How Lubrication Can Improve Breastmilk Pumping

by Kristine Phillips Keller

This post made possible by the support of Ameda

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I learned the answer to this question the hard way with my oldest son. I was not much of a reader but breastfed because both of my sisters did the breastfeeding thing. If they could do it, so could I. However, in hindsight, I pretty much did everything wrong that I could have done. I wanted a nursery (I needed sleep, right?), I wanted pacifiers (he can’t just suck on me or I won’t get any sleep) and I wanted bottles (dads need to help too, right?). I thought, surely I can make all of this work. Boy was I wrong!

Not only did I go into it uneducated, I also have flat nipples. I honestly thought they were broken as they never became fully erect prior to years of nursing/pumping. I also have really naturally dry skin. Early on, I had damage but didn’t realize how bad it was until it was visible, right at Stage III damage (which means skin is literally gone). I was in such pain that I would cry when my boys would cry because I knew what was coming. I would fear nursing them because of the toe curling pain that it took to get them latched on. For the most part, after a minute or two it became bearable. Other times, the entire feeding was excruciatingly painful for me.

At six weeks with my first, I gave into pumping full time. I asked for help from family repeatedly to try and figure out what I was doing wrong and what I could do to correct the latch. No one seemed to be able to offer me the advice that I needed to make direct breastfeeding work and I just didn’t have it in me to bear that kind of pain any more. However, I still wanted to give them my milk…so I continued on with pumping & still continued to have cracked, bloody nipples until a good 10-11 months of pumping.

Around that same time, I was talking with my sister about all of the bloody milk that I was dumping because, even though I was no longer nursing, I still had pretty bad damage on both of my nipples. I just thought that’s how it was going to be for me. She then asked me if I was lubricating before I pumped. My response to her was, “Isn’t that what you do when you have sex?” She laughed & then said yes but that the pump shields were dry. Babies have moisture in their mouth for lubrication but there is no moisture on the pump shield prior to pumping.

I mean, would you ever expect to drive a car with NO lubrication and have things go well? ABSOLUTELY NOT! There must be lubrication to prevent friction… and to prevent damage. After all, isn’t that what our healthcare is supposed to be about these days, preventative care? Well, let me tell you…the difference was night and day. I went from having constantly damaged, bloody nipples to pain free/damage free nipples overnight. It was such a relief to know that there was something I could do to prevent this pain and discomfort.

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I started working for WIC 2.5 years ago as a peer counselor and have since applied theory to moms that come to me with damaged or sore nipples. If you lubricate before you latch, you lessen the probability of damage happening from the initial suck (regardless of whether it’s baby or the pump). That lubrication gives both something to slide against instead of that reverse pressure working against dry skin.

I’ve asked numerous breastfeeding professionals and no one seemed to know of any literature that puts emphasis on “lubricating BEFORE nursing or BEFORE pumping”. The only reference that I’ve seen is to use breast milk on sore nipples AFTER nursing. If it works after, why not try it before?

Lubricant suggestions: (you may need to try a few different ones to decide which is most comfortable for you.)

  • Your breastmilk
  • Nipple cream/ointment (suggest vegan and edible, rather than animal based)
  • Coconut oil
  • Olive oil
  • Almond oil
  • Infant massage oil
  • Avoid synthetics such as traditional baby oil

Some moms have found that regularly lubricating their breasts and pump horns before pumping greatly reduces the amount of discomfort they experience which in turn helps them let down easier and respond better to the pump.  There’s no need for pumping to be a painful or uncomfortable experience, experiment with different lubricant options to find what works best for you.  I hope this simple tip helps you in your breastfeeding and pumping journey as it has helped me.  How about we pass along this little known tip and prevent the damage in the first place?

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What pumping tips do you have to share to help other moms?

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Kristine Thanks to her sister, Kristine breastfed/exclusively pumped for her two boys now 3.5 and 8 years old, she pretty much did everything wrong when it came to breastfeeding but managed to get the pumping thing right (after a while).  After experiencing discrimination she contacted WIC about becoming a breastfeeding peer counselor and begin training to become an IBCLC. She sits for the IBCLC exam this summer and looks forward to continuing to help mothers reach their breastfeeding goals.
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Increasing Breastmilk Supply With Pumping For Milk Donation

by Jessica Martin-Weber and Dr. Pamela K. Murphy

This post made possible by the support of Ameda

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When my 4th baby was just a few months old, a friend of mine who had adopted a little girl from Vietnam asked me for breastmilk for her daughter. Her own milk supply was dwindling and after over a year of pumping after inducing lactation even before she had her daughter, her body was done producing milk and the effects of Domperidone had left her struggling with weight and energy issues. Initially they introduced formula but her daughter reacted with painful eczema head to toe. Convinced she needed breastmilk, my friend asked me to help her little girl.

Breastmilk truly is amazing and while many babies thrive on breastmilk substitutes, the healing nature of breastmilk is something that can’t be denied. We know it can help save lives, particularly the most fragile of our society. Giving breastmilk is giving the gift of life and health for another to thrive.

Milk donation gift ameda meme

I’ve always responded well to pumps, particularly if can hook up and get busy doing something else. But my supply was well established for my own baby and because I had a job that allowed me to bring my baby with me, I wasn’t pumping very much for her. I was more than willing to help my friend but I wasn’t sure how to get enough milk for two babies with my supply regulated for my one. I decided to see what I could do.

Having a tendency to easily develop over-supply and then have issues with mastitis, I knew I needed to be careful with this process. After talking with a couple IBCLC friends, I began to add pumping sessions to each of my existing feedings to slowly increase my supply and not interfere with my baby getting what she needed first. It worked so well that 2 years later with my 5th baby I intentionally increased my supply to donate to human milk banks and two other friends who had adopted little ones and with my 6th, as soon as my supply was established I began again for another friend’s baby and the Human Milk Bank Association of North America.

