It’s been a few weeks since I weaned my last baby (read about it here!). I’ve been thinking a lot about my breastfeeding journey. It’s still hard for me to believe it’s over. I want to reflect on and write about more of these memories before they start to fade.
Like most new moms, I learned a lot after the birth of my first son. I discovered many things I never thought of before. One of these things is milk sharing. This is when a mother shares her milk with a mother who is struggling to produce enough. I didn’t know anything about sharing breastmilk when I became a mother. I had no idea I would end up giving and receiving breastmilk at different stages of my breastfeeding journey.
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Milk Sharing: Donating My Breastmilk
While nursing my first baby, I certainly had an abundance of milk. Pumping was so easy with my Medela Manual Breast Pump. I could get ridiculous amounts of milk in just a few minutes. As a stay at home mom, I knew I probably wouldn’t need the milk for my baby. I also kind of enjoyed pumping, when my baby napped long or something, to see how much I could get. I went back and forth on whether or not I wanted to give away this precious “liquid gold,” as they call it. Then I found out that a mom I had playdates with was in need of milk.
While she had enough when she nursed her son, she couldn’t pump much so she didn’t have enough when she had to be away for work. Finally, I decided to share my milk with her. I’m not sure how much I gave them. Maybe 10 ziplock bags full of breastmilk storage bags. It was a very rewarding experience. I love knowing I helped another mother feed her baby.
Milk Sharing: Receiving Breastmilk From My Sister
While expecting my second son, I imagined my breastfeeding journey going the way it did with my first. Nurse immediately after birth, my milk would come in the first day, baby and I would just fall into a relatively relaxed nursing relationship. This did not go as planned. Nothing did with this second baby. He did not nurse right after being born. Every time I tried to latch him, he screamed because his mouth was so tiny and my nipples are not small. A few hours later I could get him to nurse a little here and there but he would get inpatient and stop. I knew I had to do something. The nurses were pushing formula and I didn’t want to give in yet. I knew my body had the ability to nurse my baby, even if he was a little too little get started on his own. My sister just had a baby less than two months before. We had been texting and she offered to pump some milk for me. It seemed perfect. I could use the SNS the hospital wanted me to use with formula, but use my sister milk instead. I mentioned this to the nurse and soon realized that was a mistake. She told me I would have to speak with the “risk management” department and sign something. The nurse told me it wasn’t worth the trouble and I should just use formula or milk from the milk bank. That seemed ridiculous to me, when I have a sister, whom I am very close to, offering me her milk. I decided just to do it without bringing it up with the nurses again. My sister came to the hospital and pumped right in my room for me. After filling the sns syringe, I quickly stashed it in the mini fridge. My baby nursed so much better with his aunt’s milk flowing from the sns tube. I could feel my own breasts responding to the consistent stimulation as well. When the nurses came in to question how things were going, I told them that between each feeding I was able to pump enough for the next. Luckily they never looked in the fridge!
After returning home, my sister pumped me 8 oz more. We used the SNS for another few days, but with the help of my nursing toddler, my milk fully came in and I could feed my baby on my own. Words cannot express how thankful I am for my sister’s milk. Breastfeeding my children is very important to me and she was essential in the first week of breastfeeding my second baby.
Have you given or received breastmilk? I’d love to hear your story!