The Value Of Support To The Breast Milk Donor And Recipient

Any breastfeeding mother will be able to tell you the value of support, or the impact of the lack there of. Without the support of those closest to you, maintaining a breastfeeding relationship can be incredibly difficult. The same can be said for both the milk donor and the recipient of donated breastmilk.

I wrote about the benefits of donor breastmilk in a situation where the mother is not able to breastfeed her own baby for whatever reason, or needs to supplement her own milk. Often a mother may feel that using donor milk is a good and necessary step for her child, and even though she’s not providing milk herself, she still needs a lot of support, because if health care providers or family members speak doubt or uncertainties, it can cause a real lack of confidence in her own decision making.

I asked a few donor milk recipients to share with us what their partners, families and health care providers thought about their choice to use donor milk, and also how they felt about the women who donated to them. (To read more about their reasons for needing donor milk, and why they chose it over other supplements, read the first post in this series.)

Source: Crimfants On Flickr

Jorje who writes at Momma Jorjes son Spencer received donor milk for a few months. Jorje met her donor through Human Milk 4 Human Babies and received three lots of milk from her, enough to supplement Spencer for several months. Jorje’s husband was supportive of her wishes as he knew how passionate she was about breastfeeding. “Our pediatrician was not concerned one way or the other. Our son was obviously thriving, that was all that mattered. I think our pediatrician understands and acknowledges that such things are really the parents’ choice.

While Jorje herself was quite sad not to be able to meet all her son’s needs herself, she was incredibly grateful to the donor for keeping her son on breastmilk

Kellie,  from Our Mindful Life, only needed donated breast milk for about a month. For her, the hardest part was asking her friends for breastmilk. Her husband was 100% behind her decision to supplement with donor milk, because they already had one child together and he had seen the benefits of breastfeeding first time round. Kellie never told her health care provider that she was supplementing with donor milk, but her friends were very supportive.

“I was so amazed and honored that my friends were willing to go to such lengths to provide the milk that my baby needed. It really made us even closer. I was just so glad that my baby was able to have breastmilk, and that he didn’t have to be hospitalized.”

Melissa W. has been physically unable to breastfeed her two month old daughter. She has received donor milk from three mothers in her area, and feels so grateful towards the women who have allowed her to keep her daughter on breast milk. Her husband was against the idea, initially, until they spoke to their doctor, who was very supportive.  Melissa is in Washington State, where there is more demand for breastmilk than there are donor mothers. At a rate of $80 for 100 oz of breastmilk, she could not afford to feed her baby human milk, but with the help of generous donors, she hopes to keep Arwyn on breastmilk until her first birthday.

Suzy had a fast labour with complications with her third baby. She required four blood transfusions, and took some time to recover. During her hospital stay, a nurse recommended donor milk so that she could get some rest and begin to recover from the placenta accreta that had impacted her baby’s delivery. In the hospital she received 8 ounces of donated milk, and back  home a friend delivered 20 oz and colostrum to help them along.

“I’m am over the moon thrilled that she had donor milk. It eased my mind while I was recovering. I had managed to exclusively breastfeed my other 2 children, I really wanted the same for my 3rd. I care about newborn gut health and feel breastmilk is more beneficial than formula. I want that for my children.”

Suzy is now tandem feeding her 3 month old and her 20 month old with no further need for supplementation. When I asked her how she felt about the milk donors, she said: “I deeply appreciate the commitment they have made to babies

Often times mothers feel guilt when their children have to receive formula milk. Some mothers feel like they have failed. Others feel actual terror at introducing a chemical sustenance to their already weakened child, and mothers who have read the statistics and know the potential dangers carry that as an added stress at a time when they are already vulnerable, so to them, having donor milk available, is invaluable. Each of these mothers has mentioned gratitude, and how very grateful they are to their donors.

Those who have had milk donated by friends have also spoken of how the bond with those friends has grown, which is beautiful in and of itself.

These are only four stories of donor milk recipients, but one thing that is very clear to me is that positive support and reinforcement has made these mama’s feel happy and confident in their decisions. Sometimes they’ve had to find medical support for it, and other times it’s been accepted without too many questions, but having supportive networks around them has made all the difference to them, and to their babies.

