It seems like there is a week, day, or month for everything. Some of them are raising awareness of important issues such as diseases and social concerns. Some of them seem kind of silly (National Pancake Day anyone?) and an excuse for cards and gluttony. Many of them facilitate excellent education and fundraising opportunities and the more important ones connect the community that know first hand the importance of the cause. There are a few that are close to my heart including Sexual Assault Awareness Month, World Breastfeeding Week and now a new one: World Milksharing Week.
Wait, what? Huh? World Milksharing Week? What’s that and why would we even need a week to celebrate milksharing?
One of my favorite quotes is “We read to know we’re not alone.” by C. S. Lewis. Today it could be updated to “We Facebook to know we’re not alone.” Or “We Tweet to know we’re not alone.” Or “We blog to know we’re not alone.” (I’m not sure Lewis, long one of my favorite authors, would approve of the liberties I’ve taken with his statement.)
The internet has given us opportunities to connect with our tribe the world over, to know we’re not alone. To find community that extends beyond our arms reach, to find people that are walking the same path just at a different latitude/longitude. Friendships are forged through forums and social networking sites that educate and inspire and bonds are formed between individuals that have never met face to face. Along the invisible threads that weave us together amazing things are accomplished: a family in the midwest USA grieving the sudden death of their 4 month old is supported; a mother and daughter ripped apart in Spain are reunited; a teen dying of cancer raises awareness for her disease; a woman in France shares her story of sexual abuse and helps a woman in Canada start down the road of healing; a woman in California finds support and advice from a woman in Africa that saves her breastfeeding relationship; a widowed father in the USA finds breastmilk from women he never met but that could share the same library and his tiny son is nourished with the milk of many mothers when his is no longer there to hold him; precious ounces of donated milk cross an ocean from New York to France to a mother unable to produce enough of her own milk for her baby to have more of the taste of love. From our own backyards to other continents we discover our communities and know we’re not alone. Community is where we find we had the power all along to exercise the strength within us to build each other up.
To me, World Milksharing Week celebrates community, really, an ancient community that is alive and thriving today. Milksharing has been around for as long as women have been having babies in the form of one mother wet nursing the child of another mother in need of milk. Today the more common forms of milksharing happen with expressed milk from the breast of one woman offered generously to the child of another mother in need of milk. The primary expression of the community has altered some (wet nursing does still happen) in application but the heart remains the same. The International Breastfeeding Journal recognized the importance of this community to the health of infants and children in the article Milk Sharing: from private practice to public pursuit published June 25, 2011. From the official website for the week, worldmilksharingweek.org:
“We hope that by raising awareness about milksharing, families will never again feel forced into feeding breastmilk substitutes –an act which is not without risk to the health of the child. If a mother is unable to breastfeed, or unable to produce enough breastmilk, families can access the milk of another healthy woman through wet-nursing or milk donation. The incredible sense of community that is created among donor and recipient families who partake in milksharing is to be celebrated. Raising awareness about the possibility of milksharing will prevent thousands of ounces of breastmilk from being dumped down the drain by mothers who didn’t know there was another option. Breastmilk is not a scarce commodity and there are women around the world who are willing to share.”
I’m one of those women willing to share and fortunate enough to be able to do so (I’ve written about why I donate before, click here to read). This coming September 24-30, 2011, I look forward to celebrating milksharing while also raising awareness in my little community as part of the larger milksharing community.
Why do we need a week to raise awareness and celebrate milksharing?
- Because we’ve lost touch with that ancient community which means we’ve lost touch with something beautiful and needed. And we need to get it back.
- Because when you hear the struggles of a family whose child desperately needs breastmilk but they can’t find any and also hear the stories of unused breastmilk getting dumped down the drain we can’t stand by idle.
- Because when the World Health Organization recommends breastmilk exclusively for the first 6 months and then ongoing until at least 2 years of age there are babies denied that basic nutrition simply because this free flowing resource has been, for whatever reason, unavailable to them.
- Because myths and fears founded in our lack of exposure to something as normal as safely sharing breast milk have resulted in more ignorance and confusion.
- Because all babies deserve to have breastmilk and the truth is there is enough to go around. Be it from the healthy neighbor across the street, the mom from the play group on the other side of town, or the moms that donate to HMBANA milk banks that provide milk to fragile preemies in the NICU and more.
- Because we need to know we’re not alone. When it comes to breastmilk, what’s mine, is yours.
What can you do?
- Check out how you can get involved at worldmilksharingweek.com
- Consider organizing an event in your local community.
- Follow World Milksharing Week on Facebook and/or on Twitter to keep informed and be sure to share it with your friends.
- Closer to September look for events both online and in your local community you can attend.
- Tell others about it: share, share, share and share some more. Read the news release and share that too.
- Consider becoming a donor yourself or if you need breastmilk for your baby make your need known in your community by checking out your local chapter of Human Milk 4 Human Babies.
- Share evidence based information about milksharing and why it’s important.
- If you have a blog, write about it or share the story of someone else touched by the milksharing community.
- Share your ideas here in the comments of other ways to participate and promote the celebrations of World Milksharing Week.
We’re not alone. We have this great big amazing community around us. A community worth celebrating with a resource worth sharing. During World Milksharing Week we get to celebrate all that and make the world aware which means we’ll get to see the milksharing community grow. Which means more babies will be getting breast milk. How could we not celebrate that?