The Gift of Breast Milk For A Mommy That Can’t Make Her Own

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I was so excited to take photos of supermom Mikaela and her beautiful family in downtown Lemoore on Sunday. The breastfeeding photos on this post are all Mikaela and her newborn son. I love taking breastfeeding photos! And I especially loved taking these ones because Mikaela is not just a new friend, but a lifesaver to me in my journey into motherhood. Let me give some history:

I was born with a congenital abnormality called tuberous breasts hypoplasia. The condition alone affects the ability of women to breastfeed because the milk glands usually do not develop enough to produce breast milk. After finding various (thankfully noncancerous) lumps in my breasts as a teenager, my doctor decided to remove them, and in the process perform reconstructive plastic surgery. Due to the hypoplasia in my breasts, I had excess fibrosis connective tissue, and so as the lumps were being removed via free nipple graft, they had to take far more tissue than at first anticipated. I ended up receiving a partial mastectomy, which removed my milk glands and damaged the nerves around my areola – sealing the deal that I would never be able to produce breast milk and breastfeed in the future.

I am, and always have been, a firm supporter of breast feeding. I know how important breast milk is to a growing baby. And so I’ve always known that I would do my absolute best to procure this invaluable source of nutrition for my future baby. But it was always something I didn’t have to think about. It was in the elusive future. It didn’t seem like that big of a hurdle to overcome.

Now, I’m pregnant. My child needs boobie foods. And I have mere months to figure out how to procure some. Suddenly, this “tiny problem” seems enormous.

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I did not know how to go about broaching the subject to people who might be able to help. “Hey there, I see you have some pretty luscious titties. They got any spare boobie juice I might have?” And I certainly did not anticipate how painful inadvertent questions, suggestions or inquiries would be on the topic of breastfeeding. “Are you planning to breastfeed?” “You really should consider breastfeeding, it’s so important for a baby.” “How long do you plan to breastfeed?” “Have you produced any milk yet?” I would get ashamed, embarrassed and defensive all at once and would brush the subject off so quickly that any potential segue into asking for help or resources would be lost.

I didn’t expect to feel so helpless, frustrated and inadequate. What kind of mother am I if I can’t even feed my baby? I basically had two options when it came to finding food for my Tessa.

1)      Informal milk donation, mother to mother. This is when a mother donates her excess breast milk directly to a mother that will be feeding her baby with it.

2)      Purchasing milk, from a mother or a milk bank. Milk bank purchases require a prescription, the milk is usually pasteurized (which strips it of valuable nutrients) and costs roughly $3.50 an ounce. Purchasing milk from a mother is also pretty costly, running around the $2-3 per ounce mark.

While we’re willing to pay what we must to give our baby the best, the burden of $3+ an ounce is one that’s, quite frankly, out of our price range as new parents undergoing major life changes career and location-wise. Maybe for the first month, but for the first year? The cost is staggering, overwhelming. And then I’m back to feeling like an incompetent mother who can’t provide, before Tessa has even been born.

So my only option was to find a donor. And while I know some women like to donate to cancer patients or those with full mastectomies, I didn’t think I had a compelling enough story.

While discussing this issue with Emily of Joyful Abode – another amazing supermom I am blessed to know – she offered to keep her eyes open in her network of super mommies for a donor for me. I thought it was a sweet gesture, but in an uncharacteristic bout of pessimism I just smiled and nodded, thinking I’d end up spending a small fortune for a fraction of my baby’s essential newborn nutrition.

The very next day, I received a text from Mikaela. Mikaela is a Navy mom of two beautiful boys, who was looking for a mother to donate her breast milk to, and Emily had referred her to me. She asked if I’d like to have her milk, including the colostrum heavy first week milk she saved from her sons birth.

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And just like that, my sweet, precious, princess Tessa has her breast milk. This unborn baby that means the world to me, has other mommies out there who are caring for and looking out for her too! When I first met Mikaela at a local Starbucks for the first milk pickup, I had to stop myself from crying and fawning all over her in appreciation. I think this was one of my first moments of realization that “things feel different once you’re a mother”. This wasn’t just an act of generosity to me, it was an act of kindness toward my DAUGHTER.

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The gift of breast milk for a newborn that would otherwise have none, is a gift that positively effects a child for life. Breast milk fed babies are proven to experience:

– Lower incidence of certain viruses

– Lower incidence of respiratory illness

– Reduction in ear infections, meningitis

– A 20 percent lower risk of dying between the ages of 28 days and 1 year

– A natural buildup of protections against many forms of illness

– Potential protection from developing allergies

– An increase in cognitive development (greater intelligence)

– A lower incidence of obesity as a teen or adult

Breast milk donation truly is one of the most beautiful, pure, and selfless acts a mother could do for another.

To all mothers who have taken the selfless act of sharing good health and life-giving nutrition to a child other than your own, and relieved a fellow mother of the self-esteem destroying burden of being unable to produce milk for her child – you are amazing. THANK YOU and God Bless!!

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Gingi Freeman
Gingi Freeman
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Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls.

Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls. Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

6 thoughts on “The Gift of Breast Milk For A Mommy That Can’t Make Her Own

  • 21 May, 2013 at 4:04 pm
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    And she is just as beautiful on the outside as she is on the inside! Thank you from Tessa’s Grandma.

    • 27 November, 2013 at 3:03 pm
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      This was Tessa’s first milk donor! What a long journey this has been!

  • 21 May, 2013 at 4:09 pm
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    Gingi, I had no idea how much you went through medically, and I was Probably “one of those people” asking you about breastfeeding, so if I made you uncomfortable I am so sorry! I am so glad that you found a milk Donnor for your daughter, it is by far the best thing you can do for your daughter. I am living Proof that Breast milk Creates healthy babies. My kids rarely ever get sick, and have grown into beautiful young children. I am so Proud of you for going the extra mile and finding a Donnor, instead of turning to formula. You are going to be a wonderful Mommy!

    • 21 May, 2013 at 4:14 pm
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      Oh, I don’t fault anyone for advocating breastfeeding! I do it too, without even considering the possibility that someone might be unable to! I am grateful for wonderful mommies in my life who care for me and my child and want to arm me with the information they have worked hard to procure for themselves and their little ones. So please don’t feel bad for suggesting breastfeeding! I am so lucky to have the friends that I do. 🙂

  • 21 May, 2013 at 6:02 pm
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    Hey Gingi,

    I used to be a certified lactation counselor and when i read this post it reminded me of something i learned about once here is a snip-it. I don;t know if its something you’d be interested in but i thought i’d share it with you. It’s specifically talking about adoptive mothers but you get the picture.

    “Sometimes parents have plenty of time to prepare. Other parents greet the arrival of their baby before the milk supply is well developed. The Medela Supplemental Nursing System™ (SNS) protects the option to breastfeed because it allows mother to supplement the baby directly at the breast. The SNS™ is filled with formula and worn suspended from a necklace device. Thin silicone feeding tubes are taped to the nipple, and the baby drinks formula while breastfeeding. This device provides sucking stimulation for the breasts while ensuring that the baby gets enough to eat. Fathers can tape the feeding tube to a finger, and many fathers share that this experience is far more intimate than feeding a bottle.”

    http://www.medelaimages.com/product_images/lrg/SNS-02.jpg

    -Laura

    • 21 May, 2013 at 7:35 pm
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      Laura, thank you for sharing! Yes, I have heard of this, and I am very interested in trying it out! I hear wonderful things about it and the thought of feeding at the breast is something I’m looking forward to trying!

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