Oversupply as a Blessing in Disguise: Milk Sharing and Wet Nursing

July 31st, 2013 by Dionna | 2 Comments
Posted in Breastfeeding/Lactivism, Carnival and Special Series, Compassionate Advocacy, Feed with Love and Respect, Guest Posts, Just for Fun/Miscellaneous, natural parenting

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World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center

Welcome to the World Breastfeeding 2013 Blog Carnival cohosted by NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center!

This post was written for inclusion in the WBW 2013 Blog Carnival. Our participants will be writing and sharing their stories about community support and normalizing breastfeeding all week long. Find more participating sites in the list at the bottom of this post or at the main carnival page.

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I am so happy to share a guest post from Beth of Tooele Birth and Breastfeeding today. Please read to the bottom for more information about Beth.

Oversupply as a Blessing in Disguise: Milk Sharing and Wet Nursing

Dealing with Oversupply

Days after my son’s birth it became abundantly clear that I would have enough milk to feed him. When he was a week old, I began to pump – emptying my breasts a little before nursing sessions helped my son latch on easier. I had so much milk that I got plugged ducts, a result of my breasts not fully emptying. At night my breasts would hit me in the face, they were so full.

By the time my son was a month old I was trying to figure out how to donate breastmilk, just to have freezer space. I offered milk to a neighbor who had just adopted a medically challenged baby, but she declined. I talked to friends that used formula to see if they were interested, but no takers.

I had no idea how to find a milk bank, and knew I wanted to donate directly to a mom. I found listings on Craigslist about selling breastmilk, but I couldn’t bring myself to make a profit on something I got for free, having always believed that you should give your excess.

When it seemed that I would never find a recipient for my milk, I happened upon the perfect family. I was taking my doula training classes, and at the start of one class, in walked my new best friend – Katie – with her baby. I chatted with Katie while she nursed her baby as we waited for the class to begin.

Oversupply as a Blessing in Disguise: Milk Sharing and Wet Nursing

From Wet Nursing to Donating Breastmilk: Sharing My Oversupply

Soon after the start of class I reached the point that I needed to pump; having left my son with my mother so I could focus on learning. I pumped 12 ounces in about 10 minutes, and Katie began to make her daughter some formula. I asked a few questions, having already seen her nurse, and discovered she has Hypoplasia, or Insufficient Glandular Tissue. This was her second child, so she had already tried everything to attempt to nurse full time.

Feeling guilty about the abundance that was just going into storage, I asked if I could nurse her baby for her. Much to my surprise – and excitement – she agreed. Her daughter gulped down the milk like it was going out of style. During the lunch break I asked if she would like donor milk. She agreed, and we arranged to meet every other week.

We met at a postpartum support group. During our group I, or some of the other milkily blessed moms would nurse Katie’s daughter. Several of us got to experience tandem feeding our own child along with Katie’s daughter. Over the course of the year I donated more the 5000 ounces to Katie. Having been able to share my milk, I was able to feed my own son easier. I needed to pump every day for over 10 months just to be able to feed my son, the fact I was able to help someone else made it all the better.

I wasn’t the only one who felt blessed by the milk donations. When I asked Katie for her thoughts she said:

I was still able to give my daughter the very best. Milk sharing freed me from the guilt I felt as a mother not able to provide enough milk. I gave my daughter 100% of the milk I could, and that made me feel better about having to supplement. It really is designed this way, for women to be there for each other. What one mother can’t give to her baby, another can. The gift that I received of milk for my sweet baby was truly one of the best gifts that I have ever received. I feel eternally indebted to my wonderful milk mommy who helped me when I was in need.

Katie is not in my debt, I would have done it for nothing (but she did trade me the best homemade jelly ever!). If that was my only experience donating, it would have been a blessing; luckily for me it was just the start.

My twin cousin (we are hours apart in age) had her first baby 6 weeks after I had my first. This made for great conversations about boobs, poop, and co-sleeping. My cousin had some struggles, including cracked and bleeding nipples. When she returned to work she would pump to keep up supply and to avoid supplementing. One day I got a call, because her nipples were so cracked that her milk was pink. Not knowing it’s okay if baby drinks human milk with blood in it, she had thrown out the milk. I quickly ran over some milk for her to use the next day. She returned the favor by nursing my son while I was on a date (he refused anything but the breast).