To get my supply up for those babies and to donate to a milk bank I started adding 10 minute pumping session to the end of my breastfeeding sessions. Then I started pumping one breast while feeding off the other. Two feedings a day I started increasing my pumping time to 20 minutes after my baby would finish which would be long enough to cycle through another let down. Sometimes this meant that I would pump with maybe just a few drips for 5 minutes or so or even without anything at all and then I would get another let down. The first feed of the day I always pumped one breast while my baby was on the other and in just a few days I had increased my supply so much I needed to pump into a large milk storage bottle. By 3 weeks I had added 2 full and one half pumping sessions in my day and by a month I was pumping one breast and feeding off the other 3 feedings a day (the first one in the morning was always my highest output) and then pumping 3 full sessions in between feeding my baby. By that point I was pumping enough milk in a day to completely supply another baby’s feeds and have some extra for back up. When I wanted to increase my supply again, I followed a similar pattern with extending my pumping times and adding a pumping session in the morning but it was adding an extra pumping session before bed that led to the morning pumping session to increase even more in just 3 days time.

Breastfeeding- Ameda

Here’s what I learned in increasing my breastmilk supply to donate:

Don’t focus on the output. The volume isn’t the point and it will take some time before you see it so focus on why you’re doing it, remember that babies don’t actually eat that much, and every single drop counts.

Baby helps. Your baby is your ally in increasing your supply. Skin-to-skin contact doesn’t just feel good and provide your baby with neurological stimulation that is beneficial for their development, it also tells your body to make milk. And if you can pump while they are feeding from the other breast, your body will be more willing to give up more milk.

Ask and it shall be given. Your body will give what it can when you ask it to. Unless you have some physiological barrier, if your body is asked for more milk, it will make more milk.

Hands-free. Pumping isn’t fun for most even it comes easily. Going hands-free can help free up your mind to focus on something else and help you feel more productive or at least entertained in the process.

Hands-on. It helps to be distracted but taking a little time with each pumping session to be hands on with some hand compressions at the breast (like a breast massage) can significantly increase your output and send the message to your breasts to make more milk. This video is an excellent demo of how to do so.

Be patient. The process takes time and responding to the pump may be an adjustment for your body. That’s ok. Don’t rush the process.

Wean off. When it’s time, whatever the reason (and please respect your boundaries and stop when you need to), wean off slowly. Supply increase is real and not draining the breast could lead to infection and mastitis is even worse than pumping so stop slowly.

Celebrate. This is hard work and it’s a sacrifice of love. Celebrate that. Celebrate babies getting human milk.

Not everyone is going to want to increase their supply to that amount for donate but every little bit helps. You may not be able to add so many pumping sessions to your schedule but you still want to donate. If you choose to donate, do what you can and resist the urge to compare with others. Every single drop really does count.

Dual pumping- Ameda

So you want to get started increasing your supply to donate, Dr. Pamela Murphy, PhD, CNM, IBCLC shares with us some helpful information and tips to get you started:

Will pumping to increase supply take milk away from mom’s own baby?

Not if you pump after breastfeeding or in the middle of a long period when your baby isn’t breastfeeding (like a long nap). If you are trying to stock up some extra milk for when you are apart from your baby or to donate, pump 1-2x a day after breastfeeding or in the middle of a long sleeping stretch. Your body will start to make more milk to meet your new demands, just like when your baby goes through a growth spurt and breastfeeds more. This cluster-feeding helps increase your milk supply! Just keep in mind, be patient, it can take a few days to see your milk supply increase.

How do our bodies just start making more milk when we start pumping more?

Hormones! The more often you drain your breasts of milk, the more milk they make! Breastfeeding and pumping stimulates the release of prolactin, a hormone that increases your milk supply. Isn’t is amazing how nature works! Check out this quick video to learn more.

Should moms take medication, herbs, or eat certain foods to increase their supply for donation?

Normally you do not want to take anything to increase you milk supply unless you have to. Very few moms need to take anything to increase their milk supply if they are draining their breasts often. Medications, herbs and foods that help increase milk supply are called galactogogues and work by increasing the hormone, prolactin, which helps your body make breast milk. If you decide that you want to try to increase your milk supply to donate more milk, talk to your healthcare provider or lactation consultant to figure out what galactogogue might work best for you. Keep in mind that galactogogues can cause side effects, health complications or allergic reactions for you or your baby. And most milk banks won’t accept milk from a mother on certain medications, including herbs used to boost supply. If you are donating to a family directly, be sure to disclose if you used any herbs or medications to increase your supply so they can make an informed decision. Here are some additional tips about your diet while breastfeeding.

What kind of pump should moms use? What should they avoid? 

Once you have established your milk supply use a quality double electric pump like the Ameda Purely Yours. It really depends though, every woman is different and responds differently to different pumps. Some actually prefer hand expression and get more milk that way but most will do better with a double electric. A single pump or hand pump may make it harder for you to keep up with your pumping schedule since it will take longer to drain both breasts at the same time. Here is some more info about choosing the right breast pump for your situation.

How to store milk intended for donation?

Check with your milk bank to see if they have special guidelines. Some general guidelines are to always use clean pump parts and wash your hands. Collect your milk and store in either a bottle or milk storage bag. Do not store milk from more than one pumping session in the same bag. Here is some additional information about pumping and storing your pumped milk.

Anything else to keep in mind regarding being a milk donor? Even if you cannot produce enough to donate remember that milk banks are always looking for volunteers. You can still do you part to help babies! If you are a social media user, follow non-profit milk bank accounts and share and interact with them, believe it or not this is an excellent way to raise awareness and increase the number of women who donate when they become aware of the need. Find a milk bank near you.

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Are you a breastmilk donor? How did you get your supply up? What tips would you add to our list to encourage other donors-to-be?

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Pam headshot- Ameda

Pamela K. Murphy, PhD, MS, CNM, IBCLC has worked with birthing and breastfeeding families for more than 15 years. Her lactation practice extends from the preterm/high risk infant to the healthy newborn both in the inpatient and outpatient settings. She has published research on pregnancy, nutrition and lactation in peer-reviewed journals including Breastfeeding Medicine, JAPNA, the Journal of Midwifery and Women’s Health and Advances in Neonatal Care. She is shown here with her once breastfed & beautiful daughter Audrey.
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Healing Power of Breastmilk Donation After Loss- In Memory of Maya; a #MyStoryMatters Leaky Share

 by Ulrike K. Ingram

***Please note, this piece covers infant loss in detail and may be triggering for some.

infant and pregnancy loss

My daughter Maya was stillborn at 35 weeks gestation. It was a sudden and devastating loss to find out that after an easy, uncomplicated pregnancy, she had died due to a cord accident. While still being in shock after her death and birth, I started to think about what to do once my milk came in. I knew early on that I wanted to try to pump for donation purposes, but wasn’t sure if I could really do it, physically and emotionally. I planned to just take it one pumping session at a time. I didn’t want to make a long term commitment and then fail. My milk came in when I woke up on the Friday after she died on Wednesday. I started pumping that day and collected maybe 2 ounces of milk during the first session.

