Sunday, July 31, 2011

Welcome, Everyone!

Welcome to everyone who came to see us at Latch On Hudson Valley this afternoon! Please excuse our dust as our website is in the midst of transition.

If anyone is interested in "liking" our Facebook group, please check it out here! It's a great place to ask any questions you may have about milksharing, or to just connect with other moms in the community!

LOHV was fabulous, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to speak with lots of wonderful people about modern milksharing!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Donor Moms: They Don't Just Donate Milk They Donate Life!

In the last several months, modern milksharing has gone from being an underground, almost taboo practice to a new and exciting humanitarian venture that has caught the attention of the mainstream media. As a result, thousands of moms have connected to share healthy, life-saving human milk for babies who would otherwise be forced to eat artificial baby food.

Despite the newfound attention and popularity, there is a lot to be learned about the rules and etiquette of sharing milk. This beautiful tradition that became lost in a culture of chemistry, convenience, and commercialism is finally starting to grow again. Communities are starting to come together and support one another. Women are giving of themselves for the health and well-being of children they did not even birth, themselves. The milk of human kindness is quite literally flowing with abundance.

But with new growth comes growing pains. Much of modern society is not yet ready to accept the importance of natural feeding. Milksharing is still seen as taboo by many. Moms who feed their children donated breastmilk are ridiculed, put down and discouraged by friends, family and even professionals. Being unable to provide your child with the most basic of human rights (human milk) is an extremely alienating experience. That alienation is only compounded by comments like, “That’s not safe because it’s a bodily fluid.” Or “Why would you expose your baby to AIDS like that?”

The milksharing community has done an excellent job of coming together to support these moms whose babies are in need. We are able to come together and lift one another up, confident that we are doing the absolute best that we can for our children.

There is so much focus on the needs of our babies, and the fears of all of us moms who struggle to provide good nutrition for our children. In all of that, the donors are often overlooked. I have seen many moms act as if it was a donor mom’s responsibility to provide milk for their babies at any cost, simply because they have enough to give.

I have heard stories of donor moms who were never reimbursed for bags or shipping, or who wanted to hear updates about their milk babies, and never heard so much as a word once the milk changed hands. While most receiving moms are extremely grateful to their donors, there are still too many who do not fully appreciate the sacrifice that these women make so that our babies can eat.

As modern milksharing becomes more and more popular, I feel that it is extremely important that we take some time to stop and really understand and appreciate all of the donor moms out there. Sure, it would be a dream come true to sit down and pump more than 1oz in a sitting, but the reality for donor moms is so much more than that. The time and effort that they sacrifice must be acknowledged by those of us whose children have benefited.

The post below was written by Laura Moore, my partner in this blog and my son’s primary ongoing donor. To date, she has donated over 5,000oz of milk for Jacob, and she is still pumping today. The gift that she has given my family will be remembered for a lifetime.

As you read this, please stop and think of your donor mom(s), or of a donor that you know. Take a moment to give her a call or send her an e-mail. Tell her about how well your little one is doing, and thank her once again for her generous gift!

By Laura Moore

Breast milk sharing is blossoming in this country thanks to the global network that is Human Milk for Human Babies.

I am proud to be a mom in the community of amazing women who are helping to turn the tide and open the doors for more open breastfeeding views and milksharing communities.

As a breast milk donor, it has been a long road of “backdoor” milksharing and whispering. It wasn’t easy for me at first. Like most breast milk donors I had my own questions and concerns about the entire milk sharing process. The idea of being a donor was great, but I honestly didn't know what it actually required. I was open to the idea due to being a supporter of breastfeeding and witnessing its amazing benefits in my own premature son, born at 35 weeks. I knew in my heart that donating milk to other babies in need was something I wanted to do.

I had no idea what being a donor would mean for me as a woman, a mom, a friend and a wife. Since the start of my donation experience in 2006, it surprisingly has put me in a position where I have to sacrifice time for my own self, my family and my own children to pump, hand express to support these little lives with each extra ounce.

Whether you are a one-time donor or a continuous supplier, the effort is still the same. Pumping is hard work and hand expressing is even harder. After the birth of my third child, I made the choice to give more and offer as much as I could. I started pumping after breastfeeding my own child, upwards of every 2 hours, around the clock. I pumped day and night. The total time pumping and washing parts every few hours took its toll on my pump and my pump parts. I was lucky to have been able find a hospital grade pump via Ebay for a good price. I don’t think another pump would have survived these years of extreme pumping.

