World Milksharing Week – A Photo Documentary of One Mother’s Call To Action
Natalie and I met about a year ago, when she hired me to photograph the birth of her 3rd baby. After that beautiful experience, we stayed in touch and she was able to be a part of PBAP, too. It was through that project that I discovered that Natalie had been pumping since the day her 3rd was born, with a goal of donating a total of 20,000 oz. of breast milk to babies and mothers in need! Here’s her story of why and how she is on this journey:
“My milk sharing journey began in 2012, with both receiving and giving.
My second son was born prematurely at 34 weeks and having already felt like my body had failed me by delivering early, it crushed me when my milk didn’t come in as quickly as it should. My baby needed to eat, so without hesitation, I asked for donor milk to be fed via his feeding tube. I knew the benefits of breast milk, especially for preemies. Because his intake was so little he didn’t end up needing much, only about 6 ounces in total, until I was able to fully provide for him. That milk, even though a small amount, was cherished. I was thankful for every last drop! I thought about the woman who sat pumping for MY baby and I prayed for her and thanked God for leading her and her kindness to us.
By the time his NICU stay was over, my little boy was nursing at every feeding. Since he was no longer taking bottles, I had a few hundred ounces leftover in the freezer. I knew I would donate that milk, but I was also left at a crossroad of choosing to stop pumping, since it was no longer needed or keep pumping and make a difference in someone else’s life. Well, that was a no brainer! My time is cheap compared to the lifetime benefit the babies I help would receive.
I kept pumping, three times a day until 14 months, all for donation. I found a family who was in need and I exclusively donated to them a total of 15.6 gallons of breast milk. They’ve thanked me more times than I can count for “blessing them with this sacrifice and gift,” but I assured her it was as much of a blessing and gift to me as it was to them! Knowing that I was able to give back and fill not only my own baby’s belly, but someone else’s, made my heart so full I thought it would burst!
Fast forward to the birth of my third son. I knew that I wanted to donate again, so I talked to lactation consultants about purposefully creating an oversupply. They warned me of the problems that could arise, but I was determined to make a bigger difference for more babies in need. After a lot of research, I decided to go ahead with my plan.
He was born full term (Yay!) and within 24 hours, I started pumping. I’m now six months postpartum and pump an extra 50-55 ounces per day, all while nursing my son. I have decided to donate to a milk bank this time around and even though I don’t know the families benefiting from it personally, I’d like to think that the recipient parents in the NICU are thankful for the love pumped with every ounce, just as I once was.”
Natalie allowed me to document her pumping and storing breastmilk, 2 deep freezers at a time to meet her goal. And then when it came time to ship off her first batch (700 oz.), I got to document that, too! What an inspiration she is! She also informed me of World Milksharing Week, which takes place the last week of September every year. From the official site worldmilksharingweek.net:
“We hope that by raising awareness about milksharing, families will never again feel forced into feeding breastmilk substitutes – an act which is not without risk to the health of the child. If a mother is unable to breastfeed, or unable to produce enough breastmilk, families can access the milk of another healthy woman through wet-nursing or milk donation. The incredible sense of community that is created among donor and recipient families who partake in milksharing is to be celebrated. Raising awareness about the possibility of milksharing will prevent thousands of ounces of breastmilk from being dumped down the drain by mothers who didn’t know there was another option. Breastmilk is not a scarce commodity and there are women around the world who are willing to share.”
While scouring the internet for information on WMW I came across a post by The Leaky Boob that explains more in depth (from a personal standpoint, as someone who donates) why it’s so important to raise awareness for milksharing, as well as ways you can help:
~Check out how you can get involved at worldmilksharing.net
~Consider organizing an event in your local community.
~Follow World Milksharing Week on Facebook and/or on Twitter to keep informed and be sure to share it with your friends.
~Closer to September look for events both online and in your local community you can attend.
~Tell others about it: share, share, share and share some more (share this post!)
~Consider becoming a donor yourself or if you need breastmilk for your baby make your need known in your community by checking out your local chapter of Human Milk 4 Human Babies.
~Share evidence based information about milksharing and why it’s important.
~If you have a blog, write about it or share the story of someone else touched by the milksharing community.
~Promote the celebrations of World Milksharing Week
Enjoy this photo documentary of one mama’s contribution!