I have two older children who I breastfed. When they were younger, I was working part-time and I only had to pump occasionally. Pumping exclusively after Maya’s birth was a challenge. I tried to pump 6- 7 times in a 24 hour period. Three weeks later, I was consistently getting about 5 ounces of milk per session. I was still taking it one session at a time, always worried that my supply was decreasing, or that I was just too tired to get up in the middle of the night to pump. I was very close to stopping maybe five weeks after Maya was born. I struggled for several days with whether to continue or stop. After talking to my husband and praying about it for several days, I felt a piece in my heart about continuing on this journey. It felt like a God given guidance that it was good to pump and good to continue for longer.

Three months went by and I was still pumping, though not as frequently, probably only about four times per day. I didn’t plan how long I would continue to pump because it my only connection to Maya.

Sometimes when I pumped during the day, one or both of my sons would sit with me, or play on the floor next to me. My younger son would ask, “Mommy, why do you have to pump?” or when I’m done, “Mommy, why are you stopping?” I have explained to them why I pump. Although I wasn’t sure they really understood, I recognized that it was okay. Once my younger son told my husband that he likes to play in our guest bedroom because that’s where mommy pumps.

Almost five months went by and I stopped pumping at the end of July – 4 1⁄2 months after Maya was born. I decreased my pumping frequently from four times to three times per day. I then limited the remaining pumping sessions to 10 minutes, then 9 minutes two days later, then 8 minutes, and so forth. I was eventually able to stop pumping without feeling engorged. It was a slow process of letting go, physically and emotionally.

In total, I pumped for 131 days, and donated 470 breast milk bags, an estimation of 2300 ounces of milk. I donated the milk to local moms through a Facebook page, which matches milk donors with moms looking for milk, who for various reasons do not have enough milk for their baby, or want to provide breast milk to their adopted child.

guest post, leaky to leaky

It has been a privilege and an honor to use Maya’s milk in a meaningful way. It was one of the few things I was able to do in my daughter’s name. It’s part of her legacy. It’s her milk. It was made for her, and I was able to give it to somebody else who needed it. On the difficult days, when I was tired or emotionally drained, I sometimes wondered whether it was worth it. I suspect that the recipient cannot appreciate the value of this milk to the full extent. There is a lot more meaning and love in this milk and the act of pumping and the invested time than the recipients will ever know. I imagine that Maya has been watching over our family from heaven, seeing me pump, and understands that it was for her. It’s her legacy and her memory that is being carried forward and passed on to others.

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If you’d like to share your story with a larger audience, submit your story, photos, and your bio, with #MyStoryMatters in the subject to content @ theleakyboob.com (no spaces).

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Ulrike and her husband have two older boys and then got pregnant with their daughter Maya in 2013. After an easy pregnancy, they found out that she had passed away at 36 weeks gestation due to a blood clotting issue. Ulrike pumped and donated Maya’s milk for several months. It was a way to keep her memory alive in one tangible and physical way for Ulrike.
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You Are Gold — A Letter To My Son’s Milk Donor

Dear Allison,

Thank you for giving my son life.

ThrivingOnDonorMilk

My unlikely squishy baby.

I don’t want to get crazy on you here, but let me be totally transparent: I can’t imagine what my family would look like without that liquid gold.  Your gold.  Your life-force alchemy.

Thank you.

I know what it’s like to hook yourself up to a pump every day, mulitple times a day, for months on end.  Extracting that milk, creating extra steps, extra dishes, extra work while engaging in the most extra energy exerting time of your life with a newborn clutched to one breast as the pump cranks on the other.  You never even hinted at the burden I knew it was for you. You handled it with an elegant grace I unreservedly admire.

Last year, I found myself stuck in a nightmare with my eight month old son. My sweet baby had severe food allergies (here’s what I want you to know about FPIES), and needed more milk than I could produce.  My breasts, the ones that were meant to feed him, began to fail us both.  Even after all of the nutrition and support and finally pharmaceutical medication, I could not raise my milk supply to keep up with his demand.  Exclusive pumping, unimaginable stress, sick baby, hormone shifts, whatever.  You name it, it contributed to the decrease in my milk.

Formula was a risky option for my son, even the expensive elemental ones that work for 99.9% of infants with food allergies.  We had no guarantee my son’s compromised system could tolerate the pre-digested proteins, as many other babies with his syndrome are unable to. I prayed. I researched. I lit candles and called formula companies and looked into every conceivable way to feed my son that did not require actual food.

LastDonorBottle

My son’s last bottle of Allison’s donor milk from Texas.

And then my phone rang and you were on the line, understanding with your medical knowledge and feeling it all with your tender heart, and asked if you could give my son your milk.

I cried.  With my back literally against the wall, sitting on the floor of my bedroom, muffling my relieved sobs, I accepted your gift with the undeniable knowledge there was no way I could ever pay this gift forward, much less pay you back. With a newborn baby who needed your milk and a toddler who needed your attention, a full-time job and active community involvement, you offered to close the gap for us.  You added one more thing to your very full plate and you did it with grace and strength and love.

Every few weeks, a box would arrive, overnighted from Texas to Oregon, dry ice all but disintegrated in a custom styrofoam cooler. (One of many coolers you recruited your friends to save for you to ship your milk to us.)  You pumped your milk, froze it, picked up the cooler from your friend, loaded it all into your car, bought dry ice, carefully constructed the layers of dry ice and newspaper and milk inside the cooler, put that cooler in a box and took it to the shipping place with a hope and a prayer that all your hard work and irreplaceable milk would travel 2,000 miles and still be frozen when it arrived.  You, who had a million and one things to do, found time and capacity to do one more (hard) thing.  And you never complained.

