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: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4935970n
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!