We’ve all heard the saying “breast is best.” There’s plenty of evidence to back up the fact that breast milk provides the healthiest nutrients for infants. But what about women who are unable to lactate, adoptive parents, or babies who are allergic to formula?
Milk banks are a modern marvel that provide breast milk for these kinds of scenarios. I had no idea they even existed until I was breastfeeding my first baby. I chanced to see Neil Patrick Harris talking about it with Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show in 2010 and immediately planned to donate.
How I Donated My Milk to a Milk Bank
For women who wish to breastfeed, breast milk is essential. I was determined to breastfeed with each of my children, and thankfully I have the physical ability, but not every mother can produce milk and not all formulas agree with sensitive stomachs. Knowing that made me sympathetic to anyone seeking breast milk for their baby.
After hearing about how Neil Patrick Harris and his partner needed to use a milk bank for their adopted twins, I felt a new sense of purpose. An acquaintance of mine had vilified me for even discussing breastfeeding in public because she didn’t have the ability to feed her baby and was clearly upset about it. I recognized that her anger was less about me and more about her situation, which made me wish to help others like her.
Unfortunately, my baby drank so much I could barely keep up. I wasn’t able to donate the first time around, but when my second child was born, she was a picky eater and donating milk helped me deal with feelings of rejection. My brain understood that my baby loved me, but my heart broke every time she refused to eat. It really seemed like she was refusing my love, my maternal bond. This became a blessing in disguise because instead of just pumping milk for her, I was able to do it for other babies too, and that eased some of the pain.
My second child was a picky eater and donating milk helped me deal with feelings of rejection.
I found The National Milk Bank through a simple internet search. They had a form to fill out and required a physical check-up from a doctor to make sure I was healthy. After I was cleared to donate, I was advised to freeze my milk in standard breast milk bags until I had an ample supply. Once I had enough for shipping I was to notify them.
A giant cooler box full of dry ice was shipped overnight. The milk bank instructed me to properly place my frozen milk inside and pack the ice on top and bottom. Then I sealed it up, and it was overnighted back.
They covered the shipping, and my milk was taken in to be distributed to babies in need. The process took some time. My freezer was overflowing by the time I was ready for my shipping box, but once it was all packaged and sent off, a sense of calm filled me.
When my daughter struggled to eat I rocked her gently in her room and tried again. Thrush and colic seemed less bothersome knowing that other babies were struggling with issues, and if I could help them, I could help my daughter.
Pumping Extra Milk for My Niece
After having my fourth baby in the fall of 2020, feedings were a breeze. Best of all, my baby bliss was enhanced by the fact that I was getting another niece. The good news was exciting, but there were some concerns. My sister’s milk never fully came in with her first daughter, and she wondered how things would play out the next time around.
When spring came it was Baby Central in our family. And my sister worked rigorously to breastfeed. She had alarms, special recipes, a medication, and everything a mother could do to increase her milk supply. Though she was able to produce a little, her body just couldn’t offer all that the baby needed.
Being a part of another parent’s journey to give their baby the best start possible offers me hope for the future.
She didn’t really ask for me to donate milk, and I didn’t really volunteer; we were just talking while the kids played with the babies and came to the conclusion that it’s a good idea. I mean, who wouldn’t help feed her sister’s child?
It wasn’t difficult to sit down and pump twice a day. I always have plenty of milk when I’m breastfeeding, and although I’m not a fan of pumping, I understand the necessity.
Just watching my niece grow and learn to roll and wave has been worth it. Babies are such special little marvels. They deserve to enjoy childhood, good health and all.
The Beauty of Giving Something That So Many Mothers Consider Priceless
My sister and I had had quite a tiff right before the next baby wave. It was a bad blowout, and we weren’t nearly as close afterward.
When she and I both got pregnant again, I didn’t want to give up on the bonds of sisterhood or my ideals of closeness for our children. My husband reminded me how hurt I was and that my sister was ready to forgive and forget because she had a motive. She needed me. Or my milk, rather.
I suspected that was at least somewhat true, but I told him, “I would do this for anyone. I already have. Because it’s the right thing to do.”
Part of what drives me to donate my breastmilk is that it gives me purpose.
Women have a special desire to be needed. No matter how charitable I am, I know that part of what drives me to donate my breastmilk is that it gives me purpose. Some people may see that as selfish, but women’s social nature isn’t truly selfish. There’s a unique beauty in being able to help someone when they’re in need. There’s a warmth — an indescribable love — that’s born from offering something so many mothers consider priceless, without asking for anything in return.
Giving milk for my niece helped heal the wounds that separated my sister and me. But that wasn’t the main reason I did it. It was merely a wonderful side-effect.
Breast milk donations are needed by many parents, and I’m proud to be one of the women who have offered this priceless gift. My experiences helped me cope with a fussy baby and work through issues within my family.
It’s empowering to make such an impact. Being a part of another parent’s journey to give their baby the best start possible offers me so much hope for the future. If you’re interested in donating, or in need, please click here to find a milk bank near you.
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