I followed a strict elimination diet, and at one point I could only safely eat 11 foods without causing my son’s gut to bleed and his weight to drop.  You altered your diet, too.  You ate the same tiny list of foods because you loved my son that much.  You restricted your menu and dilligently read every label and questioned every ingredient before eating a single bite in order to keep my son safe. You were full of encouraging words and creatively figured out what to eat when you couldn’t really eat anything and shared your food hacks with me.

Last summer, after seven months of pumping and freezing and shipping, you called me in tears.  Your milk was almost gone, drying up to barely a trickle.  I cried, too. I offered to send back what milk I had left in my freezer for your daughter.  The milk belonged to her. YOU are HER mama.  That milk was made for her. I was adamant.

You said no.

Unbeknownst to me, you had already tried other supplemental options and she responded well. “My baby is healthy. We can still nurse. And two more weeks of freezer milk will buy you time to find another way.”  And you were right.  We found another way.  Another donor, (your sister). And another donor after that, (my best friend). And eventually, another supplementation my son’s body accepted.

You gave my son seven months of milk.  Seven months to heal and thrive without taxing his little body even more.  Seven months of weight gain. Seven months of knowing he had all the milk he needed and more.  You gave me seven months of relief knowing my son would not just live, but he would thrive. Seven months of a little more sleep, a little less stress. Seven months of hope.
Donors

Three of my closest friends, years before we had babies, on the night before my wedding. Each of them gave their milk to my son. Allison, the woman in green, was our main donor.

I know our friendship is life-long and this donor bond goes deeper than words can express.  But I also know you.  You with your elegant grace, generous heart, deep well of love, creative time and resource management, and desire to change the world in your strong, quietly fierce way.  I know you.
And I know you would have done this for anyone.
You, my alchemist soul sister, are pure gold.
With love and gratitude,
C
P.S. ~ My son received milk from a total of six different women over the course of 14 months, all of whom I want to acknowledge and thank from the depths of my mama soul:
  • Two friends in Texas (including his main donor, Allison)
  • One visiting friend from England (and sister to Allison)
  • My BFF who supplied milk for several months after our main donor could not continue.
  • My midwife who learned she was pregnant about an hour before my son was born and donated her baby’s colostrum.
  • A friend of a friend I met only once, but for whom I feel much gratitude.
 _________________________________________________________________________If you like this post, check out How Jimmy Fallon Saved My Morning Milk and I Am A Sh*tty Friend over on our sister site, Our Stable Table.


IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge. Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields.
With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and the voice behind OurStableTable.com. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son.
 
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Dark Chocolate Lactation Granola Bark

by Carrie Saum

In my house, anything I make or bake will get eaten either by family or friends.  But it is a very rare occurrence that anything I bake goes in the trash.

When my son was born, I made plenty of lactation goodies (including this lemonade and these cookies) and it was impossible to keep them to myself.  First of all, I didn’t WANT to keep them to myself because I’m a sharer by nature.  Then I couldn’t because all of the people coming in and out of our house knew about the goodies and wanted to partake.

However, that became expensive.  FAST.

I got smart about it.  I made all of the treats I could that were inexpensive.  I could buy oats in bulk for super cheap.  My mom gave me a giant jar of local honey from a farm (also very inexpensive), and the rest is history. I made little crunchy granola bars that resembled Nature’s Valley but without any added junk.

But here’s the thing. I GOT BORED. Since I needed the fuel to keep my supply up while exclusively pumping, I tried my hand at different recipes.  Because boredom is the master of invention.  I think.  No, that’s not the right quote.  But it’s the right idea.  I love trying new things, but I also have to try new things to keep the game interesting. And feeding yourself (and your baby) is always interesting.

So, when boredom struck, I struck back.  I added sunflower seed butter.  And chocolate.

Then I got a little crazy and instead of cutting them, I broke the granola into pieces that were pretty and irregular and made me feel decadent.  And every new mama needs to be made to feel decadent, right?  And maybe even a little fancy, too.  They’re also a breeze to make, and very affordable.

DarkChocolateGranolaBark

 

Ingredients for Granola Bark:

  • 1 1/4 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp  vanilla extract
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 Tbsp molasses (optional, but adds depth of flavor)
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seed butter or peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey

Ingredients for Chocolate Layer:

  1. 6 oz 90% cacao chocolate
  2. 2 Tbsp coconut oil
  3. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 1 Tbsp raw honey

Directions for Granola Bark

  1. Combine all dry ingredients, and mix throughly.
  2. Combine all wet ingredients and add to dry ingredients.
  3. Spread granola mixture in a 7×12 inch parchment-lined dish.  Pack it down hard, leaving no breathing room.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.  Allow to cool completely in the pan.

Directions for Chocolate Layer

  1. Melt chocolate and coconut oil in your home-made double boiler
  2. Add vanilla and stevia
  3. Once melted and stirred well, pour into the pan of chilled nut butter mixture (Optional and delicious step: Spread a thin layer of peanut butter or sunbutter over the granola first, then pour your chocolate over it.)
  4. Allow to harden in the refrigerator for an hour, then break into pieces.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

For an extra milky boost you can add 2 tablespoons brewer’s yeast and/or 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal to the granola bark. Be warned that some tummies don’t respond well to the brewer’s yeast so if you or your baby tend to have sensitive stomachs, it may be best to skip it.

*Note: These do NOT keep at room temperature because of the coconut oil the chocolate layer. If you want the chocolate to keep at room temperature, consider using (sustainably and humanely harvested) palm oil instead of coconut oil.

You will be impressed with yourself when you make these.  Better yet, make these for a friend who just had a baby and she will be forever grateful.

Barking up the Lactation Tree,
Carrie

If you love this smoothie recipe, you might like this recipe for Paleo Chocolate Chip Granola or these Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake on Our Stable Table. 

