Supply

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:

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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.

Hi, friends! I’m Erin and I've called Kansas City home for over nine years. I am the girl who always thought I’d have kids by the time I turned twenty-five and swore I’d never meet my husband in a bar. I moved to KC right after college and lived it up for several years as a single, working woman for a wee little greeting card company here in town. Not only did I not have kids according to my self-imposed timeline, I ended up meeting my now-husband Eric at O'Dowd's on the Plaza! I have lived all over the metro and have explored the city as a single gal, a married woman, and now as a mama to my daughter, Lilly (born October 2012) and Baby #2 (due June 2015). This city has something for everyone—artists, musicians, farmers, athletes, technologists, families, innovators, and more—which is why I love it! I now live in western Shawnee, KS where my husband and I tend to a 500 square foot vegetable garden, host barbecues on our deck, cheer for the Chiefs, and pray for the day when Glacé or BRGR open locations that are closer than thirty minutes away.

10 COMMENTS

  1. I never knew that existed (not that I needed it), but still… that’s really cool to know for other moms out there!

  2. Erin, I can totally relate! I felt like I could produce enough milk for the state of Texas. I know all too well the pains of mastitis. I remember being in the hospital with my newborn and watching the milk shoot across the room when I opened my nursing bra. “Fire hose” is a perfect description. I sure wish that I had known about the milk bank. It would have eased my pain to see the good that can come from an over supply of breast milk.

  3. I had a similar problem with over abundance, but don’t think I have near the supply that you ended up with. That’s impressive! I am happy to hear about the bank and that the donation process sounds relatively simple. I’m hesitant to make a donation just yet – my daughter’s not quite 6 months. I had no problems nursing my son the full year I hoped to, but I guess it just makes me nervous to lose my “stash” in case a supply issue should arise before she turns 1. I’ll keep this in mind though for sure!!

    • Sarah-I waited to make my contribution for the exact same reason! At the time I made my first, I kept back about 100 oz just in case. I have added about another 700 oz to that, and will probably wait to donate it all until my daughter starts to self-wean. Glad you’ll keep the milk bank in mind–and it is a very simple process!

  4. Another thought–donor milk banks tend to be pretty strict, and may not accept moms who don’t have a certain amount of milk or are on any medications (even if safe for breastfeeding). I have used the organizations Human Milk 4 Human Babies and Eats on Feets to donate directly to other moms in need via their Facebook pages.

    • Brie-you’re right. The Heart of America milk bank did have a minimum first-time contribution of 150 ounces, and there were some limits regarding what medications you can be on (I am on 1 medication that was not a problem, but there are others that would be). Thanks for the additional resources you mentioned in your comments!

  5. Since my boys were born so early, we used donor milk until my supply came in. I was so thankful for moms who donated!!

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