I was tired from very little sleep. My husband was serving his country in the military and I had 3 children under the age of 3 that were counting on me. On top of all that, we lived thousands of miles away from our friends and family. I didn't have the greatest support in our military community, let alone for breast feeding. I was mocked and ridiculed for even mentioning that I donated breast milk by some very immature military wives.

Watching my own premature child fight for life is a vivid memory for me and something that hit deep in my core. I might have not had the greatest support system possible but I did not pay mind to what others said. Still, their words stung. I lost friends and relationships because of their opinion of breast milk donation. Snarky comments behind my back or under breath quips that I was the “donating weirdo” became too frequent to bear sometimes.

I heard comments such as “Do you think someone really takes her milk for their own child?” or “She says she doesn’t drink caffeine but I wouldn't trust her!” They really bothered me time to time and I would lay awake in tears, wishing I had a friend to share in the joy of helping others. I started questioning if this road I am taking is the right one. Could I sacrifice so much of myself to give to these little ones? Were all these women right?

Every time I asked myself those questions I always had an answer... A letter from a mom I donated to thanked me for helping their child or a photo in the mail of healthy twin girls, all sorts of emails or letters with thanks of how I had touched and helped their lives. That is when I knew all my sacrifice, all the pain with no support was worth it.

I had great support from my husband and my in-laws. But at times a phone call never compares to face to face support.

It wasn't easy at all, but I know I had a healthy supply. I had donated with my previous 2 children and I had the opportunity to be an on-going donor so I didn't see why I shouldn't offer up my support with my third child. By that time I had met a CLC working with the local WIC office in Saratoga Springs, NY (Ashley) who was an amazing friend and supporter. I am not even sure if she realizes what her friendship meant to me. Being in a community where I wasn’t really accepted with open arms for breast feeding, having her loving support and help did amazing things for my heart.

Having the right support as a donor I know means everything with donating long term. I had thought about giving up so many times because I lacked a friend in the area. I am glad I stuck with it to find Ashley’s love & support and an amazing recipient in Bekki; even though she lived hours away. With both of their encouragement, it gave me a chance to give more of myself then I think I could have without them.

My relationship with my recipient and my CLC was an amazing gift... They both knew what I was going through and supported me wholeheartedly! Throughout this third time donating and the support of HM4HB I have been surrounded by supportive, amazing woman.

The connection that Bekki and I made has been a bond I have never had with another recipient. She is one of my best friends and I look up to her strength and perseverance in what she had to face with breastfeeding her own child. Being able to understand and hear her story, to share that between us made our relationship strong and our connection great. My milk sharing story wasn't just “back alley” milk passing, but a friendship that I know will last many years.

It helped to drive me to do all I could for Bekki and her baby boy. HM4HB and MilkShare offer those connections. With donating to a milk bank you don’t get to see the babies, you don’t hear how they are growing and you don’t get uplifted by thank you letters or photos of happy healthy little ones. You send in milk and hope and pray it finds it ways to those much needed tummies but don’t get me wrong there are a need and a place for milk banks.

Through my own experience as a donor the relationship that grew from each of my donations and being able to help those little lives with my own sacrifice is something that would never compare to the process of donating to a milk bank.

Some think we can't share milk responsibly or have faith in our choice as a parent.

I took a risk in sharing milk just as Bekki did in taking it. I was willing to and did offer up all I could to alleviate any concerns with blood work and letting her know I was a blood donor. I was on the list to be a bone marrow donor and I previously had been approved and screened to donate to a milk bank as well. I had even donated white blood cells as well for cancer patients. I shared my personal info with her so that I could continue to do more good and connect with a family and a child that was in desperate need.

I know in my heart if anything ever happened to me or if I couldn't supply what my child needed, I would hope that there would be more amazing mothers that would step up and do the same for my small infant. I love my children just as much as any other mother. I would give anything to give them the best start in life. So what’s wrong with me giving and sharing and donating my extra milk to a mother that feels the same way and loves her child just as much as I do mine? She wants the same benefits as do and like a lot of other moms that donate, I was already approved to donate to a milk bank. I just couldn't find it in my heart to send my milk I worked so hard to collect and offer to another child to a milk bank that would pasteurize, causing it to lose antibodies and stem cells that could offer the greatest start to a growing life so the milk bank can then turn around and sell for it upwards of $4 to $5 an ounce.