My most recent experience wet nursing came as a surprise. It was 2:00 in the morning and I got a call from a dear friend who had had her baby a few hours before. She was passing out due to blood loss and wanted me there to help keep her calm and be an emotional support. At the hospital, I was holding my friend’s hand giving the best support I could when the nurse asked when the last time the baby had eaten was. It had been about 7 hours; of course the nurse suggested formula. My friend, in a barely cognitive state said: “Beth will feed him.” I have an 18 month old, and I had forgotten how small the mouth of a newborn is. It only took a couple gulps of my fatty toddler milk to fill up his tiny belly. He slept happy and full for several hours.

One of the best stories I have heard from a wet nurse comes from Dianna, a massage therapist who has nursed several children in addition to her own. She tells of a time when the doctor wanted her milk tested, due to “failure to thrive.” She pumped two 8 ounce bottles in the office. Then she proceeded to feed six other “failure to thrive” babies while waiting for the test results. She had 65% colostrum of high quality, and clearly enough supply. It just turned out that her son has a fast metabolism.

I am not shy about breastfeeding; I talk about it everywhere I go. Eventually it became known that I was the person to call if someone was looking for milk. I would give a couple dozen ounces here and there, for temporary needs like a toddler with the flu or a mom who was in the hospital. From those contacts, people would ask me if I knew anyone who they could give their milk to. If I knew two people looking at the same time I would get them in touch with each other; if not I would direct them to Human Milk for Human Babies, or to Eats on Feets (there are local chapters in every state).

One thing I have learned from donating, wet nursing, and helping others find moms interested in milk sharing is that most women are willing if asked.
There is a good chance they have never considered it before, but it only takes a few minutes of thought to realize it’s not weird, it is a blessing to share the milk that was custom built for human babies.

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Beth

About the Author: Elizabeth Gray, CLC, and doula, is an activist trying to improve the care for Mothers and Babies. She works for Empowering Fearless Birth as an Assistant Event Coordinator, and a volunteer for the Birth Activist Retreat. She has nursed several babies in addition to her own, and donated over 5000 ounces of human milk. She is working toward a degree in psychology so she can help mothers with emotional birth trauma. You can find her at Tooele Birth and Breastfeeding (on Facebook and Twitter).

Photo Credit (statue): Diary of a First Child
Photo Credits for 2nd and 3rd pictures: Author

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World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival - NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center Visit NursingFreedom.org and The San Diego Breastfeeding Center for more breastfeeding resources and WBW Carnival details!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants. Below are a list of links for today’s participants; you can find a complete list of links (updated throughout the week) at our main carnival page:

(This list will be updated by afternoon August 1 with all the carnival links.)

