Sunday, 1 April 2012

Pump It Out!

This evening when I thawed some donor milk for Jacob, I noticed that written on that bag was not only the date and amount of milk pumped, but also, "Happy Birthday Auntie Sue *heart*!" This is not the first time I've seen notes written on milk bags. Donors frequently mark Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter, and other holidays on their liquid gold. There are no vacations from pumping.
calendar
Anyone who has breastfed a baby for even a short period of time understands that there is serious commitment involved in the enterprise, but the full-time pumpers are truly in a class of their own when it comes to dedication. They spend a minimum of fifteen minutes, at the very least three times a day, but more often something like five, attached to a machine. This includes nighttime sessions, where they must get up and pump, in addition to feeding their babies bottles when required. Nursing, on the other hand, is also time consuming and sometimes very challenging, but when it is going well, it is the best cuddling anyone can give or get. It is a pleasure, while pumping is something that must be done.
Pumped breast milk marks the passage of time in many ways. The date is of course written on the bags, and in the case of one of our donors, this includes the time on the 24-hour clock. The little messages and congratulatory notes remind us of the big calendar days. The milk too changes with time. Milk pumped for a newborn is very yellow and rich and then gradually becomes more clear and pale as the baby gets older. People who nurse their babies directly don't get to see any of this and are often surprised to observe the sheer volume of milk that Jacob drinks.
Our main donor has been pumping for us for nearly an entire year now. Every week we have driven to her house to pick up fresh breast milk. Her production is finally slowing down, and she has happily given up her middle of the night pumping session. Last week, after suffering from the flu, her supply took a real hit and there was no fresh milk for our boy. This woman pumped not only for her own baby who never learned how to breastfeed, but also for ours, for almost twelve months straight, multiple times per day. To top it off, she seems terribly apologetic for no longer being able to give us milk for Jacob. My only question is, how can we possibly thank her appropriately for this astonishing gift?

19 comments:

  1. Anaya had a donor who wrote personal messages on *every* bag. "Taking the kids to the zoo today. Hope you enjoy this yummy snack!"
    It made me tear up every time I pulled one from the freezer. I don't even know which amazing mama it was in order to tell her how much we loved it! Donors are truly incredible people. <3

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    1. Oh, wow, that is so sweet. Is the Anaya you mention the little girl who had Krabbe Leukodystrophy? www.healinganaya.blogspot.com. She and Jacob shared a milk donor!

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  2. This is so beautiful, thank you for sharing, and my best wishes to you in nursing your child. Jenny x x Mum of two both breastfed (now 18 & 21. I am a Breastfeeding Network Breastfeeding Supporter in the UK.

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  3. I read your whole blog yesterday while breastfeeding my 10 month old (he's passed out right now, hurray!). I love reading your story and your views on AP match up so closely with my own that it's really refreshing to read. You are an amazing person.

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    1. Hehe, I, too, love surfing the net and reading while breastfeeding! Glad you like the blog :)

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    2. I pumped milk for my oldest who never was physically able to nurse. When he was young I had a huge supply and was able to donate milk to another child in foster care. However when his little sister arrived, my supply was not able to keep up with the both of them. I had to rely on donor milk, too. I've been on both end of the milk spectrum.
      As a donor it's an act of love, I expected nothing in return for the milk. Knowing that I was helping a child in need was more than enough, reward for me.
      Being on the receiving end was a different story. I have so much gratitude to the women who help me out. My son suffered from a rare condition and his body could not tolerate formula and to boot he was dairy free. I would periodically send them thank you notes in the mail or gift cards to show our appreciation, but nothing seemed sufficient. However, I really think they expected nothing, more than periodic updates on how our boy was doing, smiles, hugs, and thank yous. They donated out of love, just as I'm sure your donor also did. She sounds like a very special lady.
      As a final note I'll leave you with a lesson I learned from my son. When things are done out of love they are never a burden.

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    3. Thank you for your insightful comment, Alyssa. So interesting to hear from someone who has both donated and received milk. What amazing dedication to do all you have for your own kids and other children, too.