Having my own premature child made me realize that if I was in the same position, as a lot of these others moms, even with my husband serving his country and the amount we bring in, we wouldn't have been able to even think of paying that price to a milk bank. My son wouldn't have been given a fighting chance to fend off deadly infections and colds that could weaken and take his little life.

ABC-did a great story about it if you haven't seen it, but a lot of the NICU’s across the country are moving to breast milk only for these little lives.

Watch it here:

I think a lot of people forget being a donor isn't easy with the pumping and the time that must be invested. The heart you put into helping and supporting another life is an amazing gift and the sacrifice is great. It’s one of the most rewarding and selfless gifts you can give as a mother. Every ounce is filled with antibodies and stem cells offering a life time of support. In my own opinion anyone willing to share and donate this liquid gold is a remarkable person.

Please remember, we also take our own risk being a donor by providing personal information, what we eat, our life styles and even our blood work. We are taking a leap of faith for another needy family.

We aren't just donating breast milk we are donating life!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just Because We Can't Breastfeed Doesn't Mean We're Stupid

Two healthy donor-milk fed babies!
Human milksharing has received quite a bit of media attention lately. Up until recently, most people didn’t even know that anyone still practiced it. Honestly, I didn’t know until I was presented with a terrible predicament over two years ago. I had just given birth to my first child, but I was not producing any breastmilk. I received help from an IBCLC and my doula. Both gave me their best advice and support. My doula brought new herbs to my home every few days in hopes that we would find something to help. She cried almost as much as I did over the fact that I had to feed my baby formula.

By the time my daughter was a week old, my herculean efforts to increase my milk supply still had no effect. Despite several different herbs, around-the-clock nursing and pumping in between, my breasts were apparently on strike. They had abandoned the precious task that they were created for, no matter how much I cried and begged.

I still remember the phone conversation with my Darlene, my doula. “Please don’t think I’m a fruit loop.” She said, almost timidly. “I’ll try ANYTHING!” was my reply.

She took a deep breath. “Jen (her partner doula) is nursing her 3 month old and she has extra milk. She wants to give you some to feed Evelyn while you work on getting your milk supply up.”

This was a very pivotal moment for me. I can see why Darlene was worried that I would consider her a “fruit loop”. We live in a society that is absolutely terrified of just about anything breastmilk-related. We look down on mothers who nurse in public, ask them to feed their babies under a stuffy blanket or in a bathroom. And if we see a woman nursing a toddler? Forget it! What a nut! If the child is old enough to ask for it, he’s too old to nurse, right?

That’s the way we treat women and their breasts today. We get so squeamish about mothers feeding their own babies because we want to regard their breasts not as blessed tools for nourishing our young, but as sexual play things for men to drool over, and the media to boost ratings with.

So where does milkSHARING actually fit in? Certainly, that must fall in the category of COMPLETE NUTCASE LEVEL 10, right? Do we dare to even so much as THINK about the idea of breastmilk leaving one woman’s breast and feeding another woman’s child? Now, that’s a whole new level of weird that apparently, the world just isn’t ready for.

But in that moment when I was faced with the choice – the choice to feed my baby milk from another human or milk from another SPECIES, the answer felt like a no-brainer. “I would love that! Thank you so much!”

The next day, Darlene came over with a grocery bag filled with little frozen bags of liquid beauty. She taught me all about how to store, thaw, and warm the milk safely. The relief that I felt was immeasurable. I had never seen so much breastmilk in one place before! I was so happy to supplement my baby with milk that was created specifically for human babies to eat. This generous mother opened her heart and her milk ducts to MY baby, whom she had never even met. She gave her milk that had been pumped for HER child. What a beautiful testament to human kindness.

She made two donations. I wish I could remember exactly how much they totaled. She wasn’t able to continue to donate because she had to build up a stash for her child so that she could return to work. Within a couple of weeks, we ran out of milk and Evelyn was back on formula.

