Letters · Life · Opinions

Donations

There is a weird emotional attachment to breast milk. I’m not sure that it can be understood if you’ve never produced or needed any for your child.

I feel ridiculously attached to my milk in the freezer. I’ve decided I’m not going to use it, so I’m going to donate it, but I hesitate to give it away. I think it represents a lot of struggles with adjusting to being a mom. I haven’t had any issues with supply so I don’t expect to ever need any milk I freeze. I’m saving some just in case, but I don’t need everything I’ve got. But regardless of need, I’m attached to it. It was/is apart of me and it is difficult to let it go even while logic tells me I don’t need it.

A dear friend has a daughter who is about a week older than mine. I know my friend has struggled with producing enough milk and has supplemented with formula on occasion. She worries about her supply all the time and is constantly trying to pump more. It’s difficult for her to pump at work, she’s a pharmacist with 12 hour shifts and just can’t really get away to pump often enough. I can pump whenever I need to at work and typically get more milk than what my daughter needs for the next day which is how I’ve been able to set some aside. I also often have more milk that needed in the morning for my daughter’s first feeding so I save that too. I offered my milk to her and she said it was an answered prayer, she’s actually scheduled to work the next three days and doesn’t have enough milk stored away. I’m giving her 25 bags even though she only asked for 10 – I have it stored that way so it’s easier. I still have lots from earlier on to give to someone who needs it and I’m determining how I want to find someone to give it to.

It was a big decision to donate my milk. Nursing affects not only my daughter and I but also my husband. Our physical relationship is lacking because of the birth and nursing. I would not be donating if he wanted me to be done nursing sooner rather than later. We’ve talked about it a lot actually, and I’m really the one who has pushed to be done sooner by saving up all the milk I could. He’s been hesitant since we took a breastfeeding class and learned about how the milk adjusts to what baby needs. He wants our daughter to have milk that is tailored to her needs as much as possible, which means the older milk is less than ideal. He’s willing to sacrifice for her and that’s amazing.

Even after I learned about the milk, I still wanted my body back to myself and I also feel bad for what my husband is going without while I’m nursing. I also thought that nursing and pumping was going to feel miserable and never ending, but it doesn’t. I actually can’t believe it’s already been 5 months. I’m only going to nurse for a year, I’ll wean my daughter rather than letting her self-wean. Maybe that makes me a bad mom in some people’s eyes, but a year is good and what I intended all along. I actually think the self led weaning is a little odd, although I realize that is a more cultural stance than biological. What I find most odd about it is the potential for an older child to remember nursing and I can’t get over that.

Now that I’ve made this decision, as I mentioned earlier, I determining how I am going to find someone to donate it to. I kind of want to be anonymous and I was hesitant to approach my friend at first. I didn’t want her to become reliant on me nor do I want her to feel indebted in any way. Based on her response our relationship will be fine, but I was overly worried because of the emotions attached to the milk.

As far as strangers go, I joined a Facebook group for people in my area seeking donations and donating. The issue I have with this is that some people sound like they’re asking for milk because they want the benefits without the sacrifice. Maybe that isn’t the case but I can’t help but be skeptical about some of their stories. I’m also concerned with the harm that could come from getting donor milk – supplementing too much will reduce your own supply and I think some people are too quick to supplement or supplement for too long. My doula is also a member of that group and I wonder if that’s how she finds people to give milk to – she has a freezer stash of donations. I’m thinking about talking to her about it. It has also crossed my mind to message our pastor to see if he, or any of the church staff, knows of anyone in need.

That’s my biggest struggle – determining need. It’s not my place to judge like I mentioned doing with regards to Facebook posts, but I can’t help but do so. I feel like I put a lot of work into that milk and I’m attached to it so I want it to be used wisely. I find myself drawn to giving it to my doula so I can release myself from the responsibility of finding a need. I can’t decide if that makes me lazy, in a way, or smart because I don’t know if I’ll be able to find a stranger I feel worthy enough for my milk.

I feel like some of my concerns about donating are making me sound full of myself or something. Or that I think too much of myself or my milk. I really don’t think that highly of my milk, in part because I know that my diet isn’t stellar and my milk isn’t necessarily better than anyone else’s. My concerns are really more about that emotional attachment I keep referring to and that transcends all logic unfortunately. Really, if I’m not going to use the milk, it would logically be better for it to be used by someone, regardless of their story, than be thrown out. I realize that, but I want it to go to someone who truly needs it not just someone who wants it.

*NOTE: I should also add that I’m not donating to a bank/hospital/organization because I’m fairly certain they treat/pasteurize the milk which reduces the ‘good stuff’ in it. I’m not about that. I think they may be concerned with my diet as well and I am not the best with that – my diet is normal/average, which means I enjoy pizza sometimes, haha. Someone who really needs the milk isn’t going to care about my diet that much. I also don’t want any compensation for it, I don’t need it, especially considering I had not originally intended on donating any of it.

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