Breastfeeding 601: Donor Milk
Originally posted on September 10, 2016.
I often wonder what motherhood was like “way back in the day”. You know, before all of the modern luxuries available to us now. They made motherhood work with the natural resources available. They also had the guidance and support of the elder women and mother’s in their communities. I also admire and have much respect for the mother’s in third world countries, still living century old traditions of their culture. To me all of these women are Shero’s. Women are strong and the beauty of that strength is even greater when we bind as one to support each other – especially through motherhood.
Yet, with all of that beauty and strength, there’s also the reality of many babies who struggle(d) to survive, due to moms’ lack of safe and healthy options to nourish them. Before the days of pumping gadgets, machines and formula, mother’s depended on feeding their babies via exclusive nursing. If this was not an option they would turn to other nursing women or hire wet nurses. In some regions, they’d feed their babies mashed food or meat broths, anything to satisfy their tummies. There was a time in France where cities were basically baby-less, because of this epidemic. My heart literally breaks thinking of the babies lost during those times. Thank God for what we have today.
There are still women now who without restraint, will nurse another woman’s baby, for the simple reason of feeding a child. It’s nothing sexual and it has nothing to do with trying to steal another woman’s bond with her child. At the core it’s all about honoring a mother’s desire to provide nourishment to their child and not allowing a baby to go hungry. If you think of it, the idea of Donor Milk is nothing new; it’s the same concept from centuries past. A community of mother’s bonding together for one goal: provide milk for babies so they can be fed and thrive.
There are many reasons why a mother would choose donor milk, and I wanted to help knock down any walls of misconception. I want to help clarify and bring some awareness of how the donor milk process actually works. Who knows, maybe it’s a new option you’ll consider using one day.
I’ve reached out to one of mommy friends, Jaquelyn. Below she shares her story on why and how she chose to nourish her twins with the help of donor breastmilk. Then we have Tisa, who introduced Jaquelyn to the idea of donor milk. Tisa shares how her personal experience with gestational surrogacy led her to choose donor milk for her son.
If you’re new to this idea of donor milk and are unsure, take a read with open eyes and hearts. Hear what they have experienced and take this as an opportunity to learn something new. There are so many ways to get baby fed, here’s just one more.
Hi! My twins Lennox and Zoe are a couple weeks shy of 1 year old. Zoe has been exclusively on breastmilk via milk I pumped and also donor milk. Lennox has previously had mamas milk along with donor milk, but now refuses breastmilk and prefers formula. I’m not for or against formula, but I would have Lennox exclusively on breastmilk if only he’d drink it.
Lennox and Zoe had IUGR – Intrauterine Growth Restriction, were born early, and did not have the strength to successfully breastfeed. We’ve worked with a few lactation consultants to get the twins to latch, but after a few minutes of nursing they were too tired and were just not eating enough. Since they were tiny (Lennox dropped down to 3.5 lbs), we initially supplemented with high calorie preemie formula for a few weeks before switching them to be exclusively on breastmilk. I was pumping full time around the clock to feed them, but my supply never was able to keep up with their needs.
A fellow IVF mommy and friend, Tisa, recommended donor milk while I was pregnant. At first I didn’t like the idea of my babies drinking milk from another mama… but after speaking with our pediatrician and other breastfeeding moms I knew breastmilk would always be our first option if available.
The milk sharing community Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB) is a group of AWESOME, and selfless women, all coming together to feed babies milk they deserve no matter the circumstances. Through this community we’ve had well over 15 one time milk donors and three on-going donors who kept Zoe exclusively on breastmilk her first year and who are now dear friends of ours. Thanks to Tisa, who shared a huge amount of her milk stash to us, and at one point overnight shipped 700 oz of milk to us from another State, just to make sure Zoe had the milk she needed. Any and all formula we’ve tried makes Zoe projectile vomit and very sick. Name the formula, I bet we’ve tried it. I’m so thankful for all the mommies blessed with an oversupply, who share their liquid gold with grateful recipients like us. Zoe is thriving on breastmilk and guzzles down about 32-40 ounces of it a day!
Typically when buying donor milk, it’s anywhere between $1-3 per ounce. If coming from another state, you will also need to add shipping cost for overnight or 2nd day air. When Tisa shipped the large stash to me, it was next day air and almost $450 on shipping (eek!). A more economical and affordable option is to find donors in your area who only want bags replaced. One of our regular donors lives an hour away, so I’d stock up from her once a month. We recently left for a trip and had a local donor in the area give Zoe enough milk to last the entire trip!
If for some reason you don’t produce enough milk, are having a procedure and can’t breastfeed, adopted a baby, or have a baby who needs breastmilk and you’re not able to provide, donor milk is an option. Sites like HM4HB and Eats on Feets are donation based pages. They only request milk bag replacements. Through the pages you can request milk, get in touch with donors to ask questions about diet, medications, lifestyle, and request copies of recent blood work that clears them of infectious diseases.
All the donors we’ve had have open and willingly shared information about anything we’ve asked. If you’re a pumping mom you know how much time and effort goes into pumping, so for someone willing to share their labor of love is a beautiful experience for both donor and recipient. We’ve had a positive experience with all our donors through HM4HB and other donors we’ve had who are moms of Lennox and Zoe’s baby friends. Lennox and Zoe just turned one year old and our donor milk journey will come to an end once our current deep freezer stash is finished in a couple months. We are very thankful that donor milk is an option!
Sincerely, Jaquelyn P.
I had my son through gestational surrogacy. Half way through the pregnancy, our surrogate changed her mind about pumping breastmilk for us and I decided to try and induce lactation. Yes mamas, it can be done even if you’ve never given birth. Unfortunately, I was allergic to the medications that can help, so I just dry pumped every 2 hours, 24 hours a day for 2.5 months until I got clogged ducts. I only ever made a syringe a day. Not enough to feed my son who was coming in 2 months.
I made an appointment to interview a pediatrician pre-birth and he recommended donor milk over formula. I watched a documentary that my lactation consultant and pediatrician made called, “The Milky Way”. I HAD to feed my baby breastmilk. In my mind there was no other option.
Through the surrogacy community, I began to find out that a lot of the surrogates’ intended parents don’t want the surrogates’ breastmilk, so they will pump and sell their milk to milk banks. They are happy to sell their milk to mother’s in need too. I personally went with surrogates as my son’s donors. Surrogates have all been through extensive lab work and medical tests to rule out disease, in order to qualify to carry a baby for someone else. I tried other milk donating communities, where mothers donate to other mothers and no money is exchanged, however, it became overwhelming to find women who had all the lab work I required that surrogates already have.
My son has been on donor breastmilk since birth and has never had formula. He’s had breastmilk from at least 12 different women. As of now we have two donors (both surrogates) that he’s had since he was 6 months old. He’s now almost 11 months old. He is showing no signs of weaning and is drinking around 400 ounces per week. We get two shipments a week on dry ice and that’s all milk for our baby boy.
If I could produce milk I would feed him breastmilk as long as he wanted. Even though I can’t, I will give him bottles of pumped donor milk until he’s ready to stop. Breastmilk has kept him so healthy and it amazes me everyday all the benefits it has.
Sincerely, Tisa M.S.
Thanks again Jaquelyn and Tisa for openly sharing your donor milk experience and knowledge with us all!
Below is the list of resources mentioned by both Mom’s. If you have additional information or resources you would like to share with other mom’s, please leave a comment below, connect with me on Instagram or Facebook or email me at SincerelyMrsMommy@gmail to add to the list below.
Links to resources mentioned