Weeks later, I shared my story with a friend of mine who is an outspoken proponent of breastfeeding. She told me about an organization called MilkShare – a website where moms with extra milk could connect with mothers of babies who need it.

I logged on immediately and found the group. As soon as I was signed up, I went to work searching for milk.

The platform was very different back then. There were no Facebook groups or message boards for milksharing. MilkShare was just a Yahoo group at this point in time. Every time a new message was posted, members received an e-mail. You had to be quick to respond, because milk went pretty fast. I set things up so that I would receive an alert on my phone every time that e-mail account received a message. I have lost count of how many times I heard a little chime from my phone and dropped everything to RUN to the computer and check my e-mail. I would just hope and pray that the new message was an offer for milk somewhere in my own state.

I posted my story and my plea for milk. Within the first few days, a mom from New York City responded and told me that she had about 600oz of milk to give. We live a couple hours north of the city. So, I made arrangements for a meeting. I was nervous about driving down there with a baby, so my husband took a day off from work and went, himself. He took a train all the way down along with two big, insulated bags. He got to the donor mom’s house and she filled the bags, and he carried them all the way back home. He is and will always be my hero for doing this.

My husband wasn’t always 100% on board with using donated milk, though. I remember our conversation before bed the night before his trip. We both felt a little uneasy about this new experience. It was one thing to feed Evelyn milk from a friend, but another thing entirely to feed her milk from a stranger. I had never met this woman face-to-face, and she was going to give my baby breastmilk?

We had a long talk about it. We went over both of our fears and discussed them at length. Ultimately, we both knew deep down inside that this was a GOOD thing for our daughter.

The donor mom had provided us with copies of her most recent bloodwork to show that she was free of most diseases that can be passed through breastmilk. She told us that she ate a healthy diet and did not take any drugs that would be harmful if passed through the breastmilk. She was feeding this milk to her OWN babies. We felt that it was safe to assume that she wasn’t knowingly harming her own children.

My husband and I both made an informed CHOICE to feed this milk to our daughter. We considered many factors when we made this decision – the risks of formula, allergies, blood test results, etc. We made sure before feeding her milk to our daughter that we were completely comfortable with it.

With all of the recent media attention that modern milksharing has received, some people (especially the FDA) have decided that they need to step in and say something. At this point in time, they do advise against mom-to-mom milksharing because of the risks involved. Personally, I think that this has more to do with the fact that the FDA has no control over women’s breasts – and we all know just how much they like to control us!

Most moms who feed their babies donated milk know the risks. We are well aware of the dangers of feeding our children milk from a mom who has a disease or takes drugs (both medicinal and recreational) while she is breastfeeding. The government, pediatricians and even some lactation consultants have made the risks very well known. They would rather see babies on “donated”, processed cow’s milk than on fresh, donated human milk.

What really bothers me about a lot of what I hear lately is that these people apparently think that we’re stupid. Many of them really seem to believe that just because THEY said that milksharing is not safe (in their opinion), that we shouldn’t do it.

Here’s the truth: Those of us who feed our babies donated breastmilk are not a bunch of overzealous lactivist lunatics. We are parents who want what is best for our children, and our view of what is best obviously differs from that of some people.

As parents, we take calculated risks with our children every single day. Just yesterday, I put my kids in their car seats and drove to the store, knowing full well that there was a miniscule chance that we could have been in a horrible accident and been hurt or killed. I did my best to safeguard them from such a tragedy – I strapped them properly into approved car seats, which were installed in a safe vehicle. I drove carefully, obeying the rules of the road and watched for anyone who may have been driving in an unsafe manner close to us. I took every precaution that I could to ensure their safety. All of my efforts couldn't absolutely guarantee a safe trip, but I did everything in my power to make it as safe as possible.

Feeding your child donated breastmilk is very similar to driving to the store. There will always be risk involved. Do your best to mitigate the risk and do it in a way that you feel comfortable.

WE are the parents. WE decide what is best for our children – not health professionals, and not the government. We make INFORMED CHOICES every single day.

We moms are a lot smarter than you think. Don’t think for a second that we would recklessly feed our babies food that could cause them serious harm. Stop and think about why we are feeding them donated milk in the first place. Because we want what is best for them. Period.