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  4. Trevor, will you email me at jchase (at) mediaworkswest (dot) com?

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  5. This post makes me really happy knowing that the milk I have donated is appreciated.

    I'm pumping 8 times a day for my 5 month old baby and as well as for a one year old toddler, Cherish. Cherish has severe allergy to formula milk and all animals milk. Her sweet mom would always bring me milk bags and a gift for my baby. Although, I have told her each time that I'm giving her my Breastmilk without expecting anything in return.

    Maintaining the milk supply is hard work! My boobies have gone through tortures just so that I can at least maintain the supply, if not increasing it. I'm always worried sick after having fever from blocked ducts. It causes my milk to really dwindle down to only 1/3 of the usual supply. Whenever my milk supply goes down after each bout of fever, I would do cluster pumping at my 3am pumping session. The reason is at that time my baby is fast asleep and I can do it in peace.

    Cluster pumping is where I would pump for 10mins, rest for 10mins, pump another 10mins and rest for another 10mins and this will go on for a full hour; that is 3 cycles of pump, break, pump, break and pump, break. This works great to increase the supply again but it sometimes caused excruciating pain to my nipples because of the amount of pumping they have to go through, after surviving 3 or 4 days of cluster pumping.

    At times when I wonder why do I want to go through this, then I'll remind myself that it is for the love and the good health that I want to give to my baby :)

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    1. Wow!!! Fern, how amazing. If you're not already doing this: it is very helpful immediately after nursing/pumping to squeeze out one last drop and rub it on your nipple. Breast milk with all its healing properties can really ease any tenderness. Good luck!

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  6. People like you all restore my dwindling faith in humanity! I've nursed 4 babies for an all together total of 8 yrs and counting. i love it i love the bond and how beneficial it is and am always so saddend when i hear moms that just couldn't be bothered to try. Your all beyond amazing! Your children are very lucky to have such great parents!

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    1. Wow! 8 years!! You go Momma :)

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  8. As a busy mom who pumped for donation when my two kids were nursing, I would have appreciated some sort of gift of food that I didn't have to cook for myself. Whether it was a pizza delivered to my house once a month for a year, a gift certificate for a nice restaurant and babysitting for my baby so my partner and I could go out on a date, or a bunch of freezer meals that could be used at will, the gift of already-prepared, nutritious food and the time it saved me by not having to make it for myself would have been a great gift.

    I pumped with my first son and donated to the hospital's milk bank, and with the second, I donated directly to another mama. I liked getting to see her baby and knowing that I was helping give this little one a good start in life.

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    1. Thanks Katherine - you have some great ideas in here. I really like the sound of pizza delivery!! In the past we've done gift cards to family friendly restaurants and spas and such but I always have a hard time thinking of just the right thing (especially when the donor is out of town).

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  9. I exclusively expressed for dd1 till she was one and joined an EP group that said pumping mummies express their love, cute! dd2 at 18 months is still bf and it is so much easier. I think you're doing an amazing job. X

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  10. I'm a genderqueer parent of a 6 month old and I induced lactation along with my butch partner who carried and is also breastfeeding. My partner had a big oversupply and at one point I was pumping about 8-10 oz/day plus feeding the munchkin about 1/3 of her daily feedings, so we ended up with several hundred extra ounces in our freezer (and a baby who hated bottles and never needed them with so many lactating breasts around). We were thrilled to give them to a family in need, mostly so we finally could buy frozen foods. I know I should say it was the donation that felt so great, and it did, but honestly, the ice cream we bought ourselves when we finally had freezer space made me SO happy.
    Anyway, just found your blog through the Out article and wanted to say thanks for writing. I seriously contemplated transitioning for almost 10 years and only within the past 3 or so years have come to terms with the idea that I probably never will.

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    1. Hey Zach, Thanks so much for sharing your story. I LOVE hearing about all the diversity out there and the different ways that people choose to live their lives. And, awesome that you were able to induce lactation so successfully!!

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