Milk Sharing: A Toddler Still Breastfed by Others

by Mrs. BWF on January 25, 2012

It sounds like crazy talk, right?  I’m sure some people do think it’s crazy, and that’s okay.  Heck, some people think it’s “crazy” to nurse a baby for over a year even when it is the mother who is nursing the child…  Well, I’m here to tell you that I don’t.  I’m also here to tell you how I do it.  Remember that old Beatles song, “I get by with a little help from my friends”?  Our family has had quite a few friends in milk, 35 (to date) to be exact. And that’s exactly how I have been able to nourish my toddler (almost exclusively…almost!) with breast milk for well over a year now.

With a little help milk from my friends.

I have devoted so much of my time, energy and resources into procuring human breast milk for my little guy.  I have driven thousand’s of miles, spent countless hours coordinating, arranging, and messaging, and spent a lot on gas money.  Providing human milk for my human baby is obviously a priority for me.  But why?  It’s not because I believe “breast is best” or because I believe formula is poison.  Simply stated, it’s because human breast milk is the normal food for a human infant.

Ethan is currently 17 months old and we are still blessed with an amazing supply of milk for him.  In fact, we just picked up a fresh stash of toddler specific milk this past weekend from a Mom I met on milkshare.com.  Her little boy is 16 months old and still nursing, but won’t take thawed milk from a bottle anymore.  Left with a hefty freezer full of milk that she spent time, energy, & resources to collect, she stumbled upon milk donation as an alternative to dumping her hard work down the drain.  And we were more than happy to meet up, have a nice playdate, and leave with a smile on our faces and a cooler full of milk!

Milk sharing can be that easy!  It can also be as easy as a sister or a cousin or a good friend simply popping your child on their boob when said child is hungry!  Milk sharing is simple AND milk sharing is an integral part of our history.  What do you think we did before formula…

A recent “stash” in our freezer.

For each of our thirty-five breast milk donations, therein lies a story… A story of how we came to meet, of why the mother had an excess of milk, of where we did the exchange, of who these mothers are.  I could talk for hours about the funny stories and the heart-wrenching ones, about the wonderful people I have met and how many times I’ve gotten lost to get to where I was going.  I could also talk about how milk sharing has {literally} restored my faith in humanity.  I do often talk about this and have written  about milk sharing throughout our journey.  I do this because it is my hope to see this important practice re-normalized in our modern society.  Here’s some interesting anecdotes and facts relevant to our milk sharing journey:

-35 women from 5 States total have share their milk with us!

-Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, and Oregon are the States that our milky moms hail from.

-Our youngest milk donor was 16!

-Don’t judge her youth… that 16 year old mother is one the strongest, most beautiful souls I have met.  She continued to pump milk for months in hope that her son (who was born with congenital birth defects) would someday be able to drink the milk she so lovingly pumped for him as he lived his short life hooked to monitors and machines.  I had the pleasure of meeting little Maddox before he passed and he remains in my thoughts to this day.  That’s one of those heart-wrenching stories.

-Our longest “milk run” took a full 8 hours round trip.  We drove about 400 miles picking up milk from 3 different women who lived in the same general eastern part of our State.

-I have picked up milk in 2 Denny’s parking lots, 1 Whole Foods parking lot (twice on two separate occasions!), and 1 McDonald’s parking lot.

-I “met” a friend of a friend on a Facebook status update who ending up donating to us after learning about milk sharing!  (Me and my big mouth!)

-Someone I don’t know donated gas money via paypal to fund an out of State milk run.

-My amazing and supportive partner, John, did our very first milk pick-up in downtown Chicago.  It was in an alley with an Attorney who works in a building down the block.

-John’s boss later found said breast milk in the communal office freezer… That’s one of those funny stories.

-One of our donors was a surrogate mother who had never breastfed a baby, but pumped to relieve her engorgement and chose to donate the product!

-We’ve had Ivy League milk.  Twice ;) (I secretly think that Ethan will be smarter due to that fact…)

-We’ve tried traditional wet-nursing.

-When we’ve had to supplement Ethan has drank formula, coconut milk, raw, local, organic cow & goat milk, and hemp milk.

-A friend of 16 years donated milk to us.

-Ethan has “tasted the rainbow” when it comes to breast milk.   I have seen it in a variety of colors:  white, cream, yellow, orange, blue, & green.  All are completely normal variations of human milk and dependent upon what Mom is eating, among other factors.

-We’ve had 3 milk donors who live in the same town as we do.

-We do Baby-Led Solids and Ethan was eating ribs off the bone at 9 months old!  Even though he has a wide variety of food in his diet, we also believe that continued breast milk is an important part of his diet too.

-We’ve had someone donate as little as 17 oz. at a time to as much as 600 oz.

-Every ounce counted.

-We have no idea when our milk sharing journey will end.

Our family, summer 2011

Please feel free to read more about our milk sharing journey here, here, and here.

Safe, informed milk sharing has always been my #1 goal.  Just like we discuss making informed decisions regarding how, where, and when we birth on the Birth Without Fear page, we should also make informed decisions about how we nourish those babes after we birth them. Every woman I have met has been more than happy to provide any pertinent information (medical records, social history, if she drinks, smokes, etc., what she eats, how old her nursling is, when the milk was pumped).  Thank you so much to the mom’s that donate.  As a recipient I can say that we are ever so grateful!

Look at that cream…amazing!

Please feel free to look around at these resources that I have gathered, as well:

To find donor breast milk in your area, or to give:

Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network

MilkShare

Eats on Feets

Support and resources for milk sharing families:

Proud Donor Milk Feeding Moms

MilkShare forum

Eats on Feets

kellymom.com

pure LOVE

Michelle is a mommy to two boys and a DONA Doula in Northwest Indiana.  A Master’s level prepared Social Worker by trade and Stay at Home Mom by choice, Michelle is a vocal, passionate activist for natural living & natural birthing, attachment parenting, breastfeeding, babywearing, and more!  She blogs at supermommysometimes.blogspot.com and fills up her time crafting, doing yoga, shopping at Trader Joe’s, procuring donated milk (just got a new offer TODAY, as I write this!) and playing on a co-ed Dodgeball league.

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