We are mothers and fathers – protectors and guardians of our children. We know better than ANYONE else what is in the best interest of our babies. We are intelligent, and fully capable of deciding whether donated breastmilk is safe for our babies or not.

If any of you have any questions about MilkSharing, please join our Facebook page! Modern Milksharing

Picture: Two HEALTHY, donor milk fed babies!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Which Cooler Should I Use?

I have put together this little guide to help give you all an idea of which size cooler to choose when you are going to ship breastmilk.

It is important to point out that there is no way to guarantee that a certain cooler will perfectly fit X number of ounces of milk. The amount of milk that a cooler will hold depends on several factors - how the milk is frozen (flat or not), whether or not you are using dry ice(and how much of it), and how the cooler is packed.

Unfortunately, choosing the right size cooler is more of a guessing game than an exact science. However, I can share with you what has worked for me over several shipments of milk. I think I have a fairly decent handle on things at this point, so this should be relatively accurate.

Let me also take this moment to remind you that if you are shipping less than 300oz of milk, you absolutely, positively MUST use dry ice. It doesn't matter if you are shipping overnight. Anything less than 300oz (500oz in summer) is too risky to send without it.

During the summer months, I recommend using dry ice on all shipments under 600oz that will be in transit for more than one day. As always, make sure the coolers are packed properly with as little extra airspace as possible.

For up to 500oz of milk, I recommend this cooler:

Mr.Box Online - Superior Cooler

In my experience, this cooler can hold up to 550oz of milk (if frozen flat, closer to 500oz otherwise). If you are sending a smaller amount, this cooler may seem big, but keep in mind the need for dry ice. You will need the extra space. Just make sure to fill the rest with paper.

For 1 day shipping, use at least 5-8lbs of dry ice. For 2 day shipping, at least 10-15 lbs.

For up to 1000oz of milk, I recommend this cooler:

Mr.Box Online - Extra Large Cooler

In my experience, this cooler can hold up to 1000oz of milk (frozen flat, closer to 900 otherwise). 900oz will generally keep itself nice and cold without dry ice, but in the warmer months, it's always safest to include some dry ice.

For 1 day shipping, use at least 8-10lbs of dry ice, for 2 day shipping, use at least 15lbs of dry ice.

For up to 1400oz of milk, I recommend this cooler:

MrBox Online - Jumbo Cooler

Laura and I used this cooler once. She shipped me 1300oz of milk, frozen flat. There was still room for 4-6 boxes of baby cereal, which she used for insulation.

Be warned that a cooler this size filled with frozen milk is extremely heavy. I believe our shipment weighed in at around 100lbs.

If using dry ice, I recommend at least 15lbs. However, when Laura shipped this to me, she sent it 2-day and UPS lost the package. It ended up being in transit for 6 days, rather than 2. I was worried sick, but when the package finally arrived, all of the milk was still frozen solid - even the fresh milk she had packed in there at the last minute froze. The more milk you ship at once, the safer your shipment is without dry ice. But bear in mind, this shipment took place in the winter time. I don't think we would have had such a happy outcome had it been summer.

Remember that when you ship breastmilk, there are all sorts of things that come into play: transit time, the weather, how the milk has been packed, etc. It's always best to spend the extra money to err on the side of caution (i.e. shorter shipping time, using dry ice) to avoid losing a shipment of precious breastmilk for your baby.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

An Important Note About the Videos

In one of Laura's videos about freezing breastmilk, you can see that she laid the bags of milk flat in the door of her freezer, and once they were frozen, moved them into the main part compartment. The purpose of doing it this way is to freeze the bags of milk in uniform shapes and sizes to make for both easier storage, and safer shipping.

I have heard from several different people that some members of the online milksharing community have publicly accused Laura of storing breastmilk in the freezer door long term. As many are aware, that is not a safe place to store milk for long periods of time. The door of the freezer is exposed to the warm air much more than the inside is, and that exposure cuts down on the freezer life of the milk. I am told that these people claimed that Laura was sending my baby bad milk which would make him sick.

Because this was apparently made public, I feel the need to set the record straight:

Laura has never, ever sent my baby bad milk.

As anyone who pays attention to her video can see, she very specifically stated that the milk was only to be put in the door to freeze flat, then it was moved to the main part of the freezer for safe storage until shipping.

