Before my baby was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. I’d done all the research and I knew it was for me. What I didn’t know, however, was whether I’d be able to do it. Now, forgive me for sharing what is possibly too much information.
I have really small boobs. Like, AA cup pre-pregnancy. I was really scared that I wouldn’t be able to produce enough milk for my baby. I’d read that breast size doesn’t relate to milk production, but these people didn’t have breasts the size of fried eggs, did they?
When my baby arrived, I needn’t have worried. My milk came in quickly and it was copious. I remember the midwife likening newly milky-breasts to a bad boob job. She was right. They were large (well, almost a B cup, which felt positively massive to me!), hard as rocks, and very very leaky. Breastfeeding wasn’t, and still isn’t, easy but at least I could do it.
My baby who, up to this point, had largely been grown from trifle and pies, was finally getting perfectly balanced nutrition. The problem was there was too much milk. It just wouldn’t stop coming so I started expressing before feeds to try and alleviate the engorgement.
After a couple of months my freezer was getting full. I looked into donation, but the nearest milk bank to me was two hours away. Plus, you had to store your milk in containers they provided, so I couldn’t give them what I’d already accumulated.
Then I stumbled across a Facebook group Human Milk 4 Human Babies – UK. It was there that I found my first ‘milky match’. I gave her my stash and it made me feel ace. But in the background was this nagging problem that wouldn’t go away. One of my best friends had a baby just before me.
She had massive blood loss during her birth which meant she didn’t produce enough milk. She pumped and pumped at every spare moment, but her supply never recovered. Her baby was losing weight and she was faced with a stark choice. Give him formula or be re-admitted to hospital.
She didn’t tell me this was happening at the time, but a couple of weeks later. And what did I do? Nothing. I didn’t want to make her feel inadequate. There she was, devastated that she wasn’t enough for her baby, and there I was, all “oh god, it’s spurting across the room again!”
How could I rub her nose in it? Then, I had an epiphany. This stranger had accepted my milk for her babies, trusting I wasn’t disease riddled, because it’s the best thing for babies to consume. I had too much milk. My best friend didn’t have enough.
What was I thinking? I sent her a tentative text, offering her my spare, and asking her not to be offended. She said yes and we never looked back.
I was worried before milk sharing that it was too much of a personal thing. I don’t have enough milk to feed my friend’s baby entirely and my excess milk is very low in fat, so he still has to have formula. But his digestion has improved since getting my milk.
When I look at him I don’t really make a connection between my milk and him. I don’t feel full of pride at how altruistic I am. The truth is, I’m not altruistic at all. I express because I have to.
I give it to my friend because it goes a little way towards helping her and that makes me feel good. It gives us more impetus to meet up once a week. And the truth is, it’s not a big deal to me. It’s not too personal. There are so many people out there who would benefit from your breast milk.
So, I’d urge you, if you have any excess, consider milk sharing and donating it. You could make a massive difference to someone’s life.
By Helen Sibson
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