I fed my baby a stranger’s milk.
Yes, you read that correctly. I willingly fed my baby breast milk from an incredibly generous mom who spent tireless hours pumping to build a stock of milk that would not be used to nourish her own children. And at the time, she was a complete stranger to me.
My plan was always to breast-feed my baby for her first year, if possible. But at five months, my baby girl had fallen off of her growth curve and was showing a decline in weight gain for her height. Cue the immense guilt that comes along with hearing you aren’t feeding your baby enough. My daughter hadn’t shown signs of hunger after her nursing sessions and I was sure I was doing what I could to support my breast milk production. I tried everything: oatmeal, fancy supplements to increase my milk supply… I even bought clumsy attachments for my breast pump that were supposed to remove every drop I could create. To no avail: At her next pediatrician weigh-in, we were still on the decline.
But while the guilt and frustration were growing, I was not feeling pressured at all by her pediatrician to remedy the decline immediately with the typical solution: baby formula.
Let me be clear: I have no issue with formula. I’ve been a nanny for the entirety of my adult career, and have cared for many bouncy, giggly, and content formula-fed buttercups. My hesitation was born mostly out of a mix of fear and selfishness. Would formula get in the way of our curated sleep schedule? Would introducing new ingredients cause gas or fussiness in our otherwise extremely chill baby? I wondered. I had put it into my mind that something a body created naturally was what I wanted my daughter to have, as long as she could have it. And so, for my own parenting path, I was inspired to continue the breast milk route. I felt there had to be options to support that choice.
Surely, I thought, Facebook would have the answers, right? Or at the very least, it would connect me with someone with whom I could commiserate about my supply — or lack thereof. After a surprisingly short search in the evergreen mom community found within the depths of the interwebs, Human Milk for Human Babies was where I landed.
Before I knew it, I was driving 45 minutes out of town to a coffee shop parking lot to retrieve 400 ounces of “the goods”: Multiple bags of frozen breast milk, stored neatly in 6oz servings, tied up in plastic bags and packed carefully in a cooler with ice packs.
The stranger-mom, to whom we now refer (lovingly) as “The Golden Moo,” popped open her trunk to reveal how seriously she had taken the safety precautions of transporting human milk amid the lightheartedness of our conversation. I was blown away.
I was driving 45 minutes out of town to a coffee shop parking lot to retrieve 400 ounces of “the goods.”
My husband watched from the car with our daughter as I had a short conversation with the woman who was going to be the new food source for our baby. I was flooded with emotion in that meeting but kept a brave face and made small talk. “Thank you” were the words I found myself repeating, but I never quite felt they footed the bill for what this gift truly meant to me. The reality of this gesture — seemingly small, giving her milk away — hit home on our drive home. This person was now a cornerstone of my child’s development and ability to thrive. But what did she gain from this relationship with me — aside from room in her freezer?
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This little beauty and I did a thing this morning! 🥰🤱 . . I am so beyond grateful! Several of you have seen my posts & stories about my breastmilk supply and reached out to me about a breastcancer survivor in need of milk for her precious new babe on the way. This morning we were able to donate somewhere around 2500 ounces (should be about a 4 month supply, give or take!) and I couldn’t be more humbled or thankful that our milk could be used in this way! 🙏🏻 . . Good faith human milk donation isn’t for everyone, but this is the fourth time I’ve been privileged to do it and for me, knowing where the milk is going means so much!!! I also cherish the opportunity to connect with the moms receiving it- it is truly a blessing! . . I truly believe in the timing of everything and with this month being breast cancer awareness month, what an incredible opportunity to honor not just the amazing warrior mama I got to meet this morning, but all women who have faced this demon with tenacity and courage! You are all my heroes💗🎀 #breastmilkdonor #breastcancerawarenessmonth #breastfeedingmom #breastfeedinginpublic #breastfeed #breastfeedingjourney #breastfeedingmama #donormilk #momlifebelike #realmom #realmomlife #motherhoodinspired #momvibes #momtribe #momofgirls #girlmomlife #targetmom #babyprep #babytime #girltribe #babynumber4 #toddlermomlife #toddlermommy #momoffour #momof4 #familyofsix #matlife #fourthtrimester #postpartumjourney #postpartumhealth
I have fed my daughter close to 600 ounces of stranger-milk since the initial meeting. I met our donor a second time, in the same spot, a few months later for a subsequent batch of “liquid gold.” Our second meeting was easier than the first, as I felt totally okay with driving there alone and completing the transaction without the support of my family there. She was happy to see her milk go, and I was grateful to receive it.
Though the “transaction” was easy, the feelings that come with my floundering explanations when friends and family ask about the baby’s diet and my breastfeeding have not been. As a pretty outspoken supporter of “whatever works!” I felt myself succumbing to shame, guilt, and even apprehension in sharing our unconventional choice.
It takes regular intrinsic reminders that the way I feed my baby doesn’t have to fit a standard. It definitely takes reframing my own insecurities into the knowledge that I have found a solution that actually works for me and my family.
The time it takes for our donor to pump, store, and share her milk with us still runs through my mind each time I have a conversation with friends or family about my daughter’s diet. And while others’ opinions of my choice are interesting, they’re not meaningful enough to deter me from it.
Most importantly, at the end of each day when we are putting our now-7-month-old baby to bed, she finishes her bottle with a sleepy smile and (if we’re lucky) a satiated burp. I wonder if The Golden Moo will ever know how special her empty freezer is to our family.
P.S. Our girl is back on track with her weight gain.