Thank you Gretchen
This is a mega long post … bear with me as I spill my heart all over the internet
It was very difficult for our family to decide for me to return to work at the end of my blissful, 18-week maternity leave. But, with all trying situations in life there is a silver lining.
At the time of our decision we didn’t know about the silver lining. I honestly didn’t feel like there was much purpose for my return to work. Well, other than the lovely paycheck that graces our bank account every 2 weeks. I felt, and still do feel, that my primary purpose is caring for my daughter, husband and home. It’s not easy feeling pulled in so many directions.
The week before I returned to work I discovered I had excess lipase in my stored breast milk. Here’s a layman’s version of what this means … Excess lipase is an enzyme which helps milk to be digested. When there is extra lipase the milk starts to digest before it is consumed. This process makes the milk smell/taste bad once thawed. My sister was a Biology minor and is almost a middle school science teacher could probably give you the whole molecular break down of this, but the bottom line is, before you store too much milk check it for lipase!
So, there I was, one week before returning to work with 200+ ounces of frozen milk that Jemma wouldn’t drink. Lipase milk can be corrected by a simple scalding process, but only before the milk is frozen. I wasn’t worried about my supply. I knew I would be able to pump, scald and store enough milk for her once I returned to work. So the question was … what was I to do with the 200+ ounces I had pumped during my maternity leave?
Being the info gatherer I am, I discovered Simply Rebekah’s blog and began researching donation. The San Jose Mother’s Milk Bank is the closest to my hometown and in February I started the screening process. Excess lipase is not an issue when donating to a milk bank for a number of reasons. I was, and still am, thrilled to find a way to share the milk we could not otherwise use.
While I worked through the screening process (a simple application, waiver from my and Jemma’s doctor and a blood test) I continued pumping during my 2 breaks at work. Each evening my sweet husband or I scald the milk and prepare it for storage – either in the fridge for Jemma to drink the next day or the freezer for later use.
By the end of February our chest freezer was brimming with milk. Some was unscalded and waiting for my donor approval with Mother’s Milk Bank. Some was scalded and waiting for Jemma. This is where the silver lining really starts to shine …
Right now Jemma only drinks 4 ounces of milk during the day – a snack in the morning and a snack in the afternoon. Her nanny brings her to my work each day for a hefty nursing lunch. And she nurses throughout the night. Lucky me This cycle leaves us with lots of extra milk on a weekly basis. I have replenished our freezer stores with scalded milk and still have ounces to spare.
Enter Eats of Feets.
This non profit organization is located on Facebook, divided by state and is a resource for informal milk sharing. Moms in need of milk post a donation request and moms with extra milk post donations available. Search Eats on Feets on Facebook to find your chapter and you’ll see what I mean. Each mom screens their own donor and sets up all the details of their milk sharing partnership. It’s actually quite simple and quite genius.
Through Eats on Feets I have connected with a wonderful mom and 8 month old baby who are able to use my extra milk. This little one has benefited from donor milk for the last 4 months and I am one of her donors!
When I tear up over being a working mom I’m encouraged knowing that my milk is nourishing Jemma, my Eats on Feets baby and many others who are receiving my milk through Mother’s Milk Bank. This is my silver lining. This is the purpose I need to get up each work day and leave home. If I hadn’t returned to work I most likely wouldn’t have started pumping. If I hadn’t started pumping I would have never learned about excess lipase, Mother’s Milk Bank or Eats on Feets. But since I do work outside of the home, I do pump and now I’m able to pass on the blessing of my extra milk. That is fulfilling. It reminds be of the verse in Isaiah where we are promised “beauty from ashes”. Sharing my milk is a beautiful thing born out of the sorrow of leaving my baby at home each day.
I know not everyone is blessed with extra or even enough milk. Since I am, it feels wonderful to share the blessing. I know I’m one of the lucky ones. Pumping is a very small sacrifice for me. I’ll most likely pump with my future babies if the circumstances allow so I can continue as a donor. Eats on Feets often talks about milk being a free flowing resource and therefore should be shared. I agree.
