 ounces worth of dates, could he?
I checked with my local La Leche League. The helpful woman gave me some tips on decreasing my supply, but could not help me pass on my breastmilk. Not a kosher proposition on their end.
Really quite cool, actually. Some women have “one-time donations.” She’s on a business trip away from her baby and doesn’t want to pack the supply she pumps over the weekend. Or she’s stocked up her freezer and the “expiration date” is looming, but her baby is often happily latched on. Or she’s a long-term donator: simply a kind mama who works to pump for a child in need, shipping or delivering as often as possible.
I know, I know. This freaks some people out. Doctors often recommend that families turn to Milk Banks for human breastmilk, as then it has been tested. Hmm. At $3 an ounce, who can afford that? To remedy, families sometimes ask (or milk sharers offer) for the the medical records. Because we all had tests run during our pregnancies, this isn’t too tough.
Why do families need breastmilk? Well, first, because they’re brilliant. They know that it’s much better to give their babies human milk than that of another species. Melamine, schmelamine, they think.
Some have adopted children. Some have preemies and their own milk supply dried up when the infants were in the NICU. In the case of my (local) family, this natural mama had a breast reduction years ago and could only supply about half of what her daughter needed. When I donated, the little one was 9 months old. Good for her for still getting that breastmilk. In most cases, those in need are working at increasing (or starting, in the case of some adoptions!) milk production.
MilkShare is then, about some hot commodities: trust, sharing, generosity. It’s about need and asking for help.
Even if you’re not giving up your own liquid gold, those are some things we all need nowadays, eh?