My Milksharing Experience

This week is world milksharing week. Milk sharing is something that I never really thought of until I had a child. Honestly, it didn't even cross my mind as a possibility or as something people did - which is weird since it really wasn't that long ago that women sharing breast milk with one another and nursing each others babies would have been a normal part of society (think wet nurses).

I have to admit that even when I first realized that this was an option instead of formula I still felt a little strange about it. I mean I thought it was great and definitely supported women milk sharing, but when I thought about someone else nursing my child or giving my child someone else's breast milk, well, then I felt a little strange about it. It felt a bit weird to me. I remember when my son was just a few months old talking with a friend about it and about how we would feel having someone else nurse our baby, or giving our baby someone else's milk. I remember thinking that donor milk is probably the choice I would make if I ever needed to supplement for some reason, but I also remember thinking that I would probably feel a little uncomfortable about it.

But, when I actually had the opportunity to experience another women nursing my baby I felt none of the discomfort that I thought I would feel. In fact it felt like the most natural, normal thing in the world. You see when my daughter was born just three weeks ago she struggled with weight gain. When she was just three days old she had lost 12% of her birth weight and weighed only 5 pounds 2 ounces. Our midwife recommended supplementing with donor milk if my milk didn't come in by that night. Well, it didn't (in fact my milk didn't come in until late in the day on day five). So, I called a friend and she came over right away with some frozen breast milk for us. While she was here she nursed baby Sage. Instead of feeling uncomfortable, I felt relieved and grateful, loved and cared for by a friend and fellow mommy. This simple act, that cost my friend very little, made me feel truly supported during the fragile first days that are the postpartum experience. I will always remember her generosity with gratitude and deep thankfulness.

I think the fact that I hadn't really heard of milk sharing as a viable option for supplementation until about two years ago, and the fact that I at first felt an underlying sense of discomfort in the idea, even though I support it theoretically, just goes to show what a great job formula companies have done convincing us that their way is normal and best, instead of the more natural way that women have been dealing with things for centuries, through sisters and aunts and friends sharing the breast milk they had in a abundance with those who needed it.

That is why i think events like world milk sharing week are so important. We need women to speak out and help normalize milk sharing so that mothers recognize donor milk as an option for supplementation. So that no women thinks that formula is her ONLY choice. And we need women to talk about their own experience with milk sharing so

that we can begin to normalize societal feelings about milk sharing. I will never forget my own personal experience with donor milk and milk sharing and how significant and helpful it was for me and my daughter. I am so glad that I called that friend and didn't let my discomfort in asking her to help me, or my uncertainty about how I would feel about it, get in the way. It was truly a beautiful gift that she gave my daughter and I am nothing but grateful.

Rejoicing in the journey -

Bethany Stedman