When she was about 14 months old, my daughter decided to give up the bottle, thereby relieving me of the responsibility of pumping milk for her to drink while we were apart . . . and just in time, since my supply had dipped sufficiently in recent months that I was only pumping about half of what she drank in a day. She had been eating away at my freezer stash all summer, but when she decided she was done with the bottle, and she wasn’t interested in imbibing my milk from a cup either, I was left with a little over 100 ounces of frozen breastmilk and no baby to drink it. Until I found MilkShare.
Milkshare is a resource created to connect breastfeeding mothers willing to donate excess breastmilk to babies whose families aren’t able to produce enough for them on their own. Of course it would be more convenient to pick up a can of formula at the corner store, but families seeking donated milk through MilkShare recognize the unrivaled benefits of breastmilk, and are willing to work tirelessly to provide it to their children.
Less than an hour after I posted my introduction and offer to donate milk on the MilkShare Group message board, I received an email from a mama from a neighboring state with a little boy just a couple months younger than Violet. We began corresponding, forging an instant connection over our kids and other common interests, and making arrangements for the transport (thank goodness she’d done this before!).
When I checked my email later that evening, I discovered eight more families had responded to my post. The devotion of these parents (and in one case, a grandparent) to seek breastmilk for their babies was both inspiring and heartwrenching for me. I couldn’t help but wonder things like, “am I sending my milk to the baby who needs it the most?” I wrestled with that for a while before coming to the conclusion that every baby deserves breastmilk, and it’s not for me to say that any baby needs it ‘more.’ I just wish I had more to give.
My ‘milk baby’ had just celebrated his first birthday, which means the milk I was sending was well-suited for him, since it was pumped just after Violet turned one (the composition of breastmilk changes over time to adapt to a baby’s changing nutritional needs). Due to damage to her milk ducts caused by surgery years before her little guy came along, his mama wasn’t able to produce enough milk for him on her own, but for the last year, she and her husband have dedicated themselves to providing him with breastmilk by seeking out donors like me.
Here’s how it worked: my milk baby’s mama sent me a cooler full of ice packs, freezer bags to replace the ones I had used, and explicit instructions from her husband on how to pack the milk to ensure it stays frozen as it makes its way to their little guy. Also some gourmet organic chocolate! I packed it carefully, called for a FedEx pickup, and my milk was on its way to another baby’s belly.
This was all done with Violet’s approval, of course. Before I agreed to donate, I sat down with her in my lap, and told her there was another baby who needed mama’s milk, and would she mind sharing with him? She just grinned at me and signed to nurse, and I assured her that the milk that came straight from the source would always be all hers. There may have been some tears shed, but they weren’t Violet’s. I’m a bit sappy these days, it seems.
Maybe a little more sappy when it comes to this subject specifically. I am amazed and inspired at the lengths people will go to to get breastmilk into babies. Milk donation is no small task on either end. Donors devote hours of effort to pumping, washing parts, and periodically sterilizing components. Recipients spend countless hours contacting donors and arranging for shipment (also no small expense). I understand their commitment because I share it: breastfeeding my daughter, and promoting and supporting breastfeeding in general, has become so important to me. I’m honored to have the opportunity to provide even a few days of such nourishment to one more baby. Bon Appetit, little buddy!