Saturday, September 24, 2011

Breast Milk Sharing

Not every woman can breast feed. Many that can chose not to. Surely we have enough willing lactating breasts to nourish all the human babies with human milk in our village, community, town, state, country ~ the world!

Instead of using technology to create artificial milk and recreate milk from other animals, we could use it to help us in our quest for all human babies to have human milk. In today's world of synthetic formulas and access to animal milk we have sadly forgotten that there is nothing more natural, utterly pure and most healthy for our little people as milk from within our species.

While I was in hospital with the boys (26weeker twin prems) I diligently expressed to maintain a plentiful supply, tube feed my tiny babies and create a stockpile in the NICU freezor of 'liquid gold'. In time I was breastfeeding both babies, yet still giving them top-ups of expressed breast milk (EBM) via a nasal gastric tube. The suck/swallow reflex of breastfeeding was tiring for my prems and weaning from tubefeeds EBM to exclusive breastfeeds with twins was a journey that introduced me to sharing breastmilk <3

A friend who had been bringing my family and I meals each Sunday for a few months told me about a woman with a newborn baby who was in need of EBM and asked if I could help. I did the milk maths with a nurse around what my boys would need, and spoke with a lactation consultant, and soon two litres of milk was in the hands of a grateful family. I cannot tell you how good that made me feel!

However, our milk needs changed! With Kutura breastfeeding well without top-ups and Moss weaning off his top-ups. I was concerned about having enough milk to get us through to Moss' weaning from top-ups, but was keeping up ok when the answer to Kutura's 'colic' surfaced. He was starving! He had hypoglycemia (low blood sugars) due to an immature pancreas. It was decided that he would be fed 2 hourly, with every second feed being a bottle of EBM with 'polyjoule' mixed in. The polyjoule was basically a cornstarch used to stabilize his dangerously low sugars.  I wasn't prepared for my body to stop giving milk to the breastpump. Expressing and breastfeeding for two also meant it was difficult to determine when to express, as Moss in particular, had a weak suck due to his compromised breathing (he was still on a breathing aid with oxygen called vapourtherm).

Kutura's sugars were under (fragile!) control, Moss weaned from vapourtherm to oxygen and our discharge from hospital was close; and then delayed again. My frozen milk stash was dwindling and I was having trouble expressing milk. The stress of this obviously didn't help with my supply! I agonised over the decision, then finally took some Motillium and somehow my milk supply made it through until it was time to transfer from Brisbane back to our local area hospital, for a day or two before going home.

We made plans and I sent the bulk of my EBM home with Matty, my partner. There was a further delay which meant I didn't have enough EBM for the extra few days. Scary! One of the other women in the NICU with a gorgeous little prem boy, who I sat and expressed so often with, started donating me her milk. We didn't tell the hospital I was using her milk, she simply handed me the containers of milk and I labelled them with my hospy stickers. I knew the system wouldn't be up for it. This got us thru our last few days and we were off!

Once at Nambour hospital, we were held there longer than expected, so the EBM I had brought with me (which was not from my breasts) was not enough keep up with the boys - it was like I was feeding triplets between the demand feeding, bottle feeding ebm and expressing. I hadn't slept in days. The community came thru for me. A woman I had never met before arrived that evening, gave me 500ml of EBM, breastfed one of my babies and left. I have never seen her again but am oh so grateful!

Once home I found I had no time to express. I was demand feeding Moss who was on oxygen and still needing top-ups from EBM bottles in the evening, and feeding Kutura every 2 hours alternating breast and EBM with polyjoule. I was also testing his sugars 4-6 times a day!

So bring in the community! I put word out that I needed a lot of milk fast. EBM started arriving from all over the place to my home in the Sunshine Coast Hinterlands from Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Bundaburg, Newcastle and when times got tough the Adelaide community pooled resources and had 10 litres couriered to us on dry ice at the communities fundraised expense.

Kutura's sugars came good after a few months, and Moss' lungs got stronger so we weaned him first off the oxygen and then off the bottles. Finally both boys were exclusively breastfed. I had another offer of a shipment of EBM from women in Sydney, but declined as my freezor was half-full. Such a great feeling ~ to be was feeding my boys from my own body yet with the back-up of EBM. How I love women!!

A friend organised most of this for me which included screening women around ages of babies, foods they ate, being non-smokers and non-drinkers and eating well, having had bloods done recently and how to store and transport the milk. A facebook page meant everyone could stay in touch. The communication the internet provides means this can be a reality for every baby that needs it.

My boys are now 15 months young and we are still breastfeeding and loving it. I am not a failure because I could not meet all the milk needs of my boys. I am a success because I managed to stay true to my core values of human milk for human babies. I could not have done this without the village community of the women who supported me and helped me feed my babies.

Forever grateful!


  1. I love this story, and it always brings a tear to my eye, it was such an amazing time. Yay breastmilk sharing!

  2. This is a lovely post and I so love the last paragraph! Can I quote it on my blog tomorrow? I have a tribute post going up about all the women who've donated to us.

  3. Please do :)
    Feel free to link your blog here too
    And link my blog to yours
    Thankyou thankyou thanks agaaaiinn.... <3

  4. Yes Selene .. for one of the most stressful, challenging, sleep-deprived times of my life; yet it was nothing short of absolutely, incredibly amazing!

  5. What an inspiring story! Even though most of us don't have "villages" in the same sense that our ancestors did, social media and passionate milky mamas can create them in a hurry when the need arises, huh? Such a beautiful thing!

  6. yes Melissa .. I think the village is already in the hearts of many; it's a core value and a way of being intrinsically that spirals outward, especially times of crisis and need.

    It is such an exciting network to be a part of, that connects us on a deeper level .. and as my boys become less dependent on me I hope to help others in this way too :)