I have had this “problem” with breastfeeding all three of my babies: I make too much milk. This is called oversupply, and I’ve always dealt with it by pumping off some milk when my babies have had longer stretches at night, so I’m not engorged and drown the poor little guys! This worked so well for our first baby Braden and second baby Ethan, because then I had my Freedom Stash – those precious bags of frozen milk that I could thaw and put in a bottle for my husband to give to them so I could sleep in a little longer, or to my mom to give to them while we had a coveted date night.
Jonathan started sleeping long stretches when he was 2 weeks old and often through the night by 8 weeks old. I started pumping and freezing again, and since he was consistently sleeping through the night, I had quite the stash built up. At 6 weeks old, just like his brothers, I introduced him to a bottle and he took it the first try! He took it a few times after that, for practice, but then decided to go on a bottle strike the first time I left him with daddy for a hair appointment when he was about 10 weeks old. Poor baby Jonathan suddenly didn’t want the bottle and was left waiting for me to return. Since the other boys never did this, I guess I took it for granted that he would just keep taking a bottle since he had done it before a few times!
We’ve had a couple of successes and more failed attempts since then. It’s honestly not nearly as important to me to want to or need to have some freedom from Jonathan, it doesn’t bother me that much. So what to do with the hundreds of ounces frozen in my freezer?
Breast Milk Donation
I first heard of breast milk donation when I was pregnant with Ethan. I thought that since I produce so much that it would be so awesome to be a donor to help out preemies in the NICU. However, my stash was quickly depleted with how great Ethan took a bottle, and as he got older the need to pump dwindled, and thus my stash and dreams of donating did too. I fully admit, I think I was at a point where I was too selfish to save to donate. Ethan took a bottle so well and the taste of freedom outweighed my will to donate.
However, now I get my chance to fulfill my dreams of donating my liquid gold to those who truly need it. Even before I realized Jonathan wouldn’t take a bottle regularly, I knew that I just wouldn’t have the time (nor the desire, quite frankly) to leave him as much as I left the other two. I signed up immediately to become a milk donor for the NorthernStar Mothers’ Milk Bank in Calgary. They have been open and taking in donations for 4 and a half years now.
Operating as a charitable organization, NorthernStar screens breastfeeding mothers, accepting donations of excess milk from approved donors to be pasteurized in our laboratory. Milk is then dispensed to sick babies in hospitals and at home. We believe, and science supports, that human milk is the best option for any baby and that all babies have the right to the life-saving nutrients of pasteurized donor human milk.
How Do I Do It?
Well, as I have already said, I naturally just produce a ton of milk. I’d rather have oversupply than under supply, but it does come with its own challenges, believe me. My babies have all spat and sputtered at the amount of milk I make and I have an overactive and fast letdown that they all had to learn to cope with too. They have also been extremely spitty babies…progressively getting worse! So I decided, with Jonathan, that I would actively pump and donate my excess milk. It’s a win/win for everyone — I pump off milk so Jonathan doesn’t get too much/overwhelmed/drown and I donate that milk to babies who really, really need it.
I wake up before Jonathan every morning, and after about 10 hours of not feeding him, I’m more-than-ready to pump. My sister-in-law lent me her Medela Pump In Style double electric pump when he was born. I had used the older model of the Medela Swing electric pump for my first two babies…and wow! What a difference and time-saver it is to have a double pump! Now I have the Medela Freestyle double electric pump and I cannot recommend it enough. It is small, portable, light-weight, and can run well on batteries if need be (3 hours of pumping per charge), and you can use it hands-free.
My very favourite feature of the Medela Freestyle double pump: the 2-Phase Expression technology. Have you ever watched your baby breastfeed? At first they start out suckling fast to trigger your letdown and then they take long and slow sucks; the Medela Freestyle mimics this and I’m done my pumping session in 5 minutes!
I love that this is pumping system is so compact and it comes with it’s own bag that can hold everything you need for your travelling and pumping needs. I can see why it’s Medela’s most popular breast pump and a PTPA winner.
Ethan, Jonathan and I drove in to Calgary to the NorthernStar Mothers’ Milk Bank and dropped off my very first donation. We filled 4 of their bags, and if my counting and calculations are correct, I donated about 16.1 litres of milk! I’m already pumping and saving for my next donation!
Disclosure: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Medela Canada and I received compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.
Edited: When this post was first published, I estimated my donation to be 17 litres. The milk bank emailed me after this post went live to tell me that my official donation count is 16.1 litres.