Mama in the City

A blog about raising my family in downtown Vancouver

Got Milk. Will Share!

When you think about babies and their food source where does your mind go? Do you think about the mama nursing her baby at the breast? How about giving milk by a bottle? Maybe it is pumped milk from the mum, maybe a bottle of formula, or maybe it is donor breast milk?

Hold up! Donor BREAST milk? Breast milk from some other person fed to another baby? Hmm, where is your comfort level right now?

I know a few lucky babies that have been given donor breast milk in lieu of their own mamas breast milk. Some had personal reasons that they didn't want to breastfeed and still wanted the benefits of human milk. Some didn't make quite enough milk and needed a bit to top up a bit with the donor milk. Others had tiny babies that needed lots of food in those first few days before milk is abundant. There are lots of reasons babies may need another mamas pumped breast milk.

Back when I was pregnant, both times, I did think about getting access to extra breast milk via the local milk bank at BC Women's Hospital. As a diabetic mum there is a chance that when my either of my babies were born their blood sugars could dip, requiring food in an emergent way. If I didn't have quite enough first milk (colostrum), they would need more milk some how and some way. It would either be formula or it could be donor milk. Luckily for me, I was dripping with the good stuff at the end of my pregnancy.

Last month I went on a pumping spree and was pumping and storing my breast milk in hopes that my baby would actually take a bottle and I could go out for more than 2 hours. Turns out, baby Josie would rather get her food direct from the source and turns her nose up at bottles and artificial nipples. So, in my freezer sat over 800 ccs of delicious pumped milk all bagged up and waiting.

I am so fortunate that I am a mega milk producer, milk drops everywhere and wet shirts are the norm for me. Fat fat baby thighs are what I grow and my milk is more cream than skim. I am thankful for this abundance because I know there are many mums out there that wish for the same experience. Some mums do everything they can and the supply is just is not there.

When I heard a friend might need a little extra milk for her newborn baby, I offered up my stash. I collected it over a short period of time with a manual hand pump and stored it in special bags to be frozen. The milk flows over here, so I might as well share it around if I can. After a short time thinking about accepting my milk, my friend thought it was a grand idea and so I toted the whole frozen stash over to her house.

I have guidelines around lay breast milk sharing. At the same time, if my baby needed extra food I would hope that it could be breast milk. I'd hope that I would know someone, personally enough, that they would donate to me. I have strong personal and professional beliefs in the power of breast milk, so much so that I would seek it out if was in the situation of needing more food for my baby. I know that I would be thinking, 'come on lactating friend, help a sister out!'.

My personal limit on breast milk sharing is knowing the source and I don't feel comfortable getting donor milk from an unknown source. However, there is a whole community of breast milk sharers out there. Some people donate and some people sell their milk for money. Some of the recipients are other babies, some are people with health conditions and a select few have a genuine personal enjoyment of the fresh sweet stuff.

What do you think about lay milk sharing? Does it make you feel uneasy or would you take your friends/family members milk if your baby needed it? The poll will be open for one week, so cast your votes on the topic.


I didn't produce enough for my baby girl when she was born and so I tried donor milk at Women's Hospital.  Turns out, my girl only likes her momma's milk and turned her nose at the stuff at the hospital.  She actually prefers formula to another person's milk, so I guess that's that! 

June 7, 2012 at 9:31 PM  

My kids never liked bottles.  In the long run, weaning from a bottle was never problem.  But short term, I could never be gone long.  I think donated breast milk is great.  I would prefer to know the source.

June 7, 2012 at 9:41 PM  
kristin said...

What a gift breast milk can be in some situations.  I commend you for even making the time to pump on top of it all.  Holy doodle.  My boobs were no good at the pump (I am pretty sure I had a crappy pump!) and I very quickly gave up hope on being able to fill a bottle for my girls, let alone anyone else.  What a generous donation/gift received.  

June 7, 2012 at 9:46 PM  
Amanda said...

Lilah got donor milk early on when mine was slow to come in and she'd lost more than 10% of her birth weight, but it was through the milk bank at Women's Hospital, so it was pasteurized.  I would definitely accept donor milk from a known and trusted source, and this time around, I actually hope to be able to donate to the milk bank myself.  I got pretty good at pumping and producing after the initial bumps in the road, and I already have colostrum ready for this baby, so I think it's looking pretty good, but we'll see...

I also wouldn't hesitate to offer to someone I knew whose baby was in need.  In fact, after I started breastfeeding, I totally understood why Selma Hyak (sp.?) breastfed a newborn baby in need that wasn't her own.  If you've got it, it's natural to want to share it, and the thought of any baby in need makes you want to do what you can to help.