*Note: It’s important to point out that most women aren’t going to need to eat food with the intention of upping their milk supply, if everything is working the way it is supposed to, your baby will know how to up your supply just fine themselves. Skin-to-skin and feeding on demand are the best ways to increase breastmilk supply to meet your baby’s needs. (Concerned you have low supply? Read this to help figure out if it is something you need to be concerned about.) For those women, galactalogues just happen and they don’t need to think about it. But some women, like me, do need a boost. As a mom who ended up exclusively pumping and indeed having low supply such that I ended up on medication solely to increase my milk production, I know what it’s like to look for anything, anything at all that would help my body make even just a little more milk to help feed my baby. With the support of my health care providers, we tried everything. It becomes “I will eat all the cookies, I will drink all the shakes, I will eat all the parfaits!” if it even just makes me feel like I’m doing something to address the low supply struggle, it is worth it.

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IMG_2895Carrie Saum brings a passion for wellness and over a decade of experience in health care to her clients. A certified Ayurvedic Wellness Counselor (AWC) from the Kerala Ayurveda Academy, she empowers individuals and families to achieve health and balance through time-honored practices and health knowledge.
Carrie has extensive first-hand experience in vast array of medical and service fields. With background in paramedic medicine, Carrie spent ten years serving in the non-profit sector managing organizations, programs, and orchestrating resources to meet health needs of people across the United States and abroad in countries such as Guatemala, Mexico, Kenya, and Zambia. As an AWC, Carrie currently coaches her clients and their families about topics including nutrition, weight loss, and stress management. In addition to her work as a wellness counselor, Carrie is a passionate “foodie” and author. She lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband and young son and writes at OurStableTable.com.

 

 

 

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MiLK Conference Call for Speakers

breastfeeding and formula feeding conference

Call for speakers

MILK: An Infant Feeding Conference,

2015

 

Calling for submissions from clinicians, scholars, students, artists, mothers, fathers, researchers, and others familiar with infant feeding from clinical and social perspectives. Submissions of a wide variety are welcome, including research presentations, theoretical papers, academic papers, creative submissions including personal essays, social commentary, literature, and performance art.

We are looking for presentations on topics related to infant feeding and maternal health including but not limited to: continuity of care and infant nutrition, the diagnoses and care of physiological barriers to breastfeeding, sociological barriers involved in infant feeding, anthropological perspectives of infant nutrition, analysis of marketing in the maternal baby industry, conscientious marketing, exploration of infant feeding and child nutrition controversies, policies in the workplace for family support and breastfeeding, politics of infant feeding and policy making, postpartum depression and mental health research related to infant feeding, infant feeding practices in subsequent children, sociological family support and infant and child nutrition, infant feeding education, infant nutrition in public health, feeding multiples, managing maternal health issues through breastfeeding, nonviolent communication strategies for supporting infant feeding, developing infant feeding support products, immediate postpartum infant feeding support, the impact of birth interventions on maternal breastfeeding goals, maternal and pediatric allergies and infant nutrition, premature infants and nutrition, feminism and infant feeding, natural duration breastfeeding, weaning, infant nutrition and sleep, partner support and education, breastfeeding after breast reduction, socioeconomic and racial disparities in infant feeding support, breastmilk pumping, inducing lactation and relactation, the role of infant nutrition in relation to dental care, and the future of infant nutrition support.

Submissions accepted through February 28, 1015 and close March 1, 2015.

Milk: An Infant Feeding Conference, is a MommyCon conference envisioned by The Leaky Boob with the support of Ergobaby. Designed to bridge professional conferences for clinicians, health care providers, academics, and researchers, with consumer conferences for parents, Milk aims to educate, inspire, and support parents in feeding their children, as well as the people that support them including nutrition, lactation, maternal, and pediatric health care providers.

To submit to speak at Milk 2015, please use this form.

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An overview to making an educated choice about formula

Star and I worked together on this post as a result of seeing a need to answer some questions and provide information on infant formula.  I believe that breastfeeding advocates and educators often provide only “formula is bad” kind of information that isn’t helpful for the parent that seriously needs to consider formula options for their child.  This article is intended to be a resource for those that will be using formula and would like information as they go about making their decision and for those that want to offer genuinely supportive support to all families, regardless of the feeding method employed.  There will be further information on formula available soon but for now, we hope this is helpful for those that need it.  It is my hope that breastfeeding advocates and educators will be able to provide quality information on formula when necessary and do so in a supportive manner.  Let’s truly support families and be a safe source of information on infant nutrition, free of judgment and profit-making agendas.  If you are a breastfeeding mom that needs to supplement with formula or switch entirely over to formula, be sure to consult not only with your child’s doctor but also an IBCLC in making your formula choice.  ~Jessica 

What are the questions and why do we need to look at them

Babies and breastmilk go together perfectly.  Breastmilk is the optimal, normal standard of infant nutrition, and I love the fact that I am in a profession where I can help mothers to achieve their goals where breastfeeding is concerned.  While I am a hugely passionate breastfeeding advocate I am not anti-formula.  Something that seems to confuse some people but it boils down to respecting the fact that we all make choices in feeding our babies, and sometimes formulas are a part of that choice.  Formula feeding moms love their babies just as much as breastfeeding moms do and want their babies to grow and thrive.  During some hiccups in my own breastfeeding relationships, I used commercial infant formulas as a supplement and I am thoroughly unashamed of that fact.  However, formula can be such a dirty word in infant feeding communities, and there’s a lot of confusion over it.  What kinds are there?  Which formulas are better than others?  Should I use commercially made formulas or make my own?  And how do we mix them?

 

The different types of formula

First of all, let’s address the varieties of formula.  There are three major types that are available: cow’s milk based formulas, soy formulas, and protein hydrolysate formulas.  Cow’s milk is the least expensive and most common.  They are nutritionally appropriate for most babies and engineered to be as close as possible to breastmilk recognizing they can not completely replicate all that is breastmilk.  However, some babies may not do well on these.  Some common reasons for not using cow’s milk formulas are allergies to the protein in the cow’s milk or the family’s desire to avoid animal products for their babies.

The next variety of formula is soy.  Soy formulas are not recommended for preemies.  They do not contain animal proteins, so they are useful in some medical situations or if a baby has issues with those proteins.  They can also be used by families who adhere to a lifestyle that avoids animal products.  A review by the AAP in 2008 found very few medical reasons to utilize soy formula.  There are also concerns that soy could interfere with the thyroid, immune system, or the reproductive system.  Those concerns have not yet been proven to be warranted, although the AAP did advocate for further testing.  Bottom line?  Unless your baby needs soy formula or you have some family reason that you are choosing to avoid animal products, it is probably not necessary.

