He’ll come in later.
As I’ve mentioned a million gazillion times before, I was neurotic about my milk supply from the beginning. My lunatic ways were born from my experience in feeding Hooper. I’ve also mentioned this several times, but to reiterate, Hooper’s weight steadily declined from the 80th percentile all the way down to the 10th percentile. When you’re breastfeeding, this is incredibly troubling because you have no idea how much milk your baby is getting. I considered buying a scale to weigh him before and after a feed but ultimately decided it wouldn’t change what I was doing. The milk I made was the milk I made and while our pediatrician kept a close eye on his weight, he never suggested supplementing.
So yes, I was neurotic from the beginning with Van. Early on, I planned to add additional pump sessions interspersed with our regular breastfeeding sessions in an effort to get my milk production well established and to grow a hearty supply of milk in the freezer for when I returned to work.
Before I started my pump sessions, I contacted a friend who also had a newly born babe. She has utters those of us with a questionable milk supply grow envious of. She’s told me stories of milk literally shooting out of her nipples uncontrollably. I’m talking water gun style. Not to be confused with gangam style. In any case, I knew she would have milk to spare so before I started pumping, I asked her if she’d be willing to donate at some point should I run into trouble. She agreed. (Side note: Willy thought I was such a loon and thought the idea of giving our baby a friend’s milk was ridiculously weird. I couldn’t disagree more… Your thoughts?)
I started pumping. Van was about three weeks old when I began adding in three pump sessions per day.
I was surprised by how much milk I was collecting and one by one, milk bags started infiltrating our freezer. And then they virtually took over our freezer, Little Shop of Horrors style. For a while there, you couldn’t open the door without a frozen bag of milk falling on your foot.
My goal with pumping somewhat transformed from wanting to have a large frozen supply to wanting to keep my milk supply afloat. When I accepted the reality that I had plenty in the freezer, I started to give what I pumped to Hooper. Nearly all the milk he drank in the day would come from my pump sessions.
Because I’m a utilitarian at heart (greatest good for the greatest number), I started to wonder if donating the milk would be more beneficial. I contacted my midwife who gave me information about Breast Feed LA (side note: I originally typed “breast feel LA”… um ya, glad I caught that one as I’m sure that’s an entirely different organization). I browsed the website and, to be honest, it wasn’t user friendly. I didn’t get the instant answers I wanted and I didn’t want donating to become a headache. I also knew I was in a bit of a time crunch as the milk I wanted to donate was already a couple of months old and would need to used soon before it was wasted.
And all you breastfeeding mamas out there know you do not waste breast milk. Don’t cry over spilled milk unless it’s breast milk, right?
So I turned to facebook. I posted a comment on my midwives group page and instantly got a few responses. I made contact with one woman who had an 8 month old foster son. She said finding milk has become a part time job and admitted that she’s driven up to 2 hours just to pick up donated milk. And here I was thinking I was making the ultimate sacrifice in simply breastfeeding. She ended up striking gold and found 500 ounces locally so she declined my offer and on to the next response I went.
That’s how I met Kelly.
Funny thing is that I already knew Kelly. That whole seven degree of separation shenanigans is really true. I had to scold Hooper while I was on the phone with her (wait a second, you say, scolding a toddler?? never…). She instantly picked up on the name and we giggled as we realized her older son and Hooper are in the same play class. I had seen her the day before. It still boggles my mind.
In any case, now we can officially meet Elliot. He is two months younger than Van and I now have the incredible privilege to help feed him too. And I can’t tell you how warm that makes my heart.
Have extra breast milk? Look into donating! There’s tons of mom’s out there that are literally desperate to give their baby the best of the best. It’s been an incredibly fulfilling experience thus far.
You can read my other posts on breastfeeding here, here, and here.
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18 Responses

  • Ashley this is amazing! what a fantastic thing you are doing.
    I struggled majorly with BF in the first three months, I had the opposite problem to you in that I had a huge over supply and my breasts kept getting engorged, after some useless advice from a HV who told me to stop feeding on demand and leave it 3 hours before feeding again I got a severe case of mastitis. I could never pump, I hated it and despite lots of milk somehow it would take over and hour to get a decent amount. Thankfully we got to grips with it all in the end and are still going happily, I often think of donating but am put off with my previous attempts to express. I need to give it another go xx

  • oh and pre baby I would say feeding my baby someone else’s milk was weird but since? I would totally go for it. my friend was even fed by a wetnurse (his mum’s friend) how rad is that? x

  • Aw, such a good idea and so kind of you! It’s funny that you were so worried before and now you have so much milk now! How do you provide it? In frozen containers?

  • Bravo !! Good for you !! I had a breast reduction in my 20s and when i had my first child in my late 30s, breastfeeding became my nightmare. We did the best we could for 8 months (which included pumping every 3 hours round the clock for 8 months), and i still had to supplement with formula and bottle feed and he never did latch because my supply was a trickle. I never was able to pump more than 5 ounces in 25 minutes, and that was an accomplishment. I looked into donated milk, but due to my son’s food allergies it wasn’t a viable option for us. It makes my heart happy that you are doing this. What a gift, truly a gift, you have given to that child & his mom. And the peace of mind that she must have actually knowing you – its meant to be. Good on you. I’m expecting number 2 in July… hope I’m as luck as Kelly was to find a friend like you. xx.

