Thursday, September 29, 2011

The greatest gift: Breastmilk sharing during pregnancy

This is one in a series of guest posts by other bloggers. Read to the end for a longer biographical note on today's guest blogger, Amanda from Let's Take the Metro. Amanda shares a touching story of a fellow mother who reached out when Amanda's pregnancy forced a drop in milk supply —
and how Amanda has decided to pass on the gift of milksharing.

Guest post by Amanda from Let's Take the Metro

breastmilk sharing photo for guest post — Let's Take the Metro
Amanda's daughter holds a gift of breastmilk — her mama's way of passing it on.
I found out that I was pregnant with my second child when my first child was only six months old. I was nursing her and working two part-time jobs and I was determined to continue our nursing relationship until she turned a year old. I read all about tandem nursing, looked at information from La Leche League and read stories of women who nursed through their pregnancies and beyond. My OB did not share my desire and told me he wanted me to stop nursing by 20 weeks. If that didn't work, my milk would just dry up anyway and that would end the experience. Maybe it was what he said that I couldn't get out of my thoughts.

Maybe it was the fact that I wasn't pumping enough at work or eating/drinking enough to replenish what I was making. Maybe it was that she started getting more food than she was drinking milk, or maybe it was all of these things, but I eventually found myself bone dry and she had only gained a pound in three months. Her pediatrician, though he was concerned, knew that I was not starving my child and figured that the pregnancy had caused a severe drop in my milk supply. In any case, she was not getting the adequate nutrition she needed from food alone. He told me to start giving her the formula they give to premature babies and that he wanted to see her again in a month for a weight check. If she hadn't gained anything by then, she would have to go for some tests.

I was heartbroken and I probably still am. When I picked up that formula I had to give her and read the ingredients, I wanted to vomit. How could I give my precious baby who had received perfect, tailored milk her whole life this processed powder that was mostly sugar?

When I realized I had no more milk for her, it was a very sad day. She tried to nurse but nothing came out, so she pulled off and cried. I had to run down and mix her some formula so she could satisfy her hunger. This was when I began wishing that I had frozen more milk for her since birth. Since this was my first time nursing, I made many mistakes and not having an adequate stash of freezer milk was one of them. I did have some milk, though, so for a while I was able to mix it with her formula and feel better about giving it to her.

Then, the most amazing and wonderful thing happened. A friend of mine who had given birth to her first son about two months after my daughter was born offered 50 ounces of her milk to me, knowing how bad I felt about giving her formula. I was in awe of how someone I barely had any connection with outside the past year and a half would be willing to give me her most treasured asset. Of course I took it, believing that any human milk was better than formula and I was able to give my daughter real milk for two weeks longer than I otherwise would have.

Eventually my freezer stash ran out and so did her donation, so my daughter was on formula-only for about one month before she turned one. Thankfully, she gained the pound her doctor was looking for and I was able to give her organic formula, even though it never sat well with her since her body was not used to it. The only problem that remained was how I could ever repay my friend for her amazing gift, short of doing the same for her in return.

Some months ago, I discovered Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats on Feets and thought, "What luck!" Finally I was able to repay my friend by paying it forward and donating the large amount of milk I had amassed from my second daughter to two babies in need. I never got a final count, but I believe I was able to give over 100 ounces. The single, selfless act by my friend was able to help not just one baby, but ultimately three. And that is the best way that I could repay her exceptional kindness.

Hobo Mama's note: This is such a beautiful story from Amanda, and I'm so pleased to share it. If you want to read about my milk supply drop and experience with breastfeeding during pregnancy, you can read my experiences in the second trimester, third trimester, and postpartum. From my research and from the stories I've heard from many other pregnant mamas, losing milk supply during pregnancy is more common than not and definitely isn't the fault of the mother — those pregnancy hormones are just that powerful! Thank goodness we have people who are willing to donate milk to share with those who need it.

Have you ever been the donor or the recipient of the precious gift of breastmilk? What are your thoughts on person-to-person milksharing?

bio pic photo for guest post — Let's Take the MetroAmanda is the mother of two wonderful girls who keep her busier every day. She loves cooking, sewing, gardening and being green as much as she can. She blogs at Let's Take the Metro about as many things as she can possibly handle.


melissa said...

I love the "pay it forward" aspect of milksharing, and the fact that so many milky mamas have the chance to experience both sides of the equation: Receiving this precious gift, and giving it from the heart, keenly aware of its value. I have not had to use donor milk, but I sleep better at night, knowing that the option is there if ever I have a need.

Surabhi @ Womanatics said...

It is indeed very touching! I breastfed my baby for a year and can understand how it feels if one's milk supply falls down.
Though in India, moms have some reservations in accepting somebody's milk. for eg. my sis was out for some work and her 3 months old son was with her mom-in-law. He suddenly woke up and started crying. I offered to give him my milk but her mom-in-law refused to accept. She instead chose to give him formula milk, first time for that 3 months old baby!

Lauren Wayne said...

@melissa: I feel the same way! I'm glad to know it's there if it comes to it.

Lauren Wayne said...

@Amanda: Thanks so much for sharing your story, Amanda! This was beautiful, and an inspiration to me to keep on pumping.

Lauren Wayne said...

@Surabhi @ Womanatics: That's so sad that she chose formula over your milk. :( It can be hard to break past those barriers, for sure. I know a family who will be sitting for a baby, and I am torn as to whether I should offer my pumped milk. I don't know them very well, and I'm afraid they'll think it's weird. You're inspiring me to at least offer!

Michelle said...

I'm pumping right now for a friend who just found out she's pregnant. She's still nursing her toddler, but it's mostly for "just in case" :)

Tmuffin said...

I feel like breastmilk is the one thing (I can't think of a better word--commodity? Valuable?) that you treasure more than anything but are also just as willing to give to someone else in need. Breastmilk for world peace??

Unknown said...

This is such a beautiful story, Amanda! I can imagine how it felt to lose your milk supply with such a young nursling, and it sounds like you made the very best of an incredibly difficult situation. I also love the idea of paying it forward when it comes to milksharing. How great that you were able to do that!

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