The last of the three major commercial varieties is the protein hydrolysate formula.  These are also called hypoallergenic formulas.  Really, these will generally be ordered by a doctor to combat an issue like allergies to both the soy and the cow’s milk formulas.  Most people aren’t buying these over the counter because they’re just such an amazing choice.  They’re typically very expensive and needed only in specific cases.

 

Standards and regulations

Formula is held to certain standards of nutrition by the FDA.  (Note: this is different than being approved or regulated by the FDA.  However, there are standards of nutrition that must be met or the FDA will take action.)  Therefore, there is typically not significant difference between generic and name brand formulas of the same type.  There are pretty negligible differences between organic and nonorganic formulas, too.  Basically, with organic formulas, there is a certain standard for the production of the ingredients in the formulas.  Organic formulas have not been proven to be better for babies.  They are sometimes sweetened with organic cane sugar, which can make them taste sweeter.  This might be a problem – babies could develop a taste for sweeter foods or overeat due to the taste – but these are theories that have not been proven with peer reviewed research.

Homemade formulas are touted by many people and websites, but they are not something that I would ever recommend to a client or anyone else, for that matter.  There absolutely are risks associated with feeding an infant commercial formula, but there are even more risks to non-commercial formula.  No health body that I’m aware of recommends homemade formulas.  With commercial formula, you are getting something that is built to have the most optimal nutrition possible when breastmilk is not an option.  With homemade formula, there are a plethora of risks, running from nutritional imbalances to severe infections from pathogens in the ingredients.  In the days before commercialized formula, babies had to be supplemented with other things to keep away conditions like scurvy and there were deaths due to babies ingesting contaminated products.  Do it yourself is awesome for cleaning products or baby food or many other things.  It’s not good for your baby, though.  This is particularly true in a young baby with an immature gut, or digestive tract where the risk of illness from contaminated formula is even higher.  This post takes a thorough look at goat’s milk and homemade formula as alternatives for infant nutrition if you’d like more information.

 

Preparation and safe handling

Preparation of commercialized formula can be a problem, too. We often think that women in developing countries where there is unsafe water or not enough money to purchase the correct quantity of formulas are the ones at risk of incorrect preparation.  Of course, that does happen.  But we also see preparation issues in developed countries, too.  We may not hear about them as often but they certainly occur.

The only kind of formula that is sterile and can pretty much be put in a bottle, heated, and be good to go is ready to feed liquid formula.  Some health organizations recommend that babies under 3 months be fed only ready to feed for this reason.  However, most people use powdered infant formula.  Powdered infant formula is not sterile.  If you have a baby with immune system issues, or an ill baby, it is preferable to use ready to feed.  Using powdered formula in the right way can really help to make it safer.  You want to prepare formula on a clean surface, with freshly washed hands, and put it in clean, sterile equipment.  The World Health Organization recommends that you use water that has been boiled and then allowed to cool for no more than 30 minutes.  You should mix this water with the powdered formula (the EXACT AMOUNT called for on the can.  There are generally scoops with the formulas, and you should use the correct amount of level scoops) and then cool it to a suitable temperature by running the feeding implement (bottle, cup, whatever) under cool/cold water or placing it in cool or cold water.  It should be fed to the baby right away and leftovers should be discarded.  For more information, see the WHO guidelines for the safe preparation, storage, and handling of powdered infant formula.

 

Social issues and real support

Now that we’ve talked about types and preparation – and if I didn’t cover something that you have a burning desire to know about, please, comment or message myself or Jessica and I will find it out for you – let me step on a soapbox for a minute.  We know that breastmilk is optimal nutrition and that formula is recommended by the World Health Organization as the 4th best option for infant nutrition (following milk from the mother’s breast, expressed milk from the mother, and donated milk from another lactating woman).  But we simply cannot go on acting like formula is a poisonous, horrible thing that only uneducated, mean parents feed to their poor defenseless babies.  Some of the horrible comments that I have seen about formula and formula feeding mothers lately are ridiculous.  Would it be awesome if all babies everywhere could get breastmilk, either from their mothers or from donated milk?  Sure.  Is that likely to happen in the not too distant future?  No.  (Look here and here for information on being a donor or if you need donated milk for your baby.)  If we can meet moms where they are and provide the information they are seeking without judgment, we can be a trusted source for education and support and moms won’t have to turn to the formula companies as their primary origin of information.

I am the first person to step up and say that formula should be better regulated, that marketing should be reined in, that we deserve the best possible product for the smallest and most defenseless of our citizens.  But those are issues with the formula companies or manufacturing, not issues with mothers who can’t or won’t breastfeed.  Every mother I have ever met has a wide variety of factors and reasons that came into play when she chose how to feed her baby.  Discounting those things or casting blame or shame on her for them quite frankly sucks.   A real advocate supports women in general and knows that not everyone will make the same choice as her.

 

 
 Star Rodriguiz, IBCLC, is a breastfeeding peer counselor for a WIC in the Midwest and has just started her private practice as an IBCLC (her Facebook page is here, go “like” for great support).  She also sits on the  breastfeeding task force in her town, is helping her  community’s Early Head Start redefine  their breastfeeding support, and is the  driving force behind a local breastfeeding campaign.  In  the remainder of her free  time, she chases around her nursling and preschooler.
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Hygeia EnJoye- a pump that sucks… good.

Before I get sucked into my review of the Hygeia EnJoye pump I need to share something important:

A breast pump is not essential for all breastfeeding mothers.

You can, as woman have been doing for a very, very, very long time, have a successful breastfeeding relationship with just your boobs and your baby.  Fancy equipment is not required.  At least, not most of the time.

However, should you decide you need a pump for whatever reason (some I can think of: you work out of the home and want your child to have your milk while you are separated; you chose to be a milk donor to a milk bank or through direct donation; due to issues with latch/preemie/other problems you have to offer your child expressed milk; or any other reason that really isn’t anybody’s business but your own) then getting a good quality pump that fits your needs is a good idea.

