It has been 6 months since I stopped breastfeeding – Harper naturally weaned and stopped asking, so I stopped offering. I do miss it, but I am also really proud of our 14 month feeding journey.
When I was pregnant, I was already anxious about breastfeeding. I knew it was something I wanted to try and do but I was already worried I would not succeed. I even had a bottle of formula in the cupboard ready, “just in case”.
I am all for the empowerment of women and allowing mothers choices. However, so many women I speak to who did not breastfeed or stopped early expressed regret to me regarding this, displaying that their choice to end breastfeeding was not once which empowered them and I feel often down to lack of support and education around breastfeeding.
The initial weeks were awful; tongue tie, blocked ducts, blisters, poor latch. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t considered throwing in the towel on numerous occassions. However, once we reached around 3 months (it took longer for us than most due to the tongue tie), it became second nature, easy almost.
After doing some research I discovered that milk could be donated.
I really empathised with these mothers who so wanted to breastfeed their children but for various reasons this was not a possibility, for example being on certain medications or insufficient supply.
I quickly had two requests for my milk; one from a local mother who had low supply and wanted to supplement, and another from a mother who’s little boy was in hospital and being tube fed. Exclusively pumping was quickly diminishing her supply and she was desperate. Her desperation was more than most of the mothers who seek milk on HM4HB however as her little boy had a dairy allergy and therefore most donor milk was unsuitable for him. As I am dairy free due to H, I was the perfect candidate. I gave the stash of milk I already had to the local mother, and then I began pumping daily to provide for the little boy in hospital. We initially looked into shipping the milk but both had concerns over it being kept frozen and uncontaminated so she decided she would collect it. She made three journeys to my house over 3 months to collect milk. It was a strange exchange the first time. It was like selling old baby clothes on a Facebook selling site (although no money was exchanged obviously), however the ‘goods’ being exchanged meant so much to both of us for differing reasons.
I am really proud I was able to donate milk like this, and my pride spills over to little H as I feel it was her that was ‘sharing’ something so special to her. These mothers had to put a great deal of trust in me. By donating through HM4HB you do not have to go through any testing of you health / milk, receivers of milk are relying purely on you to be honest and disclose any health issues/ medication you are taking/ alcohol consumption etc. I know some people don’t agree with milk sharing in this way due to this risk.
There are some amazing groups to support with breastfeeding, if you are local then GSBN run throughout Gloucestershire. The National Breastfeeding Helpline is also a great source of information whereby you can call trained volunteers for advice. Kelly Mom is a great evidence-based blog which answered so many of my breastfeeding questions, particularly in the middle of the night!