Breast milk sharing is a topic close to my heart. Given that I successfully relactated with my son, it’s no secret that I’m a breast-milk supporter. I was blessed to feed my son until he was around 20 months old and I was almost into the 2nd trimester of my pregnancy. However, with my daughter, I had a very different experience.
I haven’t really told many people about this, and certainly not the nitty gritty; however, I want to raise awareness for both mental health and milk sharing.
I had a very difficult pregnancy with Lucy, mentally. I suffered from severe perinatal depression and received support through a perinatal mental health clinic. Despite medication and therapy, I continued to have on and off depressive episodes that were linked strongly to my cycle. When Lucy was a mere 5 months old, I was given the ultimatum of either going to a mental health unit or going on the pill and adjusting my medication. Despite the fact that it meant I would have to prematurely wean Lucy, I still chose the latter. Given how much I loved breastfeeding, this was a hard decision, but it was the right one in the long run.
I used a short-term once-off breast milk donor when I relactated, so I wasn’t new to the idea of milk sharing. So many people do not know it is an option let alone see it as a viable one. For me, given the fact that I was hoping to breastfeeding for at least another year or so, it was the top of my list. In many situations, breast seeking breast milk donors is the next best thing if you are unable to breastfeed for whatever reason. Of course, you must be informed in how you seek and receive donor breast milk (there is tons of useful information on sites like HM4HB, and Eats on Feets) but every mama I met was more than happy to give blood test results and answer any questions.
I got in contact with my local Human Milk 4 Human Babies branch and did a call out. Even though I felt like I was pestering, I continued to ask for help and the support poured in over time. I was happy to travel and was so lucky to find several generous long-term donors.
Many of the incredible mamas that I met are still friends of mine. Five main donors supplied the bulk of our milk, including one amazing mama who is a surrogate Mum and donated freshly pumped breast milk to us regularly. At one point she was producing over half of Lucy’s daily requirements. We were able to provide Lucy with only breast milk (aside from solid foods from 6 months+) almost until her first birthday. She was fed by donor milk for longer than she was fed by me! Although I wish I could have gave her more, it took a lot of time, travel and effort and I feel very blessed for the experience.
There is something so humbling and special about asking and receiving help to nourish your baby. I struggled with it emotionally but I am so thankful for the generous milky mamas who donated milk to Lucy. The amount of time & effort that they put in to nourishing my girl will always be remembered.