Monday, September 8, 2014

Guest Post: Sourcing Breastmilk for an Adopted Baby

Remember early this year when I posted about a milk sharing story about adoptive dads who sourced breastmilk for their baby?  This time, I am sharing a story closer to home.  Today's guest post is from Jason Baker of PETA Asia Pacific.  A friend of Jason posted in one of my egroups about how he was looking for breastmilk for his adopted son.  Super small world, I patched him up with a kababayan from Davao City and Pangging became a regular milk donor.   Jason shared this story with me almost a year ago and I wasn't able to share it until now.
Why did I decide to share?  Since it is breastfeeding month, I've been seeing a lot of stories about breastfeeding in various news outfits. However, I was greatly saddened when a popular site shared a story about a mom saying that breastfeeding advocates condemn formula feeding moms.  She goes on to say that counselors live in posh villages, that formula milk is good enough for her child, that it is impossible for a working mom to commute and bring all her breastfeeding paraphernalia.

Kung gusto may paraan - if there's a will, there is a way.  This is also why we want to normalize breastfeeding.  We don't want mothers to believe that breastfeeding is the best and formula milk is second best - that is the strategy of the milk companies.  Instead, breastfeeding should be what is normal for babies and the use of formula milk is an intervention.  The experience of Jason in sourcing milk for his child is a story of dedication and perseverance.  I sent him a list of questions and I am posting his answers here with very minor edits:

1. Can you give us a bit about your background? I understand that you are a single adoptive dad. Would you mind sharing the circumstances of how you decided to adopt, even if you are single?
I never planned on being a single dad but I never found anyone, so when I started to approach 40 I decided to go at it alone. That said, I have never felt alone. Friends and family have been supportive. I learned a lot during the process and could really write a book about it. The adoption industry has some really great people trying to help babies/kids in need of families, but you also have people who are just trying to make money off of many potential parents who start to feel desperate. The law in the US, where I adopted, and around the world is such a mess. Things are set up to block the wrong people from getting kids, but that has also created delays for those that do qualify. And the reality is that SO few people are adopting for the wrong reasons but the delay results in so many kids being left in foster care. It just wrong. I would have adopted in the Philippines if I could, but they do not allow single men to adopt who are foreign. It's time for the adoption laws here and everywhere to be overhauled. Some agencies and people find it hard to believe that single fathers can be great parents, but that is just a mindset from the past. I also think we just have a moral obligation to make the world a better place so adopting, if you want a child, is one way to do that.

2. Is getting milk from the birth mother not an option? 
No! Her medical history didn't allow for it.

3. What made you decide to give breast milk to your child instead of formula milk?
To me getting breast milk is a basic human right! Every baby deserves it. If you look at all the research out there, like from Dr Spock's bestselling book "Baby and Child Care", you see that kids should never have cow's milk. In fact, once he looked at all the studies, Dr Spock even apologized for having once suggested it was good to give cows' milk-based formula to babies. Everything that science (and common sense) tells us is that breast milk is the perfect food for babies. I haven't had cows' milk in over 20 years because cows' milk is not naturally designed for humans. In fact, over 90% of Filipinos are lactose intolerant. Cows' milk is designed to make a baby cow gain 250 pounds in 6 months. That is hard on a humans body. It is the perfect food for, well, baby cows. Formula is a mix of cow proteins, sugars and fillers. Human milk is designed by nature for baby humans. No one profits off of breast milk so you aren't going to see TV commercials suggesting it's the best thing for your child, but it is. When I see ads suggesting that formula is something that is going to make your children strong and smarter, I just want to scream. I am encouraged to see the labeling on formula stating that breast milk is best for the first two years, but it's not enough.

4. Where do you source or post your breastmilk requests? 
I'm always looking. I look on Facebook, I look when I'm traveling. I'm going to be in Australia in October and I can see that lots of people offer milk there so I'm already working on making arrangements. Getting milk has far and away been the hardest part of being a single dad. Or maybe it's the biggest thing I didn't expect to be hard. I knew my son would wake up at night. I knew I'd be changing a lot of diapers, and sometimes he would cry or get fussy in public. I just didn't know getting breast milk would be difficult. In more developed countries, it's easier to get breast milk donations because you have moms that keep pumping and freezing milk and suddenly realize they have 700 ounces of milk that they don't need any more because their supply is so strong. Having that sort of extra freezer space is totally uncommon in the Philippines for BM storage.

5. How long do you plan to collect/source breast milk? 
I'm hoping until my son is two. I know I've gotten him past the biggest hurdle. If I can just maintain it, I will be happy. I do have to cut my son's breast milk with soy formula because we've never had a supply where I felt we could risk using more. We usually only have 1 or 2 weeks in the freezer but at times we've only had a day's worth left.

6. What are the challenges in sourcing breastmilk? Not getting enough readily available!

7. What were the reactions of your family/friends when you decided to give breastmilk instead of formula despite the difficulty of sourcing the breastmilk?
Most of my friends are well-educated on nutrition. My mom for example has a nutrition degree. Everyone around me was totally supportive. They understand how important it is for my son's health and they also know how important it is to me. My friends have been amazing and helping me get milk. If they are going to be somewhere where they might be able to pick up milk, they let me know. They all understand that my son didn't get a fair deal to his start in life so they all want to help him catch up which amazingly he seems to have done. He is a very happy baby!

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