June 7, 2012 at 10:05 PM  

Yes! Apparently the process of pasteurizing the milk can actually alter the flavour. So, it does make sense if your baby didn't enjoy it as much! I'm happy to hear you found your baby's balance with formula and breast milk!

June 7, 2012 at 10:24 PM  

I was really hoping she would take one! I bought an assortment of nipples and flow and bottles...nada. Same goes with soothers. Oh well! This time is short....

June 7, 2012 at 10:25 PM  

I think I'm fortunate because I was able to get 100 ccs within like 10-15 minutes of hand pumping!

June 7, 2012 at 10:27 PM  

I recently looked up the donor guidelines for the BCWH milk bank. There is a bit of a process, which is probably a good thing, and at least 3 L of milk.
You will probably notice that your milk comes in faster the second time around. The joy of the second time! 

June 7, 2012 at 10:28 PM  
emvandee said...

Ours ended up in NICU for his first week, and was haaaaaangry from the beginning, so he had donor milk until I could take over and it was fine. I appreciated that donor milk was an option.

June 8, 2012 at 10:18 AM  
Ashley S said...

I wish I had know about this when I had our girls.  It's a long story but a heart condition paired with a formation issue for me meant I was unable to breast feed, hard as I tried there was better luck squeezing water from a stone.  We did do formula and looking at our kids you'd never know any different - however as we walk this road with Audrey's health I wonder, what if?

June 8, 2012 at 12:05 PM  
RuminatingMommy said...

Ava was a 34 week delivery, and she was given formula before I could even get to the NICU to see her post birth (Women's/Children's). I would have preferred for her to have donor milk for the first 2 days - it wasn't even mentioned as an option. She ended up in intensive care for a few days and in my gut I felt it had to do with a reaction to the formula.... Thankfully my milk came in - I could have fed 2 babies then, and now with Madelaine I have a big supply too.

If my supply was low I would use donor milk if I knew the source. I would give my extra milk to someone if they needed it.

June 8, 2012 at 12:19 PM  

That was my thinking first baby was born at 36 weeks and he did get formula for weight loss and poor feeding coupled with jaundice. I really wish I had known about getting the donor milk from BCWH. Especially now with what I know about breast milk and the newborn gut.


June 8, 2012 at 12:37 PM  

I've worked with a few women who had something similar to your situation, structural type of issues, and a few of them did bring in donor milk to give to their babies for the first several weeks. It is quite a process to bring in donor milk to a hospital. You can't bring in your neighbours milk, just silly legal type of issues, you have to get a prescription from your care provider for the milk, go to the milk bank and BUY the milk. Quite a process when you are already tired and have a baby waiting for food.

June 8, 2012 at 12:41 PM  

I love that donor milk was an option in your NICU. That is fantastic!

June 8, 2012 at 12:43 PM  
emvandee said...

It was BC Women's/Children's, and they were great about it!

June 8, 2012 at 3:07 PM  
Kristen said...

What a fantastic topic Andrea.  While our days of producing and pumping are now over, I'm still interested in all of the politics and myths surrounding breast milk.  I think North America really has a lot of growing up to do in this area.  Post like yours really help keep up the awareness of it.  Well done!

June 9, 2012 at 3:29 AM  
Sarah M. said...

Wow look at all that milk you have been fortunate enough to pump!!!  I had a very hard time producing enough milk with the first, had a bit better of a time with the second and now who knows what will be in store for the third.  I do know one thing, I am definitely not the cream producing mama.  Is it all genetic or is there some way to help it along? Foods?  What I did or did not eat in my pregnancy?  Crossing my fingers and hoping for the best with our new arrival.

Great topic to write about!!!

June 9, 2012 at 2:00 PM  

 I was extremely fortunate like you though, and had no problem with my bm supply even though my baby lost weight initially we were helped so much to stay with bm, and to finger feed him my own colostrum until he was latching and drinking properly. I wasn't offered donated though, and I've no idea how I would have responded to this information. I still don't. It's partly because I am a worry wart, and partly because I just don't know how I feel about it. 

June 12, 2012 at 5:08 PM  
Anonymous said...

I was also very lucky and had an abundance of milk right away and had a very fat and healthy baby. I started to pump so I could donate when my son was just 4 weeks old. One of my milk babies was just 7 weeks old and was failure to thrive b/c he wasn't getting enough milk from his mama who worked very hard to bring up her supply and just needed a few donations from me. I donated my milk to mamas and babies I found through Eats on Feets,a milk sharing group that's based on FaceBook.


January 5, 2013 at 1:31 AM  

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