Any breastfeeding mother will be able to tell you the value of support, or the impact of the lack there of. Without the support of those closest to you, maintaining a breastfeeding relationship can be incredibly difficult. The same can be said for both the milk donor and the recipient of donated breastmilk.
I wrote about the benefits of donor breastmilk in a situation where the mother is not able to breastfeed her own baby for whatever reason, or needs to supplement her own milk. Often a mother may feel that using donor milk is a good and necessary step for her child, and even though she’s not providing milk herself, she still needs a lot of support, because if health care providers or family members speak doubt or uncertainties, it can cause a real lack of confidence in her own decision making.
I asked a few donor milk recipients to share with us what their partners, families and health care providers thought about their choice to use donor milk, and also how they felt about the women who donated to them. (To read more about their reasons for needing donor milk, and why they chose it over other supplements, read the first post in this series.)
Jorje who writes at Momma Jorje‘s son Spencer received donor milk for a few months. Jorje met her donor through Human Milk 4 Human Babies and received three lots of milk from her, enough to supplement Spencer for several months. Jorje’s husband was supportive of her wishes as he knew how passionate she was about breastfeeding. “Our pediatrician was not concerned one way or the other. Our son was obviously thriving, that was all that mattered. I think our pediatrician understands and acknowledges that such things are really the parents’ choice.”
While Jorje herself was quite sad not to be able to meet all her son’s needs herself, she was incredibly grateful to the donor for keeping her son on breastmilk
Kellie, from Our Mindful Life, only needed donated breast milk for about a month. For her, the hardest part was asking her friends for breastmilk. Her husband was 100% behind her decision to supplement with donor milk, because they already had one child together and he had seen the benefits of breastfeeding first time round. Kellie never told her health care provider that she was supplementing with donor milk, but her friends were very supportive.
“I was so amazed and honored that my friends were willing to go to such lengths to provide the milk that my baby needed. It really made us even closer. I was just so glad that my baby was able to have breastmilk, and that he didn’t have to be hospitalized.”
Melissa W. has been physically unable to breastfeed her two month old daughter. She has received donor milk from three mothers in her area, and feels so grateful towards the women who have allowed her to keep her daughter on breast milk. Her husband was against the idea, initially, until they spoke to their doctor, who was very supportive. Melissa is in Washington State, where there is more demand for breastmilk than there are donor mothers. At a rate of $80 for 100 oz of breastmilk, she could not afford to feed her baby human milk, but with the help of generous donors, she hopes to keep Arwyn on breastmilk until her first birthday.
Suzy had a fast labour with complications with her third baby. She required four blood transfusions, and took some time to recover. During her hospital stay, a nurse recommended donor milk so that she could get some rest and begin to recover from the placenta accreta that had impacted her baby’s delivery. In the hospital she received 8 ounces of donated milk, and back home a friend delivered 20 oz and colostrum to help them along.
“I’m am over the moon thrilled that she had donor milk. It eased my mind while I was recovering. I had managed to exclusively breastfeed my other 2 children, I really wanted the same for my 3rd. I care about newborn gut health and feel breastmilk is more beneficial than formula. I want that for my children.”
Suzy is now tandem feeding her 3 month old and her 20 month old with no further need for supplementation. When I asked her how she felt about the milk donors, she said: “I deeply appreciate the commitment they have made to babies”
Often times mothers feel guilt when their children have to receive formula milk. Some mothers feel like they have failed. Others feel actual terror at introducing a chemical sustenance to their already weakened child, and mothers who have read the statistics and know the potential dangers carry that as an added stress at a time when they are already vulnerable, so to them, having donor milk available, is invaluable. Each of these mothers has mentioned gratitude, and how very grateful they are to their donors.
Those who have had milk donated by friends have also spoken of how the bond with those friends has grown, which is beautiful in and of itself.
These are only four stories of donor milk recipients, but one thing that is very clear to me is that positive support and reinforcement has made these mama’s feel happy and confident in their decisions. Sometimes they’ve had to find medical support for it, and other times it’s been accepted without too many questions, but having supportive networks around them has made all the difference to them, and to their babies.
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