Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Milk sharing ~ a little joy for you, a lot of life for another.

“These babies must only have breast milk. They are not to be given formula” Says the big authoritative neonatologist to the wide eyed scared first time mum. This is me; babies only 6 hours old after a long difficult labour and birth of baby twin boys born 9 weeks early. I didn’t question the man and without any more words exchanged the importance of human milk for these little boys and babies everywhere was concreted in my brain forever.

Over the next days and weeks as my sick babies fought to grow ex utero, I struggled to express enough breastmilk to keep up with their needs. The words of the big stern doctor rung loud in my head as I looked at the measly 20ml id managed to painstakingly squeeze from my breast. Fortunately for me, I wouldn’t have to go against the doctors orders as each baby took turns being sicker and would both be nil by mouth and this would buy me some time to stock pile some milk. I would pump every spare moment I had.

These early mothering experiences laid foundation for my later experience of milk sharing. How much pressure this new mum would have been free from had the neonatologist been able to say to me “these babies must get breastmilk, don’t worry if you cant pump enough to start with, we have a plentiful store here in our milk bank”. If only. If only for all sick babies everywhere this was the norm. The very first option after his mothers own milk. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case and still isn’t. Milk banks just don’t exist in (all but one or two) towns and cities across Australia.

Busy with my baby twins, I breastfeed the months and years away. I learn more, I study, I become a lactation consultant. I learn of all the struggles some mums go through to make sure their babies receive the little breastmilk their mum can make. I am inspired by these mums and want to help.

I give birth to a healthy full term baby boy and breastfeeding is a breeze. I realize that for me to feed my little baby with out a second thought isn’t fair. Its not fair to the next mum who is pumping, comping, on medication, using supply lines and struggling with the thought that she still doesn’t have enough milk for her baby to be exclusively breastfed.

I came across the human milk 4 human babies Facebook page. I posted that I have some milk in the freezer that id be happy to part with if any mums and babies were in need. I was connected with a few passing mums and babies here and there. Then I was put in touch with a mum who wanted donors to contribute milk for her baby on a long-term basis. This was something I could do. It took just 10 minutes of my time to help a mum and baby in such a profound way. I got into a sweet groove of pumping one breast while baby Rhys had the other boob. One pump per day would yield about 120mls. Rhys was sharing his milk, about 1 litre a week with another human baby, my milk would only cover a little over a days worth of the other babies needs but between my self and the other donors and her mother she was at times receiving wholly human milk.

Rhys with his sharing milk 

I got nothing other than the sheer feeling of doing something good for others out of sharing my milk. It wasn’t at all a selfless act because when mum and baby would make the couple of hour round car trip to collect milk, handing the little stash over in the esky felt wonderful.

It was becoming difficult to keep up my pumping, Rhys was big and wouldn’t share me with the pump as easily. The recipient babe was also now over one and mum was managing her demand much better with less need of donor milk, so I decided to stop pumping for donation.

There were still many occasions where a local mum would get in touch with our local natural parenting group at a time of need and ask for one off donations and if there was milk at hand id happily part with it.

I urge you to look up human milk 4 humanbabies, if you’re struggling with supply and keeping up with your babies need for milk than there are other options than just formula top ups. Maybe you have a freezer full of milk that your baby will never make his way through. Don’t let it go to waste, there are babies out there that need it, and mums that would cry to see it go to waste.

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