Let’s Share…… Breastmilk!
This week is World Milksharing Week.
Have you ever heard of people sharing breastmilk?
Infant formula is actually a relatively new thing. In centuries past, women unable to feed their babies would most likely have had help from other women in their community who would share their own breast milk through wet-nursing (directly breastfeeding the needy baby.) This practice has fallen out of favour in western society, but milksharing is being looked on with increasing interest as women wanting to give their baby the best seek out other options.
A close friend’s traumatic birth last year (read about that here) caused her to be unable to breastfeed her baby. In our conversations, my heart ached for her, knowing that, to Christina, it had been her last hope for normalcy and a special attachment with her last baby. I knew also that the nutritional aspect of breastfeeding was very important to her. So when I gave birth to my own baby three months later and had more milk than I needed, I started to pump some of that excess to share with my friend.
After a few weeks expressing my excess, I consulted a Child Health nurse on how to increase the amount I could pump. She helped me with ideas and tips and soon I was pumping 150mL twice a day, most days, for a few months. It was such a joy to know that in some small way, I could help to ease a part of the grief my friend was dealing with as she recovered, emotionally and physically, from what she and her baby had been through.
There are many reasons to share breast milk; you may have a constant over-supply (a couple of my friends do) and need to express for comfort. You may have gathered a large “emergency” stash in the freezer but find your baby won’t take a bottle. You might just have a couple of extra bottles after your baby stops nursing. You may even be on the other side of the equation- a mother wanting breast milk to feed to your own baby.
You could begin by offering your milk to a formula-feeding friend who may not know that she has another option- it’s always good to spread the word! Or you could ask a breastfeeding friend if she has any spare milk to share with you before throwing it away.
Another option, for both donor and recipient, is Human milk 4 human babies or Eats on Feet an online groups which provides a place to link up mothers with too much milk and mother who are seeking milk. No money changes hands and no safety screening is done, that’s up to the respective mothers. HM4HB website includes information on hygiene for expressing, storage and heating the milk and also on questions you may like to ask (or have answers prepared for those who ask) of a donor Mum such as physical health, medications, alcohol use, etc. In most cases though, a mother seeking to share her milk and not profiting financially from the arrangement is likely to be a wonderful source.
If you are interested in sharing this amazing liquid gold, replete with enzymes, probiotics and beautifully digestible calories and fats, perfectly suited to the baby it was designed for, go for it! I have found it a special thing, to share in the nourishment of another’s baby.
In case you are interested
here are some things I learned in how to increase my supply to share with another mother;
- Eat and drink plenty. Eating nuts is particularly good for increased supply.
- Rest well, don’t work too hard, or your supply may suffer.
- Pump regularly. I made it a habit to pump twice each day, at the same time, so my body got used to making extra milk at those times. Once your body is making the extra, keep pumping at those times so you don’t lose it.
- Don’t overdo it. Have an aim of an amount (for me that was 150ml) per session and if you can’t get that in 15 minutes, leave it. You’ve put in your order; your body (given enough rest, fluids and calories) will respond.
- It takes time; a couple of days to increase supply, and about 3 weeks for your body to default to that amount.