So, if these false statements about Laura were truly made (I have not seen them for myself, so I cannot say for sure), they were spoken out of either ignorance (and lack of ability to pay attention to detail) or malice. Both qualities of which are toxic to the milksharing community.

So just a public service announcement to all of us: When speaking about other people in public, please make sure that you are well-informed of what you are saying. Misinformation can cause a lot of harm.

And to anyone who thinks of making up rumors to hurt another human being, I urge you to think first before you do so. Milksharing is not about competition or petty games. It is a humanitarian effort for the greater good. When you wrongfully hurt a person who is volunteering their time to help the milksharing community, you are hurting babies who need milk.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Milksharing is by no means a new thing. Women have been opening their hearts and their milk stores to babies in need since the beginning of time. But modern milksharing is a bit different than the days of wet nurses (although, there are still wet nurses today!). Most milk donations are pumped, bagged, frozen and sometimes shipped. This is still relatively new in our society.

The purpose of this blog is to make this process easier for all milksharing moms. Our tutorials offer pictures, but we wanted to do you all one better by offering video tutorials, as well.

Right now, all of our videos pertain to the donor side of milksharing. Pretty soon, we will have some videos about what to do with the milk once you have received it. We have great tips on storing, thawing, etc.

Please take some time to check out these short videos to better familiarize yourself with safe milksharing practices!

Mixing Foremilk and Hindmilk

Filling Breastmilk Bag For Freezing

Freezing Breastmilk For Safe & Efficient Storage

Shipping Breastmilk

Shipping with dry ice:

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Big Things Are Happening!

I am absolutely delighted and amazed to see how far milksharing has come in the last several months. What was once a small, underground community has blossomed into a vast network of mom with extra milk, and babies who need it!

I feel bad that I have not been keeping this blog updated as well as I had hoped. I promise from now on that I will be better about that. :)

I have started by adding a little bit of important information to the Shipping Page and the Freezing instructions. We just want to make sure that the information we provide is 100% clear. Shipping milk can be risky business if not done properly, and we want to arm donors and recipients with the best information possible.

While nothing can ever be guaranteed, Laura and I have a lot of experience with donating, receiving, and shipping milk. Laura has donated to over 30 babies in her several years of donating, and has shipped all over the country. I have been feeding my babies donated breastmilk for two years - most of it shipped. While there are no official rules for shipping breastmilk, we are happy to share what has worked for us and countless other moms in the past.

Later today, I will be adding several helpful videos on how to freeze and ship breastmilk. I'm sure many of you will find it extremely helpful to see Laura in action as she prepares her precious milk to arrive safely in another baby's tummy! :)

There will be much more to come on the Milk Sharing blog over the next several weeks. Everyone, please stay tuned!

We also want to hear from all you wonderful mommies (and daddies!) - What issues of Milk Sharing would you like to see addressed on this blog? Please ask any questions you have in the comments and Laura & I will do our best to help you out!

Keep your eyes peeled - there's lost of great stuff to come!


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Link: Human Milk Sharing

A great article about modern milk sharing!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

My Breastfeeding and Milksharing Story


“I want to breastfeed for at least 6 months.” I remember saying those words to my mom during my second pregnancy. I talked with my mom several times about breastfeeding. She was very experienced, having nursed 6 of her 7 babies. I remember growing up watching her nurse my younger siblings. In our house, breastfeeding was just the normal and logical thing to do.

My first pregnancy had ended in miscarriage, but this time, I was happily expecting twins. However, through a tragic turn of events, I lost one twin early on and the other at 15 weeks. The last miscarriage was a traumatic ordeal, involving a D&C, retained placenta, nearly bleeding to death and an emergency blood transfusion. I was sent home on bed rest with nothing to do but stare at the wall or the TV.

About 5 days or so after the remaining placenta had been removed I noticed that my shirt had a little wet spot on it. I didn’t think too much of it. I figured it was probably a drop of water, or maybe even a tear. However, over the next couple of days, the spot kept reappearing in the same place – right in front of my right breast.

I took a closer look, and there it was – a drop of clear liquid coming out of my nipple. I was leaking colostrum.

At the time, I was completely devastated by the loss of our third baby. Seeing my breast produce nourishment for a baby that I would never hold was just too much for me to bear. I called my mom, sobbing.