    • I don’t get much more than 4 or 5 ounces when I pump. I rely on frequency. In the morning, however, I pump around 8 or 9 ounces. 8 months is a long time to breastfeed, so cheers to you. I know other women who have had reductions that had horrible issues with supply and weren’t able to nurse for more than a couple months.

  • I had a low milk supply with my first son and I had to supplement with formula. It was really heartbreaking that I couldn’t provide the milk he needed. I was on a strict nursing, supplementing, pumping schedule around the clock (including nights) and it was so exhausting! I wish I had known about milk sharing back then! When my current baby was born I was expecting to have low supply again and I asked a good friend for some of her frozen milk in case I needed to supplement. I don’t know what is different this time- whether it was the placenta encapsulation, nursing constantly, or getting a posterior tongue tie clipped at two days old- but I didn’t need to use the milk and I am successfully breastfeeding my baby. I have a very modest freezer stash and don’t make enough to donate, but I wish I did! How wonderful it is to help out fellow mothers! There is a Facebook group and mother to mother milk sharing network called Human milk for human babies. You can get in touch with other moms in your area to donate or receive milk! I recommend my mommy friends with huge freezer stashes to donate!

    • It is exhausting. Cheers to you for giving it a try. I’m such a lunatic that when Van cries in the night I’m annoyed at first and then happy that it all means positive things for maintaining my milk supply. But it is exhausting. I was just like you… much lower supply with my first. I remember my midwife telling me it would be better the second time around, but I never trusted she’d be right… but alas, here I am donating. Anyway, congrats on having an easier time.

    • Alex, I had a similar experience with my son – down the the posterior tongue tie (nobody tells you about that in advance, do they?) and it *was* heartbreaking.
      I’m so SO pleased for you that it is going well this time.


  • Good for you! Sadly, we only have one breast-milk donation clinic in my city and it is so highly regulated that I was just not ready for all the sacrifices (giving up coffee & wine while caring for a newborn? NO WAY!). I had never thought of just outright donating it to women in our community. Maybe next time.

    I think you’ll find once Van starts solids you’ll have butt-loads of pumped milk to spare and you may want to invest in a deep-freeze to up your storage capabilities. 😉 I surely did. Oh, and you’re not weird to think about feeding someone else’s breast-milk to your kid. I was *this* close to having my nursing-mom-of-twins friend nurse my kid. I think it’s only weird to guys.

    • Ya, when I looked into donating to the big donation clinics it seemed like such a hassle. It’s so much nicer to donate personally, from both ends I’m sure. It’s been fantastic getting to know Kelly and I’m fairly certain she’s okay with me having a glass of wine every now and then 😉

      I did consider investing in a deep freezer and ultimately decided I should just donate. I keep what my freezer will hold and then I give the rest to Kelly.

      Ya, I think men have a harder time with the whole donation thing, but I know other women who think it’s all really weird as well. I don’t get it. We drink milk from random cows we’ll never know. Breast milk is as natural as it gets and in today’s “go green” movement, I would think more would be open to the idea… but whatever, guess it’s a personal decision.

      • I never thought it was weird, I just always thought it wasn’t for me. But when you put it like that ^^ you’re right… I drink milk from random cows all the time. Huh. Thanks for totally changing the way I think about that…

        • Not only that… The article I referenced yesterday mentioned how it did use to take a village… a village full of lactating mothers that all helped each other out. Nowadays, I feel like mother’s aren’t comfortable accepting help… that there’s some unwritten rule that we’re expected to do everything ourselves… that we’re less of a mom if we have a full time job or a nanny… I don’t know… breast milk is the absolute best thing you can give your child and if you can’t provide it on your own, kuddos to you for finding someone that can. That’s my take on it, but I realize everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

  • This is wonderful!! I gave up nursing a month ago due to low supply and anxiety with returning back to work. I nursed my daughter for her first month and truly believe I did the best I could do for her. We are much happier that we made the switch, but had I know there was a serious possibility to give her donated milk, I probably would have pursued it. I know Elliott and his mommy are so thankful.

    • It’s hard returning to work while balancing nursing. Glad you are happy with the switch. You have to do what works for you and what keeps you sane. It is cool to know that donation is a possibility.

  • Awesome article! I like the idea of donating milk and it is exactly of great help to other mothers out there who are having trouble in lactating their babies. Before I thought it was weird but when my mother did the same story of you, I realized it is very very helpful. Indeed, it was a fulfilling experience for mom.

  • It’s a wonderful thing you are doing!
    I wish that there were a donated breastmilk resource readily available here (although if there were, I imagine that there are needier mothers and children than me, but still – better for us all for at least some to benefit)

    I recently wrote a little about my struggles with breastfeeding – low supply (due to severe post partum haemmorhage), watching Mister G drop to below the 9th centile in weight as I sat, anaemic, weeping and pumping. I think that regardless of the line on the graph, you can probably tell whether your baby is thriving — G was not, and I knew it. Poor bean.

    Our happy ending was reaching acceptance with our compromise (combination feeding nursing BM, pumped BM and formula from 3.5 weeks to 6 months at which point I stopped pumping, then phased out formula to continue nursing until just a few weeks ago at 14 months:)

    Breastfeeding, and the emotion attached to your ability to feed your child, is somehting I didn’t even have an inkling of until I had G.

    Again, it’s a wonderful thing you’re doing



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