The topic and idea of breastmilk sharing was always and is still close to my heart. Not only did both of my babies have donor milk mothers at the start of their lives, but I also received liquid gold as a baby and were fed by another mama.
Back in the day, my mum was completing her last year of university studies when I was born early, not long before her final exam. She could not put her studies on hold, as she had to continue to attend school. Luckily, she had formed a close friendship with a kind neighbour with a little boy the same age as me and was breastfeeding him. This special mama went on to become my milk mama. My mum would hand me over to this mama before she left for a few hours to do her exams, and this mama lovingly cared for me, and fed me together with her son. We grew up together, and I always called him my ‘milk brother’ and I continue to hear from my ‘milk mama’, even later in life.
I grew up with the idea that milk sharing is normal, that it is an extremely special gift that should be celebrated and that it there is nothing to cringe about when it comes to feeding a baby donor breastmilk.
My first daughter was born at home and with no latching reflex, I knew donor milk would be the first resource to turn to for help with our feeding struggles. My milk did not come in and I was beyond grateful when my midwife mentioned she knew a beautiful mama who she could possibly ask for some breastmilk.
I was so happy this mama said yes. It is very hard to explain the way I felt being on the recipient side. It is something I find hard to put into words. It comes with the reassurance and relief that my baby was getting the best, and that she would be nurtured and fed. We received the donor breastmilk and thankfully we could easily feed our daughter from a cup. We only needed to use donor milk for 24 hours and after that my own milk started to flow too. I continued to keep feeding our daughter for almost two years.
When our second little one was born, we had complications after birth, and I truly believe my adrenaline was working against the oxytocin, even though I did not feel traumatized. My milk did not come in for five days despite me trying everything. Again, we turned to donor milk and our wonderful midwife found a beautiful mama who had an abundance of milk, and she gifted us expressed milk until I could feed on my own.
This amazing mama was a donor for 16 different babies and, was a full-time donor to another mama for a whole two years (alongside still feeding her own little one). There are no words to thank her. I hope she is aware of the incredible gift she was giving to all these women and babies in need.
Knowing how special breastmilk is, and having been a recipient mum, I went on to try to gift milk myself. When my midwife rang and told me there was a mama who was having trouble with breastfeeding, I was eager to help. I knew what it meant and what it was like to need milk for my baby, so I was willing to try! And tried I did. I really gave it a good go, but I would only manage to express a maximum of 20ml extra after my little piggy had been fed. This was a sad realization for me that I wasn’t going to be able to get extra milk and to give back to other babies in need.
There are mums who have an abundance of milk and big milk supplies, and they are willing to express and store their milk. I am in awe of these mamas. It is so much extra work, no matter how much breastmilk you can pump. I am forever grateful for those two women who helped us out at the start. We were also so lucky that we became really good friends with our children’s milk donors. It is a very special bond that we will always cherish, it will always be there for us, and for our little ones as well.
As a keepsake business I wanted to support an organisation that I feel aligned with and I cannot imagine a more deserving one than Mothers Milk NZ Charitable trust.
I believe in their vision and mission, to help to provide those babies the best possible nutrition from the start of their little lives, even if their mama is not able to do that for whatever reason.”
Breastmilk is truly one of the greatest treasures one mama can gift to another.