My priority with feeding both my small humans has always been meeting their needs and by response feeding my body has stepped up and met each challenge. My body has also done something rather special, wonderful, selfless, and exhausting too. It has hyper-lactated.
When my eldest was a day old on the Post Natal ward their was a little one born early and his mama was in tears. She craved him to have her milk but due to how early he was born, coupled with other factors she attempted to hand express, no drops came. She tried an electric pump but no milk came.
I had, whilst pregnant, made inquiries about donating milk if I was able and was told that due to having had a transplant (cornea) I wouldn’t be able to formally donate to a milk bank.
I found out from my doula there were ways to donate via parent-to-parent donation. With this in mind, I went to introduce myself and my small to this new family, I asked if I could help in any way, the dad muttered “unless you’ve any milk we doubt it but friendship would be great as we are new to this city and only moved a few weeks ago and know no one”.
I asked the ward for a pump and in moments 7oz ( approx 210ml) of milk flooded the bottles provided. Whilst my milk hadn’t been screened, I had open and honest transparent communication with this family. They received my milk with open arms and their small had a full and satisfied tummy, a huge relief for them.
My eldest, for whatever reason, didn’t want to latch on one side so I pumped it. It was that simple, producing a surplus of over 2litres (over 60oz) per 24 hours in addition to more than meeting the needs and wants of my small.
Over the years I’ve shared milk with 10 families
We, over a couple of years, shared milk with over 10 families. We remain in loose contact with some of them via social media. One we helped for over 18months whilst his mummy travelled abroad for medical treatment. It became a standard joke that my milk was having better holidays than I was.
We also shared milk through wet-nursing which was such a honour to be asked to direct nurse another small human and observe their eyes glaze as they relaxed and fell into a milk drunk state.
When our son was born amidst a pandemic, again hyper-lactation occurred. I ended up helping 2 families long-term and a couple of families with one-off or short-term donations.
It is a blessing to watch these small people grow and develop. It gives me a huge sense of pride that my milk has enabled families to reach feeding goals and milestones.
It gives me a huge sense of pride that my milk has enabled families to reach feeding goals and milestones
There are some downsides to milk-sharing
Now for the parts of milk sharing that isn’t talked about…expressing milk is draining, it is tiring and it is exhausting.
I always say to folk “feed the baby you have not your freezer”. I am fully mindful that many people when they pump struggle to freeze anything or if they can it is the odd feed here and there. That once more reminds me how blessed (but also cursed) hyper-lactation is to have.
In the 20 months I’ve been feeding our son I have had mastitis and blocked ducts more times than I wish to count. I have had to go to A+E out of area for treatment in the small hours whilst my children sleep so I’m home for when they wake wanting their “boo boo” again.
I’ve pumped out clogs the size of table tennis balls which, with the aid of lecitin, are now not as frequent as the stickiness of my milk changes composition but still occurs (thanks Dr J Numan for your research into this).
I have leaked milk far more times than I can count.
Physical touch from my partner and smalls can and has caused distressing pain levels when my body is over engorged. I have internal scar tissue in my breasts and chests from the remnants of infections and blockages and mastitis.
I have pumped on the motorway for any passerby lorries and trucks to honk n see.
We as a family have had to ask hotels to store milk for us when rooms don’t come with a fridge.
Milk bags get expensive quickly and it is tiresome having to remind recipients to send more as yes I know you sent some last week but I am already low.
Some recipient families are incredible and some are selfish and show no gratitude. The latter is hard to take when you realise you’ve spent literally hours nourishing their small human as for whatever reason they didn’t have their own milk.
There is also the lack of space in your freezer for food for your family – on a hot day and all you want is ice cream but instead litres of human milk greet you, or your partner wants a pizza n milk falls out stumping his foot.
On balance, sharing milk is a blessing on so many levels but can also be a curse. Having to remember a pump, ice blocks, bags on a family day out in addition to everything else can be exhausting and feel like yet another thing.
So, what tips would I give for pumping?
- Hospital-grade pump such as a spectra s1/2 is the best to use. My advice is don’t fall for a fashion pump that is useless and a waste of money.
- Use a nipple measurer you can find online to ensure flange size is right for you as too big or too small will hamper milk supply. If like me, you have elastic nipples the brand pumping pals are a game-changer for flanges.
- Change your diaphrams, duckbills, flanges and tubes frequently they get wear and tear that can’t be seen. Have multiple sets of each. Check before buying a pump the life span of its motor.
- Please don’t deliberately give yourself oversupply. It is not desirable and can (and does) impact on your every life.
- When building up supply frequent removal of milk matters and works BUT you can’t expect to maintain if you rapidly drop pumps. You’ve worked so hard to establish, why throw that work away? Milk isn’t a vegetable, it doesn’t go off as your small gets older. As it happens the qualities in your milk evolve on a feed by feed or pump by pump basis so as I type this now my milk now will be different to how it was yesterday to how it’ll be tonight.
- Also, remember the size of your breasts does not dictate the amount of milk you have the potential to produce.
Disclosure: This story is someone’s personal account of their breastfeeding and milk sharing experiences. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and are not upheld in any way by Boobingit. Boobingit is not responsible for factual inaccuracies which may appear.
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