For one year, I have pumped three times daily for donation. That’s roughly 730 hours of pumping, predominantly to feed others’ offspring.
In the sleepless early months when supply was unregulated and ever-flowing, pumping three times daily was pure relief. My growing baby couldn’t possibly gorge himself enough to alleviate my oversupply. I also needed to deplete my reserves to manage my heavy letdown. If left unattended, engorgment would lead to clogs which would easily give rise to mastitis. (The dreaded “M” word… no one wants mastitis!) My heavy letdown caused my baby to choke and sputter, cry at the breast, and become gassy. So, I pumped.
I had entered into this third nursing relationship knowing I wanted to donate my surplus. I had discovered milk donation six months after having my second child. I had an overflowing freezer stash and needed to do something with the excess pumped milk. So I began researching and came across peer-to-peer milk-sharing.
I read through request posts on my state’s Human Milk for Human Babies and Eats on Feets Facebook pages. I discussed the possible venture with my husband. Then, I responded to a milk request.
At first, I had a recipient from a distant corner of my state who would occassionally retrieve milk. Then, I discovered I had a dairy allergy, and began donating every-other week to a local mom who required dairy-free donor milk. Once her daughter was weaned, I regularly shipped my milk to another recipient who lived in a bordering state four hours away. On occassion, I’d help a friend or acquaintance by giving 40-100oz. I also regularly donated milk while on vacation. Sharing breastmilk became akin to lending a cup of sugar to a neighbor; I had extra, she had none, so why not share?
This pattern continued until I was 19 months postpartum and very early pregnant with my third. Pregnancy has, thus far, been the only thing that dries my supply. As sad as I was to step away from donation, I knew wanted to rejoin the journey as soon as I could. So I did.
One week postpartum from my third child, I began pumping again. I wanted to start donating immediately, but I knew I needed to build a back-up milk stash, just in case. Three months and well over a thousand ounces later, I perused Human Milk for Human Babies’ page again. I posted an offer, received many responses, but one tugged at my heart so clearly I knew I’d found my milk baby. And so began my renewed journey of donating breastmilk.
Every few weeks my husband drops everything to help me ship breastmilk to my recipient. It is a lot of work but it’s a calling. On occassion, a friend traveling near my recipient will kindly agree to transport milk for me. Alleviating the stress, cost, and risk of shipping milk is always welcome.
Over the course of my donation journey, my surplus milk has fed 20 babies. To have the opportunity to help nourish so many children is a gift for which I’m immensely grateful.
As exhausting as it can be, I love being a breastmilk donor. Over 39 gallons of donated milk and one year later, I have yet to see a distinct endpoint to my path. As with everything in milk-sharing, it will be as it’s intended.