The leaky breast haunted me for a couple weeks. The OB nurse assured me that it would eventually stop and to call if it got uncomfortable. It never did. It eventually just stopped. I didn’t think much of it, nor did I think much of the fact that my left breast did not leak at all.

About a year and a half later, we learned that I was pregnant again. During a three month prescription of bed rest (thanks to an incompetent cervix), I spent most of my time researching and learning about breastfeeding. By the time I gave birth, I felt like an expert. No longer shooting for a mere 6 months, I had my sights set on nursing my baby until she would decide to wean herself. I had all of the knowledge and conviction that a new mother could have when it came to breastfeeding.

After 33 hours of labor, my 9lb 13oz baby girl had to be delivered by c-section. I knew all about the importance of nursing as soon as possible, and I made it very clear that the baby was to be at the breast right away. Sure enough, as soon as I was stitched up and wheeled back into my room, a nurse held Evelyn against me to nurse - I was too weak to hold her on my own. That first breastfeeding experience is a foggy memory at best. I hadn’t slept in over 2 days and labor had taken its toll.

During my 4-day stay at the birthing center, I faithfully nursed my daughter around the clock. To my delight (as well as the delight of the in-house lactation consultant), Evelyn had a perfect latch and a great suck. She was a pro!

Something was wrong, though. Whenever Evelyn was not nursing, she was crying hysterically. I was losing my mind from the sleep deprivation!

The next day, the nurses weighed her. It was not good. She had lost more than a pound in less than 48 hours. The lactation consultant brought in some formula and a tube to supplement at the breast. She helped me learn to syringe feed and finger feed so as to avoid nipple confusion.

I was assured over and over that sometimes, milk comes in late when you have a c-section. OK, then. I could be patient. So I waited… and waited. By day 4, my milk still had not come in. The lactation consultant was absolutely stumped. She brought in a pump and set it up next to my bed, advising me to use it as often as possible when the baby was not nursing.

I still remember my first pumping session. I pumped for 20 minutes and all I got was about 2 drops of colostrum. I remember crying as I wiped those precious drops up with my finger and put it in my daughter’s mouth. At that moment, I felt like the most inadequate mother in the universe. How could something so normal and so natural be going so terribly wrong?

I was discharged with some advice from the lactation consultant: a list of herbs, information about domperidone and her business card. She felt confident that my exhausting labor and subsequent c-section must be the culprit for my milk coming in late.

I later learned that I suffer from a condition called breast hypoplasia, or insufficient glandular tissue (IGT). For months, I scoured the internet looking for any information available. There wasn’t much.
There still isn’t much, but not much is known yet about IGT. At least I had an answer to why I was producing so little milk.

Now I was crying over breastmilk again, but for a different reason.

My doula, Darlene, brought herbs and offered as much help as she could. Even she was in tears over my situation. She hated seeing my baby drink formula almost as much as I did.

Darlene called me one night at home – I will never forget the conversation:

“Well, I wanted to run something by you… Please don’t think I’m a fruit loop! My business partner has some frozen breastmilk she wants to give you to use instead of formula.”

I had never heard of such a concept before. Feeding my baby milk from another woman? It only took me half a second to decide that it was a wonderful idea. Darlene brought over a grocery bag full of frozen breastmilk the very next day. She taught me how to handle, thaw and heat it. I was so relieved to have healthy food for supplementing my baby!

After learning about the concept of milksharing, a friend of mine recommended checking out MilkShare online. I joined the group and got in touch with a mom down in New York City. That was our first big milk donation for Evelyn. My husband took a train down with two big insulated bags. He carried 600oz of milk in those bags through the city and back home on the train. For this, he will always be my hero. <3

After that, we got in touch with other moms. We drove all around NY, MA and CT for milk for Evelyn. Many moms offered to ship if they were too far away. I continued to nurse and give Evelyn what little milk I could. With the help of several different herbs, domperidone and a hospital grade pump, I was able to give her a few ounces a day. The rest came from the generosity of other moms.

At 8 months old, Evelyn weaned herself from breastfeeding. I was absolutely devastated because it was so early. We had a lot working against us – the use of a nipple shield (due to extremely bad advice from an even worse pediatrician) and a then-undiagnosed upper lip tie. The poor girl was tired of working so hard for so little, and she was ready to be done.