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For more from Keep Britain Breastfeeding read these blog posts:

Where Roots Fourish 
Milk Machine Mum  
The Great British Family 

and support these businesse

Life, Love and Living with Boys
Life Happens So Smile 
Let’s Walk Together For A While
Keep Up With The Jones Family 
Circus Queen 

and don’t forget to visit this post to enter to win:

  • Breastmilk Keepsake
  • £15 Boobie Milk Voucher
  • Breastfeeding Pillow from Theraline
  • Breastpads from Theraline
  • Adjustable Drop Cup Feeding Bras  from Cantaloop
  • Baby-Proof Jewellery and Teething Necklace from Mama Jewels
  • Electric breastpump and accessories
  • Maternity Raspberry or Black Feeding Tops from Melba London
  • And over £1000 in prizes from Keep Britain Breastfeeding

Tips On Expressing Breast Milk

This post is a repost from 21 June 2011. I had just returned from six months in South Africa, where I had pumped for a hospital who used the milk for AIDS babies. Please read yesterday’s post: The Benefits of Donated Breast Milk. @smiffysmrs on Twitter told me that she’d been donating breastmilk for almost seven months. When I asked her what her partner thought about her donating breastmilk, she responded:  {he} thinks its awesome that Bella and I are helping premature babies get a great start.  I loved how she included her daughter in the act of donating. It’s not just something she does, with her body, but it’s a team effort from herself and her nurseling. I just love that! Here’s the post I wrote after 20 months of breastfeeding:

For most of my time breastfeeding, I have expressed. Initially I did so to get my husband to feed my daughter’s 11pm feed so that I could have some ‘solid’ sleep.  At three months, my daughter refused the bottle, but I still needed to express as my boobs were so full, she wasn’t getting everything  and I hoped she’d take the bottle again at some point.

Then I went to South Africa, where breastfeeding rates are abysmal – great misfortune in a country that desperately needs it- and decided to express for a milk bank there. Since we’ve been back in England, I’ve not been expressing much, but I hope to contribute to our local Human Milk for Human Babies group again once things settle down a bit here.

I’ve been thinking about expressing, and realised that I’ve never written anything about it, so here are my hints and tips for successful expressing:

  • Firstly, understand that what you express is not a measure of how much milk you have. Some women just don’t express much.
  • try to change pumps. I used one pump that took about 10 minutes to get 1 ounce. I swapped to another and got 10 ounces in the next 10 minutes.
  • Thirdly, start pumping as soon as possible. I started pumping in between two hourly feeds when my daughter was born and I believe that really benefited my flow.>
  • Fourth, understand how breast milk is produced, and how let down works. This will help you understand the supply and demand, and make the whole process easier.

Gorgeous Gifts: Donated BreastmilkTo express:

  • Try massaging your breasts to stimulate milk flow
  • Place a warm cloth on your breasts
  • Express straight out the shower – the warmth helps with the let down.
  • Visualise your baby breastfeeding
  • A picture of your child (or a video works well too) helps stimulate those hormones that release milk.
  • An item of baby clothing can do the same.
  • Let baby nurse on one side while you express the other. This takes practice, at first, but is achievable.
  • When I need to express a large amount, swapping baby and pump really helps. i.e when I can’t pump anymore from the left, I let Ameli nurse for a few minutes on the left, then start pumping again. This is because your baby is the best pump there is, and even when a pump gets nothing, your baby will.
  • Keep well hydrated – have a glass of water next to you and drink it while expressing.
  • Express a little milk into your hand to rub on your nipples after each session. (If you watch a baby breastfeed -or certainly my baby, so I assume it’s the same for others- here’s often milk just on her lips. This means my nipples are getting soaked in milk during her feeds, which protects them too. A pump doesn’t do this, so you need to do it  for yourself. Breast milk works better than any creams.)
  • Pump at the same time every day to ‘trick’ your body into supplying milk for your baby at that time.
  • Find the best time of day. In the mornings I would normally have a lot of milk, and expressing would be easy. At night it would take a little longer. But also remember that your milk changes, and at night nucleotides are released into your milk to help your baby sleep. If you’re giving expressed morning milk at night, that won’t be present in the milk, and visa versa.

So, those are my tips – is there anything else you can add?

