Tuesday, May 01, 2007

What are you doing?

We've had several discussions recently about breastfeeding and formula. A commenter left these remarks a few days ago, in response to "Bottle Feeding":
When I had the twins however, no matter my effort and determination I just didn't have enough milk! I persisted and persisted until I finally brokedown emotionally because of the incredible guilt I felt as you are always told 'breast is best'. One of the twins was not gaining weight so I ended up bottle feeding them and they are both really chubby, healthy, happy and bright. I felt so angry that the pressure to breastfeed caused me to go through so much emotional pain and guilt.
This got me to thinking--we have a big problem for moms who desire to feed their children breast milk but cannot for whatever reasons. They generally have no alternatives but to formula feed.

Breast milk should be freely available to any mother who needs it. After all, formula is not the next-best alternative to nursing your baby. It is last on a list of four options, from best to worst:
1. Direct breastfeeding
2. Expressed breast milk from the baby's mother
3. Expressed breast milk from a donor
4. Formula

As many of my readers know, I am pumping milk for a mom who is going to adopt a baby. Before I found her, I looked into donating via Milk Share.

You could give your milk, or money, to milk sharing organizations. You could donate to a milk bank (for-profit or non-profit). You could write to formula companies asking them not to advertise their products, as they had agreed to do in the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes. You could write to your local hospital and request that they establish a milk bank so that every new mother has access to human milk. You could write to your insurance company requesting that they cover breast milk from milk banks. You could pump milk, or offer to cross-nurse, for a friend who is struggling with her milk supply.

So my question is: what are YOU doing to remedy this situation?


  1. I have some questions. How much does the mother's diet affect her breastmilk? Does she need to have a balanced diet to have healthy milk? What if she isn't eating enough iron or other mineral/vitamin rich foods? Does alcohol consumption or drug use transfer to the milk? Can HIV transfer through milk?
    These are all things I would like to know before being comfortable using some stranger's milk obtained through a donation of some sort.

  2. I don't have answers to all of your questions, but in order to be a milk donor (milk bank or milk sharing programs) you have to go through a rigorous screening process for various diseases such as HIV.

    Milk banks also pasteurize the milk (some people argue that you lose some of the benefits of breast milk with pasteurization), whereas milk sharing programs just help donor moms conned with those in need. Donors freeze their milk and either ship it, or have it available for a local family to pick up.

  3. I agree that it would be wonderful for all mothers to have access to milk for their babies. But with my 3 children I don't feel that I have time to pump. The 2 older children often need me when I'm nursing the youngest, and I don't feel I can devote any more time for pumping. And when I have pumped in the past, I've found that I need to make that a regular time to pump (something else I don't feel I could commit to) or I become uncomfortably full (or leak all over, producing more laundry-- something else I don't have time for).

    So I guess my answer is I'm doing nothing. Not that I feel great about that.


  4. I definitely talk the talk more than I do the walk...but if I knew somebody who was struggling, I would absolutely make time to pump a little extra for her baby. With my last babe, we lived in a city with a milk bank - and I'm ashamed to admit, I never did the screening to become a donor...even though while pg I swore I would. Maybe I'll do more this time to ensure that I actively make a difference. It's time!

  5. ok, i have a very good friend with 2-month-old twins. she is feeding one breast and one bottle (due to lack of milk/baby got used to bottle in nicu, etc). i even told her about that awful picture from UBFAN, and she's been talking to the lactation consultants (and me!) weekly.

    i am going to call her right now and offer to pump. thanks for making me (sometimes i just need that push or need to be accountable...you know?).

  6. I am telling moms that they don't have to feel guilty about feeding their babies if they have to supplement or are unable to breastfeed, but first sharing resources that may help them that I have discovered along the way (i.e. pump info/ latching info), and getting the word out about milkshare!

  7. i have shared milk in the past, when i only had one baby and a tragic oversupply. but with 3 children, all nursing, i do not have the ability to make more milk and still be healthy. i have to restrict my older 2 kids or i suffer, emotionally and physically, from the demands of lactation.

    it is very sad there are so few milkbanks.


  8. I wish we had more breast milk support here. (I live in Kentucky.) When my daughter was born the hospital went against our requests and birth plan and gave her a pacifier, bottle of sugar water, formula, and sent us home with a "breastfeeding support" package from Enfamil that contained an little instruction booklet on how to supplement your newborn with their formula for optimal health. My poor baby refused to latch, became dehydrated, and we ended up using nipple shields for a month or so. I'll know better next time, and I am never setting foot in a hospital to give birth again if it can be helped. (I couldn't have a home birth last time because we lived with my in-laws and they wouldn't let it happen under their roof...)

    I donated my huge freezer stash, built up from the crazy over supply I had for the first five months postpartem, to an adopted baby.

  9. I pumped and bottlefed my first child for more than a year after he failed to thrive (I had a pituitary tumor which caused endocrinological problems affecting letdown) and then again for another year after my second son was born.
    I now work voluntarily with the LC at the local hospital supporting mothers needing to use a pump as an aid to relactating, supply building and adoptive nursing.


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