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    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Written by Hillary Bennetts

    Donor Milk vs. Formula: Why I Chose Six Moms To Feed My Baby

    Donor Milk vs. Formula: Why I Chose Six Moms To Feed My Baby
    Estimated time to read 7 minutes

    Breastfeeding sounded so simple.

    Step 1: Pop out the boob

    Step 2: Let baby eat

    Wrong. It was WAY harder than I could have ever imagined.

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    Our little Della was born two weeks early and was pretty tiny. She came home from the hospital at 5 pounds, 14 ounces. It's pretty common for mamas with low birth weight infants to have a hard time breastfeeding, but I was determined to feed her with my own milk.

    Pain & Guilt

    As a first-time mom, my nipples were not large enough for her to easily feed. For the first several days, it took four hands to get the nursing position just right. With one hand, my husband squeezed my nipple to make it stick out more and used his other hand to hold her head, while I held her little body with one hand and squeezed the top of my breast with the other... It was quite the production! I did not expect that breastfeeding newborn babies could be such an exhausting event.

    For months we struggled with getting a good latch. Della hated the nipple shield, but it was often the only way she could nurse without me feeling a ton of pain. I felt so much shame because breastfeeding hurt every time and usually ended with the small plastic barrier between me and my newborn.

    Channeling my inherent super mom, I went to regular La Leche League meetings, hired two lactation consultants, and had several consultations with a local breastfeeding clinic. We saw some improvements, but nursing was still difficult and painful.

    It’s still hard for me to write this next part, even though it happened months ago. But Della didn’t gain much weight in her fifth month of life. I blamed myself and felt so much grief and guilt because my body wasn’t easily supplying all the milk my daughter needed.

    In an effort to reduce the pain, we made an appointment for a frenectomy surgery to correct her lip tie which wasn't fun for anyone, especially dad who was in charge of stretching the surgery site three times each day. 

    The Breastmilk Dilemma

    While waiting through the holidays for our appointment date, we didn’t want to start her on infant formula because I hadn’t found a clean ingredient formula I absolutely loved. The worst ones use corn syrup or soy as the main ingredient -- yuck! And the best formulas out there aren’t even that great because they include industrial seed oils and synthetic vitamins that aren’t great.

    Not only that, but the benefits of human milk include boosting the baby's immune system and giving crucial nutrients to maintain brain growth and nervous system development. I didn’t want to deprive her of the nutrition found in human breast milk... and I was starting to get desperate.

    I immediately thought back to how my midwife had connected me with a milk donor just days after I had given birth. I had been exhausted and delirious from postpartum sleep apnea and she recommended donated breast milk so that my mom could bottle-feed Della at night while I caught up on some sleep. 

    I quickly sent my sister to this stranger’s house in East Austin to collect the donor breast milk, which she said felt like a back alley drug deal. But those six bags of donor breast milk were a godsend and a much needed solution for my sanity!

    This opened my mind to the idea that other mamas might have excess breast milk, so I put out the call on social media to friends, family, and my mommy community. 

    Six moms fed my baby. Well, seven including me which really brings a whole new meaning to the phrase: it takes a village. Six powerful, generous, and loving moms unselfishly donated their milk to me so Della could grow healthy and strong.

    My Milk Donors

    First was the stranger in East Austin. Second was our Serenity Kids’ affiliate manager with a ten-month-old. Third was our COO’s wife with an 18-month old. Fourth was a church friend who donated over a hundred bags of breast milk. Fifth was my cousin who overnight shipped us two huge boxes of human milk from Kentucky. And sixth was a total stranger who heard my cry and generously offered her surplus breast milk.

    It is such a massive relief to know my baby is getting this liquid gold, even if it isn’t always from me. I am so grateful to all the women willing to donate milk so that my baby will thrive and receive the important nutrients that she needs. I know all too well how tedious pumping can be, so their willingness to donate speaks volumes to how supportive moms are of each other.

    From Babies To Children

    Little Della is now 8 months old, latches very well, and has sipped down to the last bag of her donated breast milk which we've been using alongside our baby food pouches.

    I can never express my gratitude enough to all the women who supported us with donated breast milk, and to the milk bank organizations out there like Mothers Milk Bank of Austin, La Leche League, or Human Milk 4 Human Babies and more, who continue to support struggling moms with pasteurized donor human milk.

