I’m 38 years old and have had 5 living children, my eldest being 18 and my youngest just 4 months old. In all those years being a mum and struggling with tongue tie, latching problems and failure to thrive babies, even my youngest daughter who was NG tube fed for 16 months, until I had my youngest child, I had never heard of milk sharing. I had heard stories of old about wet nursing, something I thought was no longer done unless from a third world under developed country, like a backward practice. I had heard, when my daughter was in the special care baby unit, about breast milk banks and their purpose, but even this was something unheard of until my daughter was in special care.
Why is it that despite statements from the World Health Organisation (WHO), UNICEF and the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), that breast milk is the safest and healthiest way to feed a baby, that in the event of being unable to breastfeed a baby with mothers own milk – having a healthy wet nurse is the next best recommended option, we still know so little about milk sharing? And to many, it’s still a taboo or something to evoke strong negative reactions?
In the western world, how many mothers and fathers are aware of the high death toll in formula fed babies? The death toll that is not only reflective of unsanitary conditions in third world countries or water conditions there, but a very real statistic that affects millions every year all over the world and is a direct result of feeding babies formula/artificial milk? That these organisations state that 1.5 million babies die avoidable deaths each year if only they had access to human milk!
Not one baby’s death or serious illness has been linked to milk sharing, in either tested or untested, treated or untreated, pasteurized or raw human donated milk! The CDC has a reason they haven’t investigated concerns raised about the increasing trend to milk share, and have a statement about that too. They said that there were not enough risks posed, not cases brought to their attention, that would cause them a significant enough concern, to instigate any investigation.
Yet they do investigate formula milk, regularly. They do research and log statistics on rates of illness, disease and death caused by formula feeding. They give guidelines and rules and regulations about formula feeding and despite the worrying statistics, both the medical profession and the manufacturing companies ignore and break the guidelines, rules and regulations surrounding formula milk!
So, when it comes to being informed about the safest and healthiest way to feed the most precious and important thing in our life, the baby we would lay down our very lives for, most of us are left completely in the dark.
After losing 8 babies and risking my life to have my son, I was so determined to breastfeed. I had failed with my other living children, I never got the chance with my dead babies, and I was not going to fail with Mitchell!
It was so hard from the beginning, with his tongue tie and I had an emergency c section. Neither of us were comfortable or finding it easy, but I refused to give up. My poor baby also suffered severe reflux, colic and stubborn wind on bottles and formula. Mitchell finally had his tongue tie cut at 6/7 weeks old and finally we were starting to get somewhere. My supply was low, but I bought an Ameda double electric breast pump, lactation tea and fenugreek supplements and was feeling positive. Then, just 2 weeks after Mitchell had his tongue tie cut, I had my second heart attack and my breastfeeding journey was over. I felt destroyed, I grieved the loss, am still grieving, it’s so hard to accept I can’t do the one thing a mother normally, naturally, does for her child. I can’t do the very basic job of feeding my own child. My miracle baby who I was told I would never get, who I was advised to terminate, my world.
So at this time, a friend shared a link with me on Facebook for the page Human Milk 4 Human Babies UK and straight away it appealed to me. I just needed to read their guidelines and FAQ, do some of my own independent research, decide how far to travel, look into correct handling, the risks and benefits, decide on pasteurization or raw etc…and then…anxiously make my first post.
At first I was fearful of what my friends and family would think of me, would they think I was weird? Judge me? Tell me I’m putting my child at risk, would they think that I was disgusting? But I have received such a positive response from nearly everyone. I think I had about 4 negative responses from strangers on my last post, but over 100 likes, hundreds of shares and I’ve lost count of the offers of support and donations. Those who couldn’t help have reached out to me with their shared stories and comfort. I have been inundated with private messages offering me milk for Mitchell by hundreds of women, and we’ve managed to maintain a constant supply of milk. One woman even wet nursed Mitchell, something I certainly would be happy to continue if we found someone local to us who was willing.
The most important thing I’ve learned, is that all of us are different, both us and our children have different needs, and if I make an informed decision to do what I feel is best for my son, with the least risks, then I’m not doing anything wrong. There is full, open and honest disclosure between ourselves and the ladies that donate milk to Mitchell. The best indication that the risks are minimal, is that as a mother we would never want to put our own child at risk, and the milk we collect is the same milk our donors are feeding their own babies, making them far more trust worthy, and secondly that the milk is free so they have no vested or financially driven interest to gain from what we are doing. When we meet, talk to and see in the eyes the care, love and compassion from those who donate, we know in our hearts that they are giving generously from their hearts too.