 

I have been breastfeeding off and on for the last nearly 13 years.  Mostly on.  In that time I’ve used a lot of breast pumps.  So many that I can only name a few of the brands and the rest I have to describe like “the one that was a double and kind of had a teal colored base and never had enough suction but was pretty cheap so I bought the same brand when I burned out the first one…”  I burned through a lot of those breast pumps.  There are pumps I declared I hated and pumps that revolutionized my pumping experience.  Most were in between.  I’ve used every major brand on the market including the ones highly lauded and popular as “the best.”

My reasons for pumping varied: I was a working mom and had a performing career in opera and I had an emotional need to know that I could hand my baby to The Piano Man and he could feed her (my sexual abuse past made this a crucial element to my success in breastfeeding).  With all 5 of my nurslings my reasons for pumping shifted slightly (including changing careers and going into midwifery) and with my 3rd I had a full time office position and regular evening rehearsals that meant I really depended on my pump.

There was a time when all I cared about an electric pump was that it could get milk from my breast but over time my expectations for pumps changed and my standards went higher.  I’m sure that to some it sounds like I got snobby, I mean, really, if it gets milk from your breast hasn’t it served it’s purpose?

Call me crazy but I started wanting things like longevity (I do have 5 kids after all), no pain, settings I could control, easy to clean, great suction and it not to weigh a ton.  Even further down the road I started to care about things like safety, no mold growing inside the motor, the ethics of the company, multi-user capabilities so I could loan it out while I wasn’t using it, and responsible marketing and bonus points for being environmentally contentious.  That last point applied to all our purchases as a family but I never expected to find it in a breast pump.

Enter the Hygeia EnJoye.

For starters, it already gets the bonus points.  It is perfectly safe with it’s closed system to share, sell, or hand-me down when your done with it giving it 1 green star.  Even better, it is recyclable and the company will help you out with that just to be sure it doesn’t end up in a landfill.  More green stars than I can count.

I’m not going to lie, for some at $320 this pump may seem expensive.  If you’re not going to be pumping often enough then maybe it’s not worth the expense.  For me, it’s worth it and it’s a competitive pricing with comparable pumps that, in my humble but experienced opinion, don’t really compare.  Plus, I’m done with cheap pumps.  Over them, burned through a lot of them and I want a pump I can count on to suck… good.  And because Hygeia really likes to surprise people, they even have a return policy and amazing customer service.  Something rather rare in a pump company.  The last time I tried to get anywhere with a pump I wasn’t happy with (not Hygeia but a brand that shall remain nameless) I pretty much got laughed at.

When Smunchie was a newborn and we were trying to get her to gain weight thanks to her struggle with a heart defect, I pumped around the clock, every 2 hours as well as direct at the breast feedings.  It was exhausting.  My hospital grade Medela Lactina is what worked round the clock with me.  Rather used to the loud “whispers” my pump had made to me for months before getting the Hygeia EnJoye I was shocked at how quiet the EnJoye was.  Seriously, I couldn’t believe the thing was on at first.  Made me wish I had used that pump all those times I was pumping in the middle of the night with a sleeping baby and husband because not only was it super quiet, it was just as effective.

Months after having the EnJoye and while I was in the middle of pumping we lost power due to a storm.  Thanks to the rechargeable battery I was able to keep pumping away.  This made me excited, think about the possibilities of where I could pump!  The compact size of the EnJoye and it’s handy-dandy attractive bag made it easy to transport and could go with me wherever I would need to pump, the rechargeable battery making it that much more simple.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly because I swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

What I liked:

Pretty much everything.  The size, the bag, the entire system (being closed and safely mold-free), the fit of the flanges, the options with the controls, the strength of the suction, the quietness of the machine, the multi-user capabilities, the recycling program.  And the company.  Hygeia sent me this pump 10 months ago.  They’ve waited a dang long time for a review on a rather expensive product.  But because I know that the moms that are in the market for a pump are going to use it for more than a week or two I wanted to give a time tested review.  Ten months.  This pump has been used just about every day for the last 10 months and nothing has needed to be fixed or replaced in that time (with the exception of an accessory set).  Which is amazing since I stopped pumping about 6 months ago.  So how has it been in use all this time?  I handed it down to a first time mom with twins, a good friend of mine.  Perhaps my favorite feature: I can loan this pump out safely to another mother with zero risk of there being any health hazard.  Not mold, not disease, nothing.  Which makes me feel really great.  I spent the same amount of money on another pump by another company several years ago and all I can do with that pump is throw it away.  Not the Hygeia EnJoye, it is an investment that keeps on helping moms give breast milk to their babies for a long, long time.

The suction was great for me.  Not quite as strong as my Lactina but I still expressed my normal amount of milk in about 10 minutes so it certainly wasn’t a problem.  It worked consistently used as a double or single electric pump.

What I didn’t like:

Um… ok, there’s nothing I didn’t like.  There were things that didn’t impress me maybe but it wasn’t that I didn’t like them.  There is a Hygeia CARE button that allows you to record something (such as your baby’s cry) for 5 seconds to play back when you pump to help you let down to the pump.  This is a personal thing, I don’t usually need help letting down to a pump.  However, I know plenty of women do and I can see how this could be a really important feature for those women.  The button did provide lots of entertainment, Smunchie would burst into tears every time she heard the sample recording of a baby crying and then the big girls discovered they could leave me “secret messages” with it.  Nothing like pumping, having a baby hit that button and hearing your 10 year old say “mommy, I think we need to get some ice cream.”

Overall:

This is my favorite pump, ever.  It is the only pump I feel 100% confident recommending any more.  I trust the company (which, by the way, makes an awesome hand expression cup and educate women on hand expression, a handy tool for any breastfeeding mom), I trust the pump and I’m thrilled with my own personal experience with the pump as well as that of my friend.  My thanks to Hygeia for offering up a product that is competitive with other pumps on the market but goes above and beyond.

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World Milksharing Week- Worth Celebrating

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?

