Supply. As a soon-to-be breastfeeding mom, this single word was my number one concern. I was committed to breastfeeding, but a big “what if” seemed to wiggle its way into my mind: What if I have supply issues? I prepared as much as I could: I attended breastfeeding classes, read books, devoured content on KellyMom, and programmed a lactation consultant and a La Leche League leader into my iPhone. By the time my daughter arrived last October, I was prepared. Supply issues? Bring it.
Like many new moms and babies, my daughter and I had a rocky start to our breastfeeding relationship. I sought out support and encouragement from other moms and professionals, read tips and tricks, and we practiced day and night. After about three weeks, everything seemed to be falling into place. My daughter was gaining weight and producing plenty of wet diapers, and I was producing plenty of milk. In fact, “plenty” quickly turned into my number one concern, but in the exact opposite context: oversupply.
Those of you who have experienced low milk supply are probably thinking “that’s a good problem to have!” and are wondering why any mom would complain about having too much milk for their baby. But as with low supply, oversupply has its own unique set of problems: plugged ducts, mastitis, forceful letdown (aka “drinking from a fire hose”), rock-hard boobs (which lead to latching issues), along with a variety of feeding issues like coughing, gasping, and spitting up and general refusal to nurse, just to name a few. So yeah, not “good” problems at all!
It was a trial and error process, but by the time my daughter turned three months old, I was able to get my supply under control and more closely in line with her needs (if you’re interested in the method I used, click here). But by then, I had another problem … during those three months, I had accumulated a sizable excess of expressed breast milk in my deep freeze:
I saved my “stash” until after I went back to work, just in case I wasn’t able to keep up with pumping while working full-time outside the home. But after a month back at work with no signs of my milk supply slowing down, I started to wonder – what the heck am I going to do with all of my frozen milk? I certainly wasn’t going to throw it away, so I did some research and came across the Saint Luke’s Heart of America Mothers’ Milk Bank located right here in Kansas City.
I had no idea that I could donate my breast milk or that my milk would be used to help nourish and even save the lives of tiny babies who need it most. According to their website, “In the absence of the infant’s own mother’s milk, pasteurized donor human milk offers many of the same benefits for the infant, such as optimal nutrition, easy digestibility, and immunologic protection against many organisms and diseases. Human milk also contains growth factors that can protect immature tissue, promote maturation, particularly in the gastrointestinal tract, and promote healing of tissue damaged by infection.” If my milk could do that – not only for my baby, but for other babies in need – I wanted to contribute!
The Saint Luke’s Heart of America Mothers’ Milk Bank is one of only thirteen human milk banks in the U.S. affiliated with HMBANA, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. The registration process is pretty in-depth, requiring an initial verbal health assessment (over the phone), followed by detailed mother and baby medical history forms (completed via email). The final step is a blood test, which you must do in person at Saint Luke’s. Once you are registered, you can donate as many times as you’d like within the year you are registered. I made my first contribution of 600+ ounces of breast milk earlier this spring, and by the time I’m done nursing, I will have another 800+ ounces to contribute.
If you have a breast milk “stash” that you’re not planning to use, or if you are able to pump more than your baby needs, consider becoming a registered breast milk donor – especially since we have a wonderful opportunity to serve right here in our own backyard.