Pumping to Donate, a Labor of Love

Baby Sister is almost a year old. I will hang up my pump flanges after her birthday. Baby Sister nurses on demand. She has never had milk from a bottle. Why do I pump? To help those babies and moms who are not as fortunate as I am. I have a wonderful milk supply. Most would call it an oversupply. To me, it is my normal.

I did not start pumping for fun or to donate. When Bunny, my 3 year old, was born she had a lip and tongue tie. Only the tongue tie was diagnosed and clipped, but not far enough. She has trouble latching and transferring milk. Added to that I had an oversupply and a forceful letdown. This was a recipe for disaster. I would pump to soften my breasts and get the letdown out of the way. Then I would nurse Bunny. She was lethargic for a day or two and I had to pump and cup feed her and use a Supplemental Nursing System (SNS) to help her nurse and want to nurse. I started pumping out of necessity but I kept pumping out of fear.

I was afraid my baby would stop nursing. I was afraid my overabundant milk supply would disappear. What if I was in an accident? Or got sick? I was afraid something, anything would happen to me or my milk supply. So I pumped three times a day and nursed on demand. After a few months I dropped my pumping sessions to twice a day, in the morning and at night. I believe I did this until Bunny was a year old. Then, once we made it to a year and I overcame some of my fears, I stopped pumping. During this year I had met a wonderful mom who soon became a friend. I posted on human milk for human babies Facebook page that I had some extra milk if anyone was in need. I donated to this mom all of my extra milk from Bunny. We hung out often and our kids played together. I donated over 5,000 ounces. It was a wonderful experience and left me feeling good about myself. Don’t get me wrong, it was VERY hard to let go of that milk.

I can not speak for every mom who donates breast milk, but I think many of them feel the same way I do. Letting go of my milk was HARD. I spent time, so much time, effort and money on pumping this milk. A breast pump (which was not covered by insurance 3 years ago), bags, bottles, breast pump supplies, pumping bras and more. There are so many costs associated with pumping. And the time commitment is great. 20 minutes or more to pump, 5-10 minutes to bag, wash and sterilize pump parts. Pumping and storing milk is a labor of love. And for me it was a labor of love for my baby but also for those babies and mommies I donated to.

I started pumping with Baby Sister because I was tandem nursing and my milk supply was crazy. My oversupply and forceful letdown was not helpful for Baby Sister. I would hand express a bit to help soften my breast to allow Baby Sister to latch. She did have a lip tie but we were able to nurse without correcting it. I started pumping once a day because some days Bunny would nurse non stop and other days she would not. On the days she spaced out her nursing my breasts were full, engorged and painful. Pumping once a day helped to relieve the pain. Plus I knew there would be babies would could use that milk. I continue to pump once a day to donate.

Fast forward to today. I donated a little over 200 ounces, almost the rest of my stash to a lovely mom who I met through a local midwife. (I kept 50 ounces just in case.) She has adopted a baby and is wanting to give her baby breastmilk. I was happy to help. This time around there is more happiness than fear. Baby Sister will be a year old in a few short weeks. I know we will make it to our goal of nursing for her first year. I am able to give this milk away without being afraid of needing it. It is still hard to let it go but knowing that a baby will be nourished helps ease the loss.

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