This post has been a few weeks in the making. Initially I hesitated sharing about my experience. Informal milk sharing (also know as peer to peer milk sharing) has been in the media quite a bit lately and it doesn’t always have a positive spin. But, for me and the mama/baby I’ve teamed up with, it’s right.
I decided to only send my excess lipase milk to Mother’s Milk Bank for a few reasons. The main ones are the accessibility and cost. Milk from a milk bank is only available with a prescription and it costs approximately $4/ounce (a processing fee, the actual milk is free). The little baby I donate to needs around 30 ounces each day. If she had a prescription (which she doesn’t) it would cost her family $120 every day; an unrealistic cost for most. Informal milk sharing fills a need within every community and as long as it’s free, the risks are quite low. When it’s free there isn’t an incentive for moms to pump and share other than their desire to give. It takes time, emotional energy and in my case lots of food. I swear, I have never eaten more in my life. Nursing kicks up my hunger like no other! And, if you think about it, milk sharing has been around forever in the form of wet nurses. In so many ways it takes a village to raise a child; milk sharing is just one of them.
So, that’s that. A long, but heartfelt story of this mama’s milk. If you’ve never nursed it probably sounds quite foreign. Don’t let it scare you. Breastfeeding is truly a gift. Whether you do if for a day, month, year or beyond nothing equates to nourishing a baby with something so unique as breast milk. Before taking on this “womanly art” I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into – milk blisters, clogged ducts, excess lipase, formal donation and informal sharing. It’s been a journey to say the least!
I can’t help but close with a big thank you to these wonderful people/organizations who have helped me along my nursing journey:
To date I have donated 382 ounces of milk. As I write, a big box is being overnight shipped to San Jose for processing. Tomorrow I’ll be meeting up with my Eats on Feets mama/baby with another 62 ounces. Because I have been blessed, I am choosing to bless others. Beauty from ashes. My silver lining in an otherwise difficult situation.
Please comment with how have you been able to bless someone lately. Big or small, our sacrifices and kind words make others’ lives easier. And, if you have any questions, comments or concerns about what I’ve shared don’t hesitate to comment or email me at email@example.com.
Follow her blog Wild Wild Westenhavers
I’m sure that conventionally your first post should be about yourself & your blog, an introduction of sorts. Sorry to disappoint you traditionalists. I am way too excited about what I did last night for all that!
Last night I fed another woman’s baby with my breastmilk. Not with my actual breast, but I donated 50 ounces of expressed breastmilk from my freezer to a woman who needed it. I connected with her through a facebook site called Eats on Feets Texas. I had a freezer full of milk that I had pumped for my own son and never used. She has a baby with GERD and elevated liver enzymes (due to low calorie intake) who she didn’t want to feed formula. It was really a simple process, her husband is a musician and had a gig in the vicinity of where I live. He stopped by last night and picked up the frozen bags of milk from my husband and put them in a cooler full of ice his wife had provided.
Hubby said he was extremely grateful when accepting the milk. I can understand that. I was dead set on breastfeeding. After all, breast is best and we all want the best for our children. I knew the statistics - The most recent CDC data shows that 3 out of every 4 new mothers in the United States now starts out breastfeeding. However, rates of breastfeeding at 6 and 12 months as well as rates of exclusive breastfeeding at 3 and 6 months remain stagnant and low. I also knew it would be hard, could hurt, and I would want to give up. I didn’t know that my milk would take over a week to come in. I didn’t know that my son would lose 11% of his birth weight (getting down to a scary 4lbs, 15oz) and get jaundice. I didn’t know that the hospital would supplement with formula without my permission or knowledge. I didn’t know that at 2 weeks my pediatrician would recommend supplementing with formula because the gnome was still not gaining any weight and still had elevated bilirubin levels.