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Because it could be my baby

Certain things are supposed to happen a certain way. We can accept, if begrudgingly, that sometimes things don’t go as they are “supposed” to, we can make allowances for the times when a curve ball is thrown and we swing hard only to strike out. For many of us, when it comes to breastfeeding, that’s what formula is for. When what is supposed to work doesn’t.

But did you know that formula is the 4th and last option the World Health Organization recommends as a substitute for a mother breastfeeding? The WHO ranks infant nutrition in this order: 1) direct breastfeeding; 2) the mother’s pumped or expressed milk in a bottle; 3) another mother’s donated human milk, and 4) artificial breastmilk substitute.

Look a little further into breastmilk it’s not difficult to see why. From lower infant mortality rates to a marked reduction in SIDS, from lower childhood obesity to disease fighting antibodies, from optimal nutrition to increase protection against allergies, and new studies showing that stem cells are present in breastmilk as well. And then there are the risks associated with formula feeding. With all this and then some, it is no wonder that donated breastmilk ranks higher in priority for infant nutrition than artificial breastmilk substitutes, AKA formula. So when things don’t work how they are supposed to, for whatever reason, and pumping isn’t a viable option, again for whatever reason, then before reaching for formula the World Health Organization recommends families find donated breastmilk.

The problem is how difficult it can be to get donated breastmilk as Karen shared in a guest post not too long ago. Whether it be via milk banks through such organizations as The Human Milk Banking Association of America or informal direct donation as found through places like MilkShare, Human Milk 4 Human Babies, or Eats on Feets, there simply isn’t enough donated milk available. And the price can be prohibitive even through direct donation if shipping is involved. This further complicates the problems of what was supposed to work, not working.

I am a milk donor. I have 4 milk babies and all of them came to their families through adoption and though their mommies tried, they were unable to induce lactation or relactate to a point to fully meet their babies needs. It has been an honor to assist these families and something I am proud of. All of my milk donation has been through informal, direct donation. Sometimes the need is because of adoption and sometimes it is for physical reasons where the mother is unable to breastfeed or has insufficient milk production. This past week I read several stories from families needing milk but one in particular stood out: a father looking for donated breastmilk for his newborn baby boy. This mother had planned to breastfeed when her son was born at the end of August and she did, for 6 days until she died unexpectedly in her sleep. Now, to honor his wife’s wishes and to do the best he can for his son this father is looking for donated breastmilk. MckMama blogs about the situation, her emotional response to it and drives this father’s plea further in her blog piece “The Post In Which I Ask For Your Breastmilk” asking for more lactating women to step up and help this family get the milk this little boy so needs. When I read this story and others, my mind jumps to the bags of frozen milk in my freezer and I wonder if I could increase my supply to meet these needs. Somehow, some way I want to personally provide every baby in need of breastmilk with enough milk to meet their needs. Even as I write this my eyes fill with tears again because of this tragic situation and as I fight the sting I realize something.

I donate because it could be my baby.

Because it could be my breasts that didn’t produce enough or even any milk.

Because it could be my baby born in my heart but came from the body of another woman.

Because it could be my breast surgery done when I didn’t think about breastfeeding my future babies.

Because it could be my baby born too early or with other complications and it could be my breasts that don’t produce enough through expressing and pumping.

Because it could be my health failing, it could be my heart surgery, my cancer, my complications.

Because it could be my family grieving my death and my husband looking for milk for my baby.

Because it could be my baby that needed the milk of another woman and I hope it would be there.

A few months ago a friend was very close to having her little boy and she sent me an e-mail asking me a favor: should she die would I please help her husband find breastmilk for their new baby? I wanted to tell her not to think like that, only positive thoughts going into birth but something held me back. The pure honesty in admitting a fear that I have pressed down in myself demanded an honest answer. Yes, I would do it. I also told her that I understood her fear. Because I do. In that moment all the statistics in the world don’t matter, what matters are the ones that will become the reality for you family, for your baby. And you need to know there are provisions should you need them. Because it could be your baby.

In the case of my friend, she and her little guy are doing well and I am grateful I did not need to help her husband find donor milk for their son. This other family was not so fortunate and they do need donor milk. As do many others. There are far more babies who do not need donated breastmilk than do but for those that are in need the difficulty and expense in finding human milk can be too much. For these families to follow the recommendation of The World Health Organization and get donated breastmilk for their babies we need more donating moms. Have you ever wondered for even the briefest moment if your baby was getting enough milk from your breast? Have you ever been concerned that your health or medications you require could prohibit you from breastfeeding? Or have you ever let your mind wander to the fear of you not being able to get to your baby in the case of some kind of disaster or emergency? Then you can understand a fraction of the worry a mother or father with a baby in need of donated breastmilk. If you are one of those mothers or fathers please know that my heart, and my milk, goes out to you. To any woman currently lactating or will be some day, would you consider adding even just one pumping session a day into your schedule to help out these families? If you respond well to expressing your milk, please consider becoming a milk donor either through safe direct donation or by becoming a screened milk donor with a milk bank in your area. Anyone with milk already stashed in your freezer but more than you require, please explore the possibility of sharing that milk if it isn’t more than 6 months old, passing it on to another family in need. If you are interested in helping the family whose story I shared briefly here please follow the hyperlink to MckMama’s blog for more information and check out this information on shipping frozen breastmilk if you are not local to that family or have found another family in need of milk but not in your area.  If you’d like to explore how you can donate to another family in need check out The Human Milk Banking Association of America, MilkShare, Human Milk 4 Human Babies, or Eats on Feets. Because it could be your baby.

Every human baby deserves to have the normal nutrition for a human infant: human breastmilk. To every lactating woman, past, present and future that has ever shared or will ever share even a drop of her milk with another woman’s baby I thank you. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Whether you give through safe direct donation or through an established Milk Bank such as one approved by the Human Milk Banking Association of America, I thank you.

Because it could be my baby.


Please note:
For families looking for milk, it is important that you be informed on the potential risks of receiving breastmilk through informal donation vs. a recognized milk bank when making your decision. It is my personal opinion that there is room for both direct donation and milk banks, both are important.  I do advocate informed decision making and safe practices either way, whatever you do, may it be an informed choice.  If you need human milk for your baby check out
The Human Milk Banking Association of America, MilkShare, Human Milk 4 Human Babies, or Eats on Feets,

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