Milkshare Programs Provide Options for Parents

milkshare-programs-provide-options-for-parents
Image via: Jennifer Bruno

I have a tumor on my pituitary gland.  For a majority of my adult life, this tumor caused me to shamefully lactate.  I wasn’t a mother, nor at an age I felt comfortable even considering becoming one, so producing fluid from my breasts was inconvenient, messy, and embarrassing.

But regardless of how “embarrassing” lactation once seemed, I always looked forward to the day I could put it to good use and provide nourishment to my future children (so long as I could do it in the secrecy of my own home, as public breastfeeding seemed taboo, inappropriate, and exhibitionistic).  My girlfriends often joked I should buy a breast pump and sell my supply – an idea I found appalling.  

Who in their right mind would wanna feed their baby another woman’s milk?!?!  Gross.

And then I grew up.  

And had a baby.  

My son came into this world far earlier than my breast-milk supply.  Four weeks earlier, to be precise.  My once leaky boobs were bone dry; and my frail, late-term preemie had a suck too weak and uncoordinated to summon his meals to the surface.  We spent the four days following my cesarean section in the hospital and doing our best to navigate the waters of breastfeeding, but neither of us seemed to get it right.

With the direction of some incredibly skilled lactation consultants, I was advised to connect to a breast pump multiple times an hour until I started seeing results.  After some necessary formula supplementation and two weeks of being married to the flanges, my fruitless pumps began to slowly fill with the milk my son and I worked so hard to muster.  And before I knew it, I had a chubby baby and a freezer FULL of breastmilk!

Milkshare programs are meant to open options that may not otherwise exist.

Living in New York City, my space is limited; and sadly, I was faced with disposing of the milk I’d worked tirelessly to produce.  

If only I knew someone with an infant in need…

Armed with laptops, my husband and I searched for a means to donate my supply and were led to Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB), a volunteer-led organization dedicated to fostering a community of parents who choose to share breastmilk.  Despite the loads of testimonials raving about how donor milk had substantially helped hundreds of babies in my area, I was skeptical.  

Who would want my milk?  I was a stranger.  Who would trust that it was “safe”?

Regardless, I posted about my supply on the HM4HM-New York Facebook page.

“I’m a non-smoking, non-drinking, mother of a (then) three-month-old, living in Queens.  I have 200 ounces to donate.  I don’t have transportation, but will arrange meeting for local delivery.”

Within SECONDS, I had three messages from parents eager to meet with me.  That week, I donated my supply to a breast cancer survivor, a woman with glandular tissue issues, and a father whose wife was unable to keep up with her son’s increasing appetite. 

Knowing what breastmilk had done for my roly-poly baby, I couldn’t give it away fast enough.  I’ve since developed a relationship with a family and share with them each time my stash starts to overload my freezer.  They are grateful and trusting, and are always eager to report their son’s growth at each exchange.

What once seemed “gross” to me, now feels so right.  Milksharing has taken place for centuries, and with the undisputed claim that breastmilk is best, it’s a wonder I’d not known about this option sooner.  Had my milk supply failed to establish and my son failed to thrive, formula would have been my only perceived option since the cost of milk at breastmilk banks would have far exceeded my wallet.  Organizations like HM4HB and Eats on Feets provide families with an inexpensive alternative (neither condone selling breastmilk).

Milkshare programs such as these are based on “informed choice,” and elicit an open line of communication between the donor and the recipient, and insist both parties be comfortable with the relationship prior to donating.  Many chapters of the organizations require the donors to provide healthcare records (most common are copies of test results from prenatal care).  They do not match donors and recipients.  They simply provide the social space for community members to connect, so that they may privately arrange for milk-sharing.  

The method in which to feed your baby is a personal choice each parent must make.  Contrary to my former uniformed and immature opinion, providing breastmilk to an infant that may not be your own is not “gross.”  Quite the opposite, really.  Milkshare programs are meant to open options that may not otherwise exist; so if you find yourself without enough (or in my case, with too much) milk, you can check out the Facebook pages for HM4HB and Eat on Feets to explore donor options in your area.

Would you consider feeding your baby breastmilk from a milkshare program or donor?

What do you think?

Milkshare Programs Provide Options for Parents

Jennifer Bruno is a credentialed trainer by day and a freelance writer and aspiring photographer by night. Raised in rural Kansas, Jen moved to sunny Florida after college where she met her husband, who married her despite hearing her sing Dixie Chicks karaoke. Shortly after saying “I do”, they moved to New York City to fulfill their dream of living amongst the bright lights and skyscrapers. They currently share their cramped apartment with two modelesque miniature dachshunds named Millie an ... More

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2 comments

  1. Profile photo of Christina Christina says:

    My daughter came 6 1/2 weeks early, and my milk supply was never sufficient. I did everything my lactation specialist suggested to no avail. I even tried fenugreek, which actually was working, until I broke out into hives and was told to stop taking it. Knowing how important breastmilk is to a baby, especially a preemie, I was devastated. Luckily, my baby was eligible to receive donated milk for two weeks while she was in the NICU. I am extremely grateful to the women who donated their milk.

  2. Profile photo of Phammom Phammom says:

    They are good ideas.

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