Informal Milk Sharing: Donating My Extra Breast Milk

Pumped Breast MilkAccording to the World Health Organization (WHO), mother should exclusively breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life. In the hierarchy of infant feeding choices, exclusive breastfeeding comes first followed by a mother’s own pumped milk and then pasteurized donor milk from a human milk bank. Only after the first three options have been exhausted should artificial infant milk, that is, infant formula, be given to a baby.

I personally have not had any problems with breastfeeding my daughter. Since the time that my milk came in a few days after giving birth, I have had plenty of milk. My daughter never wants for milk! (And she very much is a boobie baby!) Additionally, I have been pumping since my daughter was four days old in an effort to build up a stockpile of frozen milk for when I have to be away from my daughter while I am at work.

To avoid overfeeding our daughter as well as to avoid hurting my supply, my husband and I decided to follow the one ounce per each hour rule while I am away. Thus, because I am out of the house for six hours, I leave behind a maximum of six ounces of milk for my husband to feed our daughter. However, as a hardcore boobie baby, Poppy never really took to the bottle. She will eat when she is hungry, but she never overindulges on the bottle. Thus, after about a month after I had returned to work, I realized that I had a slightly unusual problem: I had way too much pumped breast milk stored in my freezer.

Because she gets only six ounces of milk at the most while I am away, my freezer was quickly becoming overstocked with my milk. I usually pump between eight and fourteen ounces per day. With my daughter drinking only six ounces per day, I was freezing up to eight more ounces daily. Furthermore, although she tolerates the thawed frozen milk, she much rather prefers her bottles to be fresh. Therefore, I simply pump her some fresh milk before I go to work and freeze the rest that I pump.

Breast milk lasts for only so long, even when frozen in a deep freezer. Therefore, I knew that I needed to do something with my huge stash of frozen milk and that I needed to do something fast. Fortunately, I am a member of a number of Facebook groups. At the exact time that I realized that I had an overstock of frozen milk, another local mother posted that she was trying to find donor milk for her baby. She had been having trouble with breastfeeding but did not want to give her baby any formula if possible. Had the fates united us?

She and I began private messaging each other. She asked me about my health and lifestyle. I replied with the following information:

“I do not smoke. I have very little caffeine; mostly iced tea and a soda every couple of days but not daily. I eat healthy. I have no more than one beer every so often; the last one I had was last week I think, but I never have more than one, and I have never had more than I felt comfortable nursing my daughter. I take Flonase, which is a nasal spray and is considered very safe for breastfeeding because such a negligible amount even gets in the blood if any so even less than if any gets in the blood. I no longer drink cow’s milk.”

I also added: “My daughter is growing like a weed on just my milk!”

A few days later, she came to my house to pick up some of my pumped breast milk that I was willing to donate to her informally. I was able to give her an entire cooler full. Since that time, I have also been able to give her some more bags of my pumped milk. She tells me that, with my milk supplementing her pumped milk as well as her efforts to breastfeed, her baby is doing well. I am just so glad that I was able to find someone who could put my extra pumped milk to good use. If my daughter was not going to eat all of my milk, then I was pleased and relieved to have found a baby in need that I could donate to. My freezer was full, and breast milk lasts for only so long!

Would you consider informal milk sharing? Would you informally donate milk to another baby? Would you accept donor milk informally for your baby?

Image Credits

Pumped Breast Milk © 2012 Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson

Heather Johnson is a mother, wife, writer, librarian, and linguist. She earned a BA in English studies with a minor in creative writing from Illinois State University in May 2007, an MS in library and information science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in May 2009, and an MS in English studies with an emphasis in linguistics at Illinois State University in December 2011.

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