    We’re all in this. Together.

    - Serenity

    FAQ

    What are the benefits of human milk over formula?

    Benefits For babies:

    • Improved immunity: Breast milk contains antibodies and other factors that help fight infections and boost the baby's developing immune system, reducing risks of ear infections, respiratory illnesses, and diarrhea.
    • Optimal nutrition: Breast milk naturally provides all the essential nutrients a baby needs in the right proportions for optimal development, including specific fats important for brain growth and eye development.
    • Easier digestion: Breast milk is easier for babies to digest compared to formula, leading to fewer problems like gas, constipation, and reflux.
    • Potential long-term health benefits: Studies suggest breastfed babies may have lower risks of developing certain diseases like obesity, diabetes, and some types of allergies later in life.

    Benefits For mothers:

    • Enhanced bonding: Breastfeeding promotes skin-to-skin contact and closeness, fostering a strong emotional bond between mother and baby.
    • Postpartum recovery: Breastfeeding can help mothers burn extra calories and may contribute to faster postpartum weight loss.
    • Potential health benefits: Studies suggest breastfeeding mothers may have a lower risk of developing certain types of cancers like breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

    It's important to note that formula can be a perfectly acceptable alternative for babies who are unable to breastfeed, and choosing the best feeding method should be made in consultation with healthcare professionals considering individual circumstances and needs.

    What are some common reasons that a new mama might need to use donor breast milk?

    Here are some of the most common circumstances in which women may need to use donated breast milk:

    Premature Babies:


    Premature infants often have very specific nutritional needs that are best met through breast milk. If the mother is unable to produce sufficient milk for her low birth weight infant, donated breast milk offers a way for these vulnerable infants to receive these crucial nutrients.

    Infant Illness:

    If the baby is ill (e.g., with disorders like galactosemia that prevent metabolizing breast milk normally), donated breast milk may be necessary until they recover or as a long-term solution. Babies in the neonatal intensive care units are very commonly prescribe donated milk, which helps bolster the baby's immune system.

    Maternal Health Issues:

    Mothers with serious illnesses, those on certain medications incompatible with breastfeeding, or those who have undergone surgeries impacting milk production might rely on donor breast milk.

    Low Milk Supply:

    Some mothers face difficulty producing enough breast milk. Donor human milk can help supplement their own supply, ensuring the baby receives enough nutrition.

    Adoption:

    Adoptive mothers who wish to provide breast milk to their babies often utilize donated breast milk.

    Death of the Mother:

    In the tragic case of a mother's death, donor breast milk can be a lifesaving resource for the infant.

    Surrogacy:

    Surrogate mothers may sometimes not wish to breastfeed the baby they carry. Donated breast milk allows the intended parents to offer breast milk benefits.

    Important Considerations:
    Screening:

    Donated breast milk typically undergoes screening through milk banks to ensure safety and quality. Milk banks pasteurize the milk and test donors for transmissible diseases.

    Informal Milk Sharing:

    While milk banks are the safest option, some women engage in informal milk sharing within their communities. This could carry additional risks, so it's important to consult a healthcare provider about ways to minimize any potential harm.

    Where Can I Find Donor Milk?

    Milk Banks:

    Non-profit milk banks, such as those associated with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), provide screened and pasteurized donor breast milk.

    Online Communities:

    Websites and social media groups sometimes facilitate connections for informal milk sharing, though this should be approached with caution.

    Does donor milk cost money? 

    While donors themselves do not receive any payment for their generous donation of milk, donor milk banks typically charge processing fees to cover the costs associated with ensuring the safety and quality of the milk. These fees can be between $3.00 - $5.00 per ounce of milk.

    Processing fees cover significant costs: The fees charged by milk banks go towards critical activities like donor screening, milk testing, pasteurization, storage and transportation, and administrative costs.

    Is Financial assistance available?

    Many milk banks offer financial assistance programs to ensure families in need have access to donor milk, regardless of their financial situation. These programs might involve sliding scale fees and Milk Money Funds that support families who need assistance paying for donor milk.:

    Also, many states have passed legislation mandating Medicaid coverage of donor milk, and mandating insurance coverage as well.

    Check out some of our blogs discussing Breastfeeding Hacks, and Nourishing the Breastfeeding Mom

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