My son is napping and just a little while ago I gave what will probably be my last donation to my recipient. I’m feeling really emotional about it. For the last 9 months I’ve been pumping, freezing, and sharing my breast milk with a baby girl my son’s age whose mama wanted to breastfeed but struggled because of IGT and other issues. Instead of resorting to formula and a bottle, her mom has been using a supplemental nursing system to allow them to bond through the act of breastfeeding. She gets donor breast-milk (from myself and others) through a little tube. I got introduced to donating milk because I had an oversupply of milk and my son wouldn’t take bottles. I didn’t know what to do with the extra milk. Someone suggested donating to a milk bank. After doing more research I decided that peer-to-peer milk-sharing through groups like Human Milk for Human Babies or Eats on Feets was the way to go.
The first time I met my recipient baby and her mom I wasn’t sure what to expect but we quickly bonded over Doctor Who, baby wearing, and milk-sharing. We live about an hour away and come from fairly different walks of life. Chances are we would never have connected if I hadn’t decided to donate milk. I’m so grateful to have them in my life! When my pumping output started to decrease due to being 11 months postpartum, I started feeling a lot of anxiety about quitting donating. I’ve really become emotionally invested in this little girl and I felt this fear that I wouldn’t get to see them anymore. After our play date today (which included exchanging gifts and many tears) I’m assured that’s not going to be the case.
Milk-sharing is one of the most fulfilling things I’ve participated in. It’s hard to explain why it’s such an emotional thing but it’s probably due to a lot of hormones and such tied to producing milk. I saw this quote somewhere and it really hits home for me; “Breast milk is food turned into love.” I think that milk sharing is such an important option for moms to have. It really is hard for me to bite my tongue when people talk about it being weird or gross. I’m completely supportive of moms who use formula as well, after all everyone’s situation is different. However, for me, breast milk just seems like the natural thing to feed a baby and if you can’t produce for whatever reason, why wouldn’t you use milk from a mom who has more than enough? (Assuming donor milk is available to you.) Most of us consume dairy products, we’re the only species that regularly consumes milk from a different species than our own. No one seems to think that’s weird, but give a baby breast milk from a fellow mother and we all freak out?
Breast milk is the ideal food for babies but one thing I really want to express about milk sharing is that it’s not just about nutrition. Milk sharing is also about creating a sense of community between women. Women are often pitted against each other and it starts at a young age. I was often bullied by other girls in school because I had large breasts. My peers would start rumors that I stuffed my bra and older women would tell their sons not to date me because girls with big boobs are sluts. It’s truly healing for me to actually have my breasts be something that brings me closer to other women instead of something that pushes me away from them. I’ve entered a community of women who have all been brought together by breasts, yet held together by something deeper.