  • If You’re Worried About Your Kid Seeing Me Breastfeeding, You’re Doing It Wrong — Dionna at Code Name: Mama is living the breastfeeding-as-a-cultural-norm dream. She has first-hand experience that kids, teens & adults who see breastfeeding accept breastfeeding.
  • Supporting Breastfeeding Online — Wendy at Breastfeeding Utah reaches out to birth and breastfeeding support professionals who are interested in knowing more about supporting their clients online.
  • Breast Friends — Mama Bree, guest posting at San Diego Breastfeeding Center, shares a baby’s journey to blissful breastfeeding with a little help.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Online Breastfeeding Support — Other than buying and reading up on books, Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy finds that it is useful to read up on other mums’ breastfeeding experiences and how they deal with their obstacles.
  • It Takes a Village… — Meredith at Thank You Ma’am talks about the support she got from her family, especially from her own mom, who is a lactation consultant.
  • Community Support — Ashley at ModerationMama tells about her supportive community surrounding her breastfeeding journey, and she talks about the importance of the breastfeeding class she took while still pregnant.
  • Finding a Nanny to Be Part of My Village — Before returning to work, Gretchen of That Mama Gretchen, posting at Natural Parents Network, needed to find a trusted caregiver for her daughter. Someone who supported her parenting goals and was ready to become part of a family.
  • A Nursey Love Letter — When asked about her nursing support group, KassK of Get Born Tribe surprised herself with the answer: her husband!
  • We are mammals. — To be a mammal . . . what does that mean? Practicing Mammal educates us.
  • Building a Solid Foundation for a Successful Breastfeeding Journey — Tia at Tia’s Sweeps Go ‘Round shares how she built a strong support network to help her successfully breastfeed her newborn daughter.
  • Stubbornness and Support: My Breastfeeding Journey — Diana at Munchkin’s Mommy shares her breastfeeding journey, from unhelpful nurses to a gentle guide, and her sheer stubbornness.
  • Looking online for breastfeeding support — The author at “Just” A Mom has found many ways to use the internet to support her mothering and breastfeeding journey, and she has learned how to keep her online experiences positive.
  • The Village that didn’t feed — Nona’s Nipples at The Touch of Life explains how our communities influence our choices. She explains how she came to breastfeed and how it was taken away.
  • Nursing By Example — Krystyna at Sweet Pea Births decided to nurse through a pregnancy and to try tandem nursing thanks to the support from her La Leche League leader and another mother in her community. Read about the resources that were helpful and the lessons she learned on her journey into tandem nursing.
  • A Burden Shared: How my IBCLC Lightened my Load — My IBCLC rocks!! smscott at In All Things…One Step at a Time‘s journey would not be possible without a huge contribution of time and energy from her IBCLC. Her difficult times were measured in weeks and months instead of moments.
  • Fathers Need Breastfeeding Support Too — Destany at They Are All of Me recalls that the biggest detriment to her breastfeeding success was her husband’s strong disapproval.
  • Breastfeeding Support Over the Years — Valerie at Momma in Progress discusses the range of support she received over her seven-year breastfeeding journey.
  • Uncharted Territory: Breastfeeding — Michelle at Oh, The Simple Joys describes her change of heart regarding breastfeeding and the kind souls who helped along the way. From thinking formula was the norm to extended ecological breastfeeding, this is her story. Her story also includes breastfeeding after a hospital birth, dealing with inverted nipples, and the lactation consultant who helped to name her daughter.
  • Online Breastfeeding Support: Finding Success, Acceptance and Friendships — Author and CLEC Lara Audelo of Virtual Breastfeeding Culture shares how online breastfeeding support changed her entire life, and why so many mothers are drawn to it, rely upon it, and place such value on their virtual mother-to-mother connections.
  • Staying Connected—Online Breastfeeding Support for AD Military MomsBreastfeeding in Combat Boots shares how important online support is to the success of breastfeeding for mothers serving in the military.
  • Breastfeeding and Community — Amy W. at Me, Mothering, and Making it All Work discusses ways in which community affects breastfeeding dyads and makes suggestions for accepting and supporting nursing as normal and necessary.
  • World Breastfeeding Week 2013 Blog Carnival – Community Support — Jenny at I’m a full-time mummy has been breastfeeding NON-STOP since 4th March 2009, the day her first child Benjamin was born. Jenny shares who has been in her community of breastfeeding supporters.
  • Oversupply as a Blessing in Disguise: Milk Sharing and Wet Nursing — Tooele Birth and Breastfeeding, guest posting at Code Name: Mama, tells how she ended up donating breastmilk and wet nursing several babies. She shares the benefits from both a recipient and a donor.

2 Responses to:
"Oversupply as a Blessing in Disguise: Milk Sharing and Wet Nursing"

  1. Sarah

    this story of milk donating and helping other Moms by breastfeeding their infants if needed is awesome.

    I’ve always had too much milk and have wanted to help as well! I did feel guilty throwing out my pumped milk thinking that i could help other Moms who are using formula, that is not only costly but, unnatural, when they actually wanted to be giving their babes breast milk.

    it’s nice to read that it is occurring elsewhere. I am pregnant for the fourth time and am sure that I will have an abundance of breastmilk again.

  2. Michelle   deedle270

    Wow amazing story!Good for you for helping out all those mamas in need!

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