4 days old, before going to get bili levels checked at the hospital
4lbs, 15oz and very orange
I also didn’t know what a failure this would make me feel like. I am a woman. My body’s purpose is to create and sustain life and my body was failing at this. It was failing me, and worse, it was failing my tiny son. At first, my milk wasn’t enough for him. So after I cried about how life wasn’t fair, I nursed the gnome and then I opened the can of formula the pediatrician’s office sent me home with and I made my son a bottle. And then I pumped. And I pumped. After every feeding I pumped. And slowly I was able to supplement with my own milk and not formula. And slowly he started gaining weight. And I stopped having to supplement. And I kept pumping. I filled up my freezer with 100 ounces of breastmilk. Any woman who’s pumped knows what an accomplishment that is.
I was scared to part with all of it. But I was thrilled to be able to give half of it to a woman & baby who needed it. And yesterday, I also finally threw out that 1/2 a can of formula that has been sitting in my kitchen for two months. I know now that my body just needed a little help. Now not only can I sustain my son, but I helped sustain someone else’s daughter. I am not a failure. I am a mother.
3 months old & all mommy’s milk from 3 weeks on
What do you think about milk sharing?
by Laura Rickgauer Moore
she doesn’t blog but she does make beautiful hair bows
1933 my great grand mother gave birth to her 4th child. He will be the first child to make out of the 4 children she has already given birth to. That baby was given a fighting chance because of a woman caring enough to offer to breast feed a child not her own and hand express in to mason jars. She had a baby all her own to care for and even during the grate depression every day on a farm was a hard life. Because of her own compassion, that small little life made it. Unaware to her self, SHE GAVE HIM LIFE!!! That baby is my grandfather!!!
With the launch of HM4HB http://www.humanmilk4humanbabies.com/ , i have been blessed enough to be part of that group of amazing woman and have been able to offer my support and reach out so much farther then i ever thought possible. Helping families in Canada, German and Iceland to connect.
As of right know I donate on going to 2 different moms one i ship out to NY and one I have donate over 5000oz to since may 2010. I also donate local as well… to a couple moms! If emma or any other admin contacts me asking me for help i am glad to step up to the plate and give what i can. I love being a donor and making a difference and given what ever i can. I love sharing what i offer my babies and if i can give that to another child i would do so in a sec.
If it wasn’t for woman sharing milk my grandfather would have never made it and I my not be here today!
Its not always the road u are in life but the lives u touch along the way…
((Hugs Laura ))
U can read about my great grandmothers and my story in this jun. print of wired mag.!
2nd photo is the Rickgauer family- Left to right, My great grandfather Edward Rickgauer, Pearl Rickgauer, Henry Rickgauer (( my grandfather )), Helen Rickgauer, And Charles Rickgauer…. taken at Alexandria SD at a Rickgauer reunion
3rd photo is My Grandfather Henry in Wambalee when they lived on the reservation.
- My Great Grandmother pearl and my grandfather Henry are the ones in the photos!! They ware the ones i talk about in my book i am working on and also will be mentioned in the wired mag. interview i did that will be is coming out… wanted to share!!!
Very Proud of my family!!! Proud to be a Rickgauer!!!
These are just some of the families and lives i have touched in donation
- Hill family
- Petroske family
- the leveille family and to baby ziggy
- the coyne family
- the williams family
- the thomas family
- the Scheffler family
- kim Parent and james urra
- the McCreary family
- the Wickman family
And so many others by helping make connections…
(( Be a milk donor and make a difference in a little life ))
LEE COUNTY, Fla – Mothers are turning to Facebook to help keep a steady supply of breast milk for their newborn. “Eats on Feets” allows mothers to donate breast milk to other mothers.
The program has gone global with a number of women living here in Southwest Florida. The Facebook page allows mothers to get in contact with other donors and get the necessary milk for their babies.
The medical community is applauding the program, but warns mothers need to make sure the donor has a clean medical history.
Here is a great video about her journey with Milk Sharing . I have shared her story here before.