Don’t forget to enter the #Keep Britain Breastfeeding Scavenger Hunt, and all these other competitions too:

For more from Keep Britain Breastfeeding read these blog posts:

Tigerlilly Quinn
The Princess Poets Life Adventures
The Mummy Adventure
Smiling Like Sunshine

and support these businesses:

Breast-Aid
Pixie Pants Cloth Napies
Fudgulous
Baby Beads

and don’t forget to visit this post to enter to win:

  • Breastmilk Keepsake
  • £15 Boobie Milk Voucher
  • Breastfeeding Pillow from Theraline
  • Breastpads from Theraline
  • Adjustable Drop Cup Feeding Bras  from Cantaloop
  • Baby-Proof Jewellery and Teething Necklace from Mama Jewels
  • Electric breastpump and accessories
  • Maternity Raspberry or Black Feeding Tops from Melba London
  • And over £1000 in prizes from Keep Britain Breastfeeding

The Benefits Of Donor Breast Milk

The year Ameli was born, I wrote a series of breastfeeding related posts as a first time mother, entirely in love with breastfeeding. I wrote about the things I wish I’d known before I started, and about some of the very rarely known facts about breastmilk as well as reintroducing breastfeeding if you had to stop for any reason.

By the time my second National Breastfeeding Awareness Week rolled by, I had entered into the domain of ‘extended breastfeeding‘, and attended my first breastfeeding flashmob.

In the blink of an eye, it seemed, it was the third National Breastfeeding Awareness week of my parenting time line, and I had been breastfeeding through pregnancy, through Hyperemesis Gravidarum, and breastfeeding a toddler. In fact, last year all my posts for Keep Britain Breastfeeding were around the theme of tandem breastfeeding.

As much as my own journey of breastfeeding has progressed and developed, and my babies have grown – both of whom are still nursing – I don’t have a huge amount to add this year, so I thought I’d spend a bit of time this breastfeeding awareness week around the theme of milk expressing and donation, something that has been very close to my heart at times over the last few years, and particularly while I donated to a hospital for their AIDS babies in South Africa for six months.

We all know the benefits of breastfeeding now, but very few people know or understand WHY anyone would choose donated breastmilk over formula for new or preterm, or otherwise unwell babies.

Please understand this is not about guilt or about having done it wrong if you’ve chosen differently. It’s about sharing information so that mothers can make informed choices going forward. 

Donor Breast MilkThe World Health Organisation recommends milk given to babies should be breastmilk. If that is not possible, donor milk is the next best option. This often raises questions for people, because we trust something that comes from a shop – they wouldn’t be able to sell it if it wasn’t safe, right? – over simply trusting other people, and often for good reason.

Unfortunately, statistics around milk donations and recipients are ridiculously hard to come by. I’ve been trying to find out who the greatest users of donated breast milk are – as far as I can tell it would be the roughly 15 million premature babies born every year, but don’t quote me on that – and also whether there were reported problems or statistics on actual contamination or illness from donor milk, but again, this hasn’t been something I’ve been able to find any information on.

So, with donated milk being in many ways, such uncharted territory, why would anyone choose to use it over easily accessible formula? According to research from 2007, babies who receive breastmilk, even donated breastmilk, are at much lower risk of Necrotising Enterocolitis, the second most common cause of morbidity in premature infants, the condition where portions of the bowel undergo necrosis – tissue death. Incredibly, the risk is reduced by a whopping 79%. In statistics related to babies, that’s huge.

Breastmilk is also easier to digest. A preterm baby’s gut is very delicate and it absorbs breastmilk more easily because the balance of proteins is different, and designed for the human gut.

I’ve been searching for stories on milk donors causing a child to become ill, or spreading disease, or causing problems, but I’ve not had any jump out at me. Milk donors are themselves mothers to babies or young children, or in some very sad cases mothers who have lost their babies and want to give something of that baby to help other mothers and baby dyads, so I can’t imagine that a mother would take illegal drugs, or do anything that would be a problem in her own milk.

Speaking to mothers of babies who had to use donated breast milk in the early days, I asked them what they felt the benefits were of using donor milk rather than formula.

