by Indira Mattia
Breastfeeding was something I knew I wanted to do from before I even got pregnant.
From a young age I can recall my aunts breastfeeding my little cousins and knowing that one day when I had children I would breastfeed them. I hoped that being able to breastfeed would strengthen my bond with my little one.
A lot of “motherly” things always came easy to me. I was always the “mom” of my group of friends, so I expected breastfeeding to be easy. When my daughter was born, within the first few minutes we attempted to feed her and she wouldn’t latch. She was a smaller baby, and my nipples were too big for her little mouth. Each session it would take 20+ minutes to get her latched and by the time she was on, she was exhausted from screaming.
I wanted so badly to be able to breastfeed that I cried every time I tried to latch her. I tried to meet with the lactation consultant before I left the hospital, but she wasn’t there at all during our 3 day stay.
In the first week as my milk was coming in, I ended up using a manual pump to relieve the engorgement and was tempted to just give my daughter a bottle. Even if I couldn’t get her to latch, at least I’d still be able to give her breast milk.
But I kept trying.
When we met her pediatrician at the one week checkup, we found out she was also a lactation consultant. She convinced me that we could do this. After struggling with nipple shields and different positions, the day my daughter turned two weeks it was like a switch flipped and she began latching with no issue.
After overcoming the issue of her latching, I then had the issue of an oversupply of milk.
My daughter would eat on one breast at a time and would never really “drain” my breast, so I began pumping the other breast after a feed at the advice of our pediatrician. On a normal day, while I was on maternity leave and breastfeeding on demand, I would pump 20 oz. a day, so I started freezing that milk.
I am a part of a breastfeeding group on Facebook that would be appalled that I created a stash, but I had a wonderful support system that encouraged me to continue. I had a friend whose supply dried up after 3 months and another who had to have emergency surgery and she needed to go into her own stash to be able to feed her baby.
By the time I was going back to work, I had frozen about 1,300 oz. of milk. We had to go buy a deep freezer because it took up so much space.
Before this, I had never considered supplying or receiving donor milk. I remember watching a show about 7 years ago where a mom was sampling donor milk. That was an insane notion to me. But I was very young, and nowhere close to having a baby or understanding why someone would want donor milk. Now, years later, I understand.
I felt a sense of pride in myself for being able to feed my baby and being able to produce so much, but she didn’t need that frozen milk. I was continuing to breastfeed on demand at home and I was pumping 30oz a day at work and sending 15-20oz to daycare.
I wanted to see what I could do to help other moms.
I had people tell me how they couldn’t breastfeed when they had children and wished they had known about donor milk, instead of giving their babies formula. I reached out to my sister, who is a newborn care specialist, to see if she knew anyone that needed donor milk and she told me she knew an amazing woman that she thought might be interested.
In the meantime, I googled to see what my options were. While I did find several donor sites, I was hoping to be able to expedite things, as every freezer I knew of filled up, and give the milk to a mom I (or my sister knew). I was able to donate the 1,300 oz of milk to the woman my sister told me about and her gratitude and appreciation was overwhelming.
Knowing that I could help someone feed their baby in the way they wanted, was a true blessing.
Now, I am hoping that throughout the rest of my breastfeeding journey and in any future journeys, I continue to have excess milk so that I can continue to donate to other mothers.