How I donated over 800 ounces of breastmilk in 6 months
March 12, 2019
This post is entirely non-workout related.
Unless your question is, (and I've gotten this a lot), "does exercise decrease your milk supply"?
It doesn't. *
In most cases, your milk supply will be what it is unless you are severely restricting calories (so no, please don't diet while you're breastfeeding), or dehydrated. For most of us, we don't need any more water that what is lost during exercise. (40 ounces for a 45 minute spin class, for example*.)
Before we begin--- This is my own personal journey of breastfeeding my babies. I made it 14 months with my son and am 6 months in with my daughter. Honestly, this is not my favorite part of motherhood. It's a TON of work, but I personally feel it's worth it. We ended up supplementing formula with my son around 9 months and I have no issues with that whatsoever. If nursing isn't your thing for whatever reason, great. There are a million other ways to bond with your baby and keep them healthy. I am a c-section baby who was never breastfed, and I'm doing just fine.
Now, on to milk donation.
I have what is known as an "oversupply". Simply put, I produce far more milk that what my babies need. When my milk comes in, it comes too fast and too much for them to handle. They are wonderful rolly-polly, squishy, chubby cherubs but they would puke all over the place and get extremely colicky after feeding their tiny, overfed tummies. I went to the lactation circle at St. Joseph's hospital here in Denver and they were absolutely wonderful. They taught me how to nurse my babies differently and pump to relieve the painful engorgement.
(To be clear, there are many different thoughts on pumping while early breastfeeding. Pumping can increase your milk supply as it tricks your body to thinking it needs to produce more. So there are many lactation consultants who do not recommend pumping until your supply is established after 3 months. Personally, this was the only thing that worked for me. I would pump before my daughter woke up in the morning, sometimes getting 12-18 ounces and still had enough to feed her. My supply regulated after 2 months and at 6 months she's okay if I don't do an early pump.)
It was also my dream to donate to other moms. With work and moving while my son was nursing I didn't have enough to donate. This time I'm mostly working from home and can bring my daughter to work.
The mother's milk bank of Colorado is the biggest in the country, and there's still babies in desperate need of milk. The mother's milk bank donates directly to the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and sells it for a fee to families who need it. The milk is processed and it's expensive... an average newborn bottle could cost you $16. This cost is to cover the processing fees and is free for families in the NICU. They have a really intense screening process to do the absolute best to make sure this milk is free of contaminants, blood diseases, and properly handled.
If you are considering donating, I would recommend starting the process at least a month in advance. It probably took me 6 weeks from the first phone interview to handing it to a courier. There's an internet questionnaire, phone screen, 20 minute medical history questionnaire, blood draw, and healthcare provider paperwork. It's intense. However, everyone I worked with was lovely, very respectful of my time, and understanding when the phone calls are interrupted by toddlers. They also schedule you an at-home pick up if you're donating more than 75 ounces and offer to replace your bags.
There's also the shady side of it, which is donating over the internet. I'm in a ton of mommy -groups and sometimes people ask for donations. Originally I was hesitant that someone would be using my liquid gold for nefarious reasons or selling it on the black market, but I haven't had that experience so far. As with all exchanges with internet friends, I'd take every precaution to ensure my own and my kid's safety. Some of these moms even offered to meet up at a fire station, they just needed the milk. Being that the milk bank process took so long I was able to donate over 300 ounces to moms in need, and frankly, it just needed out of my freezer.
Anyway, if you're considering milk donation, do it! I keep a minimum 200 ounces in my freezer for my daughter and donate the rest.
Breastmilk is amazing. See the difference in the early milk (days after my milk originally came in) vs what I pumped at 4 months. The yellow stuff is full of antibodies and helps them poop. After a day in the fridge you'll see the "cream" rise to the top in newborn milk, and it becomes more fatty as your newborn needs it. Nor for everyone, but I find the whole experience truly fascinating.
* "40 for 45 ounces" is the recommended guidelines from my spinning certification. 16 ounces of water per 1lb loss is from my National Academy of Sports Medicine cert.... but who is going to jump on a scale after they workout??
To donate in Colorado:
For all things breastfeeding:
One more time....
Huge thank you to the lactation group at St. Joseph's hospital!!!