Behind the Acts of Sharing Breastmilk

Milk Mama Diaries
Welcome to the Milk Mama Diaries Carnival (September). For this month, we will tackle milk sharing and how it can nurture the community, and how this spirit of giving can be sustained. Participants will share their thoughts, experiences, hopes and suggestions on the topic.

Please scroll down to the end of the post to see the list of carnival entries.

Sharing constitutes giving and receiving. LC and I have been at both ends of milk sharing. Giving will always have more weight for me in whatever matter in life, but I guess relaying how we were at the receiving end of milk sharing is another way of showing gratitude to the generous giver.

One must be poor to know the luxury of giving.
– George Elliot, English novelist

Almost two months after giving birth to Little Cat, I was still struggling with my milk supply. I was also still struggling with post natal blues and to adjusting and learning about the baby. All these I had to deal with on top of the house hold chores. We don’t have a maid or yaya or anyone else aside from the three of us, so the stress-level for me is way off the charts. We would then top up with formula milk once in a while to give me even an extra hour of rest. Then there was this time, when I really wanted to have that very much-needed breather. A time away for myself.

Good thing it was also our wedding anniversary. I had more reason to level down my motherly doubts of not going for it. Hubby and I decided to get a massage and have dinner. We left LC to my sister-in-law who lives nearest us and whom we can entrust LC. We left LC with his stash of formula milk and feeding bottles good for about 6 hours.

When Hubby and I came to fetch LC, I was soooo pleasantly surprised to learn that my sister-in-law gave him a bottle of breastmilk instead of formula milk for one of his feedings. My sister-in-law gave LC her breastmilk. My sister-in-law who gave birth three weeks before I did. My sister-in-law who also nurses her child gave LC a share of her breastmilk. Her very own precious breastmilk! WOW! I couldn’t thank her enough. It was really unbelievable. I never asked for it. I never even thought of it. But she did. What she did was really the most delightful icing on top of my much-needed break. God bless my sister-in-law!

It is not only for what we do that we are held responsible, but also for what we do not do.
– Moliere, French Playwright and Actor

I was never a serious milk expressing machine. I did not pump as diligently as other breastfeeding moms. I never actually had more than four bottles of breastmilk in the freezer at one time. By LC’s 5th month, I no longer expressed milk because he doesn’t want to bottle feed anymore. So I never donated milk bags. But once, I nursed someone else’s child.

I met her, the mom, through a friend. She and her husband adopted a child after trying to conceive for 10 years. What made her really admirable to me was the fact and the will-power to breastfeed the baby herself. This meant great effort and persistence in her part as her body did not go through child-bearing. To address this, she went through the process of induced lactation with the expert help of breastfeeding support group Arugaan.

She was actually able to do what seemed to be an impossible feat. She lovingly nursed her baby at her warm bosom when they finally first met. However, it wasn’t smooth sailing from then on. Her supply was low, unable to meet the demands of her child. She had to find generous donors to augment her supply.

Then I met her again, this time with her baby. I don’t know what really got into me, but when I saw her baby crying for more milk after nursing from both her breasts, I skeptically asked her if she’d like me to nurse her son.

It was indescribable. It was amazing. I felt how much bayanihan sa pagpapasuso can mean. I learned how much giving breastmilk, nourishment and warmth can also feel like. Not that giving milk bags or emotional and technical support is any less, but rather how else it is possible to give.

But… I also felt awkward. LC, who was around 9 months old then, was sitting across me all the while the other baby was latched to me. At first he was just watching us. He looks at me, then he’ll look at the baby. After awhile, he approached me, started tugging my arm and he was about to cry.

I could only guess what LC was thinking. I question myself up to this day if I did the right thing. I’d be lying if I say the experience was one of the greatest experiences in the world, because there’s this tinge of doubt. What was I thinking?

When LC grows up and I tell him what happened, hopefully he’d understand and be happy he shared his milk.

On my part, if I will be in the same situation again, if I had the same audacity to nurse someone else’s child again, I’ll see to it that I breastfeed the child in a separate room from my own nursing child.

In commemoration of World Milk Sharing Week 2012, share your own experiences as a milk donor or a recipient. Don’t forget to visit the other participants of our blog carnival:

Brenda has notes on breast milk givers and takers
Mafeth wrote about being a milk donee
Cris donated her liquid gold
Pat had a happy problem donating solved
Jenny wrote about wet nursing from a relative’s experience
Mec insists it takes two to Milk Share Tango
Cai received milk from her sister
Nats has a Milk Sharing Story too

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20 thoughts on “Behind the Acts of Sharing Breastmilk

  1. i never had the guts to do that (breastfeed) to another baby… though my brother-in-law asked me to share some of my breastmilk to their daughter (the mom can’t breastfeed). i felt very awkward but i shared a lot of my breastmilk because i had so much milk supply.

    wendy
    http://myrockingcradle.com

    • Hi Wendy! I think what made it awkward for me was LC looking at me and the baby with a puzzled expression. I feel as if there was something wrong with the picture. Maybe I should have told him something before I nursed the baby who was a complete stranger to him… 😦

  2. Hugs.

    My hubby has always been adamant that he isn’t ok with me nursing another child… while I have always longed to experience that. But despite the doubts you may have felt, I’m sure that for that moment in that adoptee’s life, she felt blessed by you… and what a privilege!

  3. My sister and I have done it too.. we nursed each other’s babies. during weekends when we’re together. but not regularly. more of katuwaan and to see if our babies would take the other’s milk — and the babies did!

  4. I also breastfed my pamangkin when he was a few weeks old and still learning to latch. Mas madali kasi makakakuha sa akin ng BM since medyo na sanay na ko magpadede. It was a time when her mom was also struggling with flat nipples. Ngayon sanay na sanay na ang mag-ina sa pagpapadede!

  5. Oh wow! You’re like Selma Hayek nursing someone else’s baby! As for your doubts, I think babies are generally jealous when someone is with their mommy. My daughter gives me the same reaction when I carry another baby and she sees me.

  6. wow! kudos to you! i think your baby will appreciate what you did when he’s older. and maybe i’d have the guts as you did if and when i see a baby crying for milk. πŸ™‚

  7. Thanks for the kind words Cris, Cai, Pat and Mafeth! πŸ™‚ Honestly, I don’t know if I can do it again – nurse another mom’s child, almost a stranger to be specific. I don’t know. Only time will tell.

    But I also have to say that with the experience, I have this heightened regard to wet nurses, the ones that Jenny shared her in carnival post. Sila talaga ang wow and admirable πŸ™‚

  8. natsvtan says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your experience. Kudos to you for offering to nurse your friend’s baby. I’m sure both mom and child appreciated it πŸ™‚ great post!

  9. Breastfeeding someone else’s baby used to be considered fairly normal. Wet nurses were popular in Europe , especially in France, where infants were often sent to the countryside to be breastfed by peasant women, and in England, where aristocrats hired professional wet nurses. In Germany, people complained that wet nursing was too popular — they felt that encouraged immorality among the poor. In the United States, black slaves were routinely forced to nurse their white owner’s babies instead of their own. In 19th-century Brazil, people could purchase or rent slave women to act as wet nurses through ads placed in the local paper (“In the street behind Rua do Hospicio No. 27 we have for sale or for rent a black woman of the Mina nation with a six-day-old child, with very good milk and healthy…” reads one ad from a 1827 edition of Jornal do Comercio).

  10. Karina says:

    Is there someone you know whom I can discuss where to find a trustworthy Wet Nurse around the Makati, Manila area, please?

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