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Monday, February 4, 2013

A Milk Sharing Story

Update 22 February 2014:  I have edited this post upon the request of J, who initially shared his story with me.  They initially asked me to delete this post.  However, I feel that it is such an important story to share.  To compromise, we agreed on changing the names as they want to preserve their anonymity.

Remember my post entitled "Concerns of a Milk Donor Mom" where I shared the hierarchy of babies that I donate to:
I do have a hierarchy of babies I give milk to - first would be the sick or premature babies then multiples and milk banks, then for emergencies, e.g. mom got sick, etc. If your baby is healthy and you just cannot pump enough milk, ASKING FOR MILK is not sustainable - you need to bring up your own supply
I received an email from Victor, a reader from the US who emailed me about this hierarchy.  He is a new parent and is in a male same-sex relationship.  Since both of them are men, it was impossible for one of them to relactate, unlike an adoption involving a heterosexual couple.  Victor shared how they were able to provide breastmilk to their baby girl through milk donations for several moms.  He wanted to know how families such as theirs ranked in my hierarchy of milk donations.  The baby was healthy but there was no "mom" who can lactate and produce milk.

I replied that I honestly did not think about situations like theirs.  I told him that I had written that post because I had been receiving milk requests from moms who had older babies but were still asking for breastmilk. I wanted them to build their supply and produce their own milk rather than relying on others for help.  Considering the fact that it is biologically impossible for a child of a gay couple to get breastmilk directly within the family, I shared that I would probably donate to them (if they were in Manila) but still give priority to sick babies and our local milk banks.

Victor shared how he and his partner had been fortunate enough to find women willing to donate breastmilk to their baby girl, N.  I asked Victor about the birth mom - who turns out to be his sister.  Unfortunately, the birth mom lives in Wisconsin while they live in Washington DC.  The birth mom also had 2 boys of her own, whom she breastfed for sometime and was ready to hang up the horns.

The family made one milk request at the Human Milk for Human Babies DC-Maryland Metro area and received numerous milk donations.  When we we started emailing each other, N was about 5 months and had been exclusively on breastmilk - a great feat considering none of her parents were lactating!  Victor shares that they were recipients of 3 regular mom-donors and also received a few one-time gifts of milk.  Victor feels that they were lucky enough to have enough milk gifts because moms were moved by their story and appreciated the fact that 2 dads read up, understood the value of breastmilk, and drove 40 - 60+ miles all over the DC Metro each weekend just to source milk for their daughter.

The main challenge that the family had to face was logistical - when they first returned from Wisconsin with N as a newborn, Victor had to spend a lot of time driving to various locations to pick up milk.  Some of their friends have questioned their decision to provide donated breastmilk instead of formula milk but Victor and his partner was firm in their decision to provide breastmilk to N.  Victor was also excited to see how the breastmilk from different donors would affect N's sense of taste, diet - considering that the milk she drinks come from different women with varying diet, tastes, etc.

Here in our country, I would probably tell Victor that it is more sustainable for them to hire a wet nurse.  We have to admit that labor costs are more affordable and it is easier and more convenient to have the wet nurse go to them than for them to continuously source breastmilk.  The sacrifices that the family has made for N to receive the best is certainly admirable.

Amazing story!  This certainly opened my eyes to another point of view on milk sharing.

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