Not long after that, I learned that I was pregnant again. The first couple of weeks were filled with anxiety as I thought about going through the same ordeal all over again. I got connected with a lactation consultant who specializes in low supply and IGT, and she worked with me throughout the pregnancy to help maximize breast growth.

I did everything I possibly could during the pregnancy to grow new breast tissue. I took a homemade herbal infusion and tinctures. I received weekly progesterone injections (for the record, those things HURT!). I even pumped for the last several weeks after reading a study showing that doing so can encourage breast tissue growth. I did everything under the sun.

Jacob was born via scheduled c-section at 9lb 12oz, and everything seemed so much easier. I wasn’t exhausted, just happy to hold my new little baby in my arms. He was at the breast within 40 minutes of birth, and like with Evelyn, I nursed him around the clock.

Things seemed to be going better this time. His diaper output was great, and he seemed generally content – until our second night. Earlier in the day, I was given two shots of a drug called methergine. I had an overdistended uterus and was bleeding out. Methergine constricts the blood vessels to help slow things down. Unfortunately, it also constricts the milk ducts.

Jacob went from being content at the breast to being absolutely miserable. His once perfect latch and suck turned into a desperate gnawing between crying. I had seen this before – my baby was starving. Again.

The nurses didn’t seem to take my concerns seriously. They assured me that for the first couple of days, I would only be producing colostrum. They didn’t know my situation, though. I marched down to the nursery with my hysterical son and demanded that they weigh him. Sure enough, he had lost more weight than they wanted to see, so they gave me some formula to supplement – not something I wanted to use, but my baby was starving, and it was my job to feed him.

Jacob is almost 4 months old now. He’s been growing and thriving on my milk, and the milk from another wonderful mother who has been pumping for him since I was about 6 months pregnant. I was hoping that I wouldn’t have to use her milk and that we could pass in on for another baby in need. That’s not how things worked out, though.

Today, I am still nursing. I take herbs, domperidone and lactogenic foods. I pump several times a day and nurse as often as my little one is willing. The good news is that while I don’t have a full milk supply, I am producing more milk than I did with Evelyn.

Fifteen moms helped keep Evelyn breastfed. So far, two have donated milk for my Jacob. I am so incredibly blessed to be a part of such a loving and giving community. My kids are incredibly blessed that so many women have been so generous to help keep them eating healthy. It means the world to me to know that even though I can’t breastfeed my children on my own, they don’t have to miss out on the benefits.

Update: 3/7/2011

Jacob is 5 months old now, and thriving thanks to the generosity of three moms who have donated for him: Laura, Michelle and Sage. Unfortunately, he started refusing the breast at about 4 months. I still try to get him to come back, but I guess he's just tired of working so hard for so little. So, I continue to pump for him and I get about 80mL/day (about 2 and 2/3 oz).

It's definitely not the way I pictured things would turn out, but I feel blessed every day that I am still able to feed him breastmilk, despite my shortcomings.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Shipping Time and Cost

Shipping frozen breastmilk can be expensive, but it doesn't have to be depending on how far it will be traveling.

When I have shipped in the past, I've used the UPS website to get a rough idea of how much it might cost.

1 - Go to

2 - On the left menu, click "Calculate time and cost"

3 - Enter the estimated weight of the package and the zip codes of where the milk will be shipped from, and shipped to. You will be given multiple shipping options and price quotes for everything from ground shipping to overnight.

To find out how long ground shipping will take, there is a line in the box that says "Days In Transit:". Depending on how far the milk will be traveling, ground shipping could take as little as 1-2 days, and is therefore extremely economical.

Estimating Shipping Weight

1 fl oz of breastmilk weighs just about an ounce, so it's safe to assume that 160oz of frozen milk will be about 10lbs in weight - plus the weight of the cooler. With that information, you can make a general estimate of how much the whole shipment will weigh.

For example, one of the most recent shipments of milk that came for my son was about 1100oz. The weight of the package was 75lbs. 1100oz divided by 16 is 68.75 lbs, so the cooler was probably in the neighborhood of 6 lbs.

*** I will be weighing some of my coolers in the next couple of days to give you an idea of how much they weigh - bear with me!***