Jorje from Momma Jorjes son Spencer had some trouble with his oxygen levels at birth. He also had a little trouble with the suck, swallow, and breathe reflexes, so he would get tired out while nursing. She had to breastfeed him, then top him off with a bottle, which was much less work for him. “I could have just done bottle, but I wanted him to nurse.”

Jorje wanted to use a breastmilk donor, because she felt donor milk was less likely to be accidentally contaminated. “You never know when there is going to be a recall on a commercial product, but with breastmilk, if the mother had turned up with food poisoning, she’d have known long before I actually got the milk”.

Kellie, who writes at Our Mindful Life, found out her son had a tongue tie and was only able to get it clipped at 7.5 weeks.  In the meantime, he wasn’t able to nurse or suck and wasn’t gaining weight. Kellie was pumping milk, but wasn’t able to pump enough to give him her milk exclusively, so she also gave him a few ounces of formula every other day.  “After a few weeks, he also began to show an allergic reaction to the formula.  We were told that if we couldn’t get him breastmilk to take him to the hospital and have him admitted.”

Asked what she felt the benefits of donor milk for her son were, Kellie says, “For us, it was hugely beneficial because it kept him out of the hospital, and kept him from having allergic reactions.”

Melissa W. had a terrible experience with her daughter losing 40% of her weight in two weeks. At 8 weeks she switched to formula, but two weeks later, Arwyn developed Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), got a lot worse before she got better. After three more weeks on breastmilk, the doctor recommended swapping to formula full time, but Arwyn was throwing up everything. A week later they went to yet another doctor and discovered that she had a Milk Protein Sensitivity, and formula made her ill, but breastmilk, with or without dairy, was fine. Since then, they’ve been using donor milk, and Arwyn hasn’t been sick again.

These are just three stories of donor recipient mamas and their little people. Read more the rest of the week to find out more about their experiences as breast milk recipients.

If you’d like to add your story for a later post, please answer these questions!

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For more from Keep Britain Breastfeeding read these blog posts:

Where Roots Fourish 
Milk Machine Mum  
The Great British Family 

and support these businesses:

Breast Milk Keepsakes
Melba Maternity

and don’t forget to visit this post to enter to win:

  • Breastmilk Keepsake
  • £15 Boobie Milk Voucher
  • Breastfeeding Pillow from Theraline
  • Breastpads from Theraline
  • Adjustable Drop Cup Feeding Bras  from Cantaloop
  • Baby-Proof Jewellery and Teething Necklace from Mama Jewels
  • Electric breastpump and accessories
  • Maternity Raspberry or Black Feeding Tops from Melba London
  • And over £1000 in prizes from Keep Britain Breastfeeding

Pic Of The Week 52-14

Our final days in South Africa saw us busy busy with clearing out, getting rid of, and packing up for our new, old lives. It’s amazing how much you can gather in a short time – and I guess the principle of a little bit at a time really adding up extends to more than just money (perhaps I should implement that strategy into savings!)  Over the last three months I have expressed milk only when Ameli has stayed over with my parents for a night, or spent a day with them.
A little at a time adds up and I took 16 bottles of expressed milk to the milk bank. The nurse was really surprised when I walked in. She couldn’t believe how much milk I was donating and made a big fuss about how generous that was and about how amazing it was that I was still breastfeeding. I was rather taken aback, to be honest. And not. It’s understandable when you understand the abysmal breastfeeding rates in South Africa – specifically among white women.

Funnily enough, I had grabbed a supermarket carrier bag to pop the frozen milk into, and as I was leaving spotted the logo on it: Gorgeous Gifts.

True, really. Liquid Gold, The WHO’s second choice feeding option, donated breastmilk.  I’m so pleased to have been able to help other mothers and their babies and am really sorry that the UK milkbanks wont allow mothers with babies over six months to donate breastmilk. I mean, if a third world hospital can pasteurise, add a few drops of vitamin A and whatever else, how easy would it be for a first world hospital?

As the hospital told me at my singing up visit: Breastmilk, regardless of the age of the baby it’s made for, is still a better option than formula.*

As always and once again, the system just isn’t there to help mothers.

Gorgeouss Gifts: Donated Breastmilk


*Not a statement meant to impart guilt. A simple statement of fact as said to me

.Thanks again for joining us for our Pic of the Week