Got Milk?

Warning: This is a long entry, thank you in advance for sticking it out ’til the end. It’s worth it, I promise!……

According to Wikipedia:

A wet nurse is a woman who breast feeds and cares for another’s child. Wet nurses are employed when the mother is unable or chooses not to nurse the child herself. Wet-nursed children may be known as “milk-siblings”, and in some cultures the families are linked by a special relationship of milk kinship. 

In contemporary affluent Western societies particularly affected by the successful marketing of infant formula, the act of nursing a baby other than one’s own often provokes cultural squeamishness, notably in the United States. When a mother is unable to nurse her own infant, an acceptable mediated substitute is screened, pasteurized, expressed milk (or especially colostrum) donated to milk banks, analogous to blood banks, a sort of bureaucratic wet-nurse. 

I’ve done a lot of research on this topic for Baby S’s sake. Given my druthers, I would have tried to breast feed since I personally believe that there are helpful antibodies in that liquid gold.

I totally understand that it’s a hard thing to do and not every woman who desires to breast feed can successfully do it. Some have trouble getting their milk to come in, while others can’t produce enough milk, still others face the challenge of a baby who won’t latch or nipples that are inverted etc.  I also understand that women who have had work done on their breasts (reduction and/or enlargement) can also face difficulties. There are a million and one reasons why breast feeding may not work out.  I also understand that some women just aren’t that into it and have zero desire to even try.  To each her own, I say! My beliefs aren’t intended to make you feel badly about the choices you’ve made for your child. Quite frankly, it’s none of my business!

But again, for me personally, I would’ve liked to try and do it. Enter the modern day Milk Bank. As Wikipedia referenced above, the Milk Bank is now a viable option for people like me.  Most people tend to think that the milk in banks will go to babies in the NICU or to multiples whose mama can’t produce enough milk to feed all her little ones. But, someone like me can also avail themselves of the bank.  I got my OB-GYN to write me an RX so that we can feed Baby S a 50/50 split of breast milk and formula for the first month of her life.  If all goes well with that, our pediatrician can keep writing RX’s for us, until we’re ready to move her to formula 100%.

The way our local milk bank works is women who are super producers and who pumped and froze their extra milk, donate it.  The bank we will work with will only take milk that is expressed between birth and 6 months. They do this because they blend the milk together to make it a “universal” age. It would be way too expensive to keep every mother’s milk separated out.  The bank goes to the donating mother’s home to collect the milk and give the mother a blood test to be sure she’s healthy, the milk is pasteurized and blended and put into glass bottles. As you can imagine, all these steps come at a price.  Those expenses are passed along to the recipient mom — at a cost of $3.75 an ounce. Yup, you read that correctly, shit is spendy! But worth it to us.

By way of background, the average cost of powder formula is 11 cents an ounce and ready to drink liquid formula is anywhere from 28 to 50 cents an ounce. So, 240 ounces (at $3.75/oz) from our milk bank will cost us $960 (including shipping and handling) and will last us approximately 20 days if we’re doing a 50/50 split with formula.

Our pocketbook is going to take a hit, but fine, let’s do this! This is money well spent in our opinion. Liquid gold, here we come! (For those of you wondering, yes, I called my insurance — and no, sadly, there is zero coverage for women like me who are unable to breast feed due to breast cancer — something we should work on for the future….)

BUT WAIT, it gets even better.  Recently, Paul’s cousin Beth who lives on the east coast (and has two kids, her youngest is 8 months old) texted me and said:

You can tell me this is totally crazy but I really do think I was a wet nurse in a former life – I have donated 550 ounces of BM already and will have even more soon. Not donating it again but I am a totally qualified donor 🙂 The milk is good for up to 5 months – again this could be insane but do you guys want it? I will say it’s not lactose free or dairy free but it surely packs the pounds on Ben 🙂

Ummmmm, HOLY SHIT — YES! We’re not squeamish in the least about this.  I can’t wait for Baby S and her cousin Ben to be milk siblings! Beth is an incredible mom; and, as an added bonus, she’s family. How much better could this get?? She’s sending us slightly over 300 ounces of unadulterated milk! She is our very own wet nurse!

I ended up canceling our milk bank order for now. If we want, we can still get it after we use up Beth’s milk.

Side note, thank goodness Paul and I are both from Buffalo. Anyone from Buffalo will tell you that we all had a supplemental fridge or freezer in our garage or basement growing up. Well, even in our small San Francisco Edwardian home, we do indeed have a supplemental deep freeze in our storage room 🙂 HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Normally, it’s filled with Trader Joe’s goods — but we’ve made room for our cache of breast milk! YAY!

I wrote this blog entry as I waited the UPS delivery from Beth.  She had to buy a special cooler and dry ice to get the milk to us from the east coast.  Happy to say that I just received the shipment. The milk arrived 100% frozen and is now safe ‘n sound in our deep freeze. Below are some pics (I love to document everything).

See, I told you it was worth reading until the end. Paul and I genuinely can’t find the words to tell Beth how grateful we are to her.  What an incredible gift she’s giving our child.  I cry just thinking about it.

 

8 thoughts on “Got Milk?

  1. I loved reading this! I’m currently nursing and I don’t have a whole lot left to donate but I’m thrilled you have found such an amazing gift! Love reading all your posts. You are going to be an amazing mom:)

  2. I am so truley happy for you Andrea. This brought a tear to my eye. I am a strong believer in things happen for a reason. Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I love all the updates and True stories. The good the bad and the ugly. Enjoy the rest of your pregnancy and look forward to pictures of baby S drinking from her bottle!!!

  3. “Thank goodness Paul and I are both from Buffalo. Anyone from Buffalo will tell you that we all had a supplemental fridge or freezer in our garage or basement growing up..”

    So true. Or sometimes we just put things we wanted to keep cold on the floor of the garage. No fridge needed at all in Buffalo. Can’t really do that in SF..

  4. I had a friend who was literally bursting at the seams with milk when she had her first. He was unbelievably fat and happy and she still had plenty left over – which she donated here in Santa Rosa. That said, as the formula fed adopted mom of two whipsmart adopted kiddos both raised on formula, I can honestly say that neither one of them has any allergies. Either way – bottle or breastfed – you will nourish your baby successfully and with love. Women, especially, should stop beating other up over this. To my mind it’s a lot like the SAHM vs ‘working’ mother debate. You do what’s best for YOU and YOUR family.
    I predict you and Paul will spend many happy hours ensconced in some cozy chair breathing in the lovely scent of milky baby!

  5. Awesome. Totally agree with your philosophy on ‘to breast feed or not to breast feed’…..and also believe you should totally get the chance to do it your way, cancer or not. What an amazing, amazing gift.

  6. So happy you’ve got family willing to donate milk and a spare freezer. Milk siblings seems like such a cool bond to have for your baby, and, agreed with Buffalo that a spare freezer is required. When my dad passed away he had 3, one for each kid! So happy for you and Paul.

  7. I am a current breast cancer patient right now and stumbled upon your blog doing a google search on young women and breast cancer. I’m 29 and facing a double mastectomy, and honestly one of the things that kills me is that if I ever have children I won’t be able to breast feed them. This post made me smile. To hell with breast cancer, you’re breast feeding anyway! Love it, congrats, and best of luck.

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