Thursday, March 10, 2011

“Psst… got some breast milk, step into my alley”

I’ve got an oversupply.  In the time since Chiron was born, I’ve fed a stranger’s baby from an hour away who needed to fill a temporary lull in supply, I don’t know how many numbers of babies in the NICU or with prescriptions through my almost 20 gallons worth of donations to the milk bank and one baby who was born “too old” to get donor milk in the NICU whose mother really did not want her to have formula and whose milk came in slower than what the NICU wanted for her daughter’s intake (this was done completely under the table, i.e. she labeled it as her own).

I’ve been kind of hush-hush about this, but suddenly it hit me that I had no idea why I was!  Or why I was relatively (for me) hush-hush on the whole topic.  We don’t bat an eye at cow’s milk, why should breast milk be a big deal?  I am blessed to have an oversupply in that I CAN help others.  Why not celebrate and embrace this?

Similarly, why is breast milk a biohazard whereas spilling cow’s milk would just be an annoyance or a mess?  Only thing I can come up with is the slight risk of communicable diseases?

We have two friends who moved to another part of the country a few years ago.  They have a daughter who was born just a little after Chiron (full-term), and while the mom is supplying most of the milk their daughter needs, her supply just isn’t quite keeping up with the demand.  From Facebook she knew I was donating to the milk bank (see the relatively hush-hush comment), so she sent me a message that rather tentatively asked if we would consider sending them some of our excess if they’d cover the costs.  I hate that this was tentative.  Knowing that I had an oversupply, I wish she had been confident that we wouldn’t see this as a weird request and would be eager to help and share. 

Why is milk such a taboo?

As part of my answer to that, I must admit that I am a hypocrite.  I avoid discussing this topic, and in particular pumping, at all costs with my boss.  Actually, despite pumping with both pregnancies in the office, I have never once discussed it with him.  I just flip the lock on my door and shut it.  In fact, we have a conference coming up in a couple weeks and while it is in town, the hours are long enough that I absolutely will need to pump while there, so I have booked a room at the conference hotel.  I feel confident that the firm would reimburse for this (though perhaps ask that I attend the hospitality suite as long as I have a room there), but I’m so hesitant to discuss it that I’m considering just eating the $170 or so for each of the two or three days.  Sigh, I really think I need to man up on this.  And I’m this level of a hypocrite with a great firm behind me.

Similarly, I forgot a cooler this morning, so I ran home to get one.  It did not even cross my mind to just store them in the refrigerator.  Albeit, I live about a mile from the office and I needed to go home to trade cars with Paul at some point during the day anyway, but what amazes me is that I honestly didn’t even think of the possibility of getting through the day without a cooler until I was driving to the house.  I could easily have grabbed a grocery sack from the stash in the kitchen and stored the milk in the refrigerator.  But I didn’t.

My honest guess is the hush-hush nature is the result of two things.  First, it is a bodily function/fluid and generally we don’t discuss those much in society.  And second, it relates to BOOBS.  OMG, I just said BOOB.  BREAST, hehehehe.  I don't think wetnurses were Ishmaelites though, so it can't have always been this way.

So while I get it, I think perhaps we should get over it.  While it might be a bodily fluid, it’s also a food option for babies.  There is no problem talking about formula, so I’d like to see that courtesy extended to breast milk.  Perhaps even more so, because in some cases breast milk can be a life saving alternative to formula such as where it prevents the development of necrotizing enterocolitis in micro-preemies!

I’ve got no plan to make this happen other than to try to cut back on my own hush-hush behavior.  And honestly, I’m labeling that as “try” because I’m not sure I will pull it off. 


  1. I'm trying right along with you! I don't understand the hush hush with breast milk, and definitely don't want to offend. I'm doing my best to show (and tell) others how normal and wonderful it is.

    You should at least ask work to reimburse for your pumpiung room. It gives them an opportunity to show how pump friendly they are. I'm sure they would love to be able to say, "We support breastfeeding moms, look what we recently did ..."

  2. What a blessing your extra milk has been to so many! Wow. What a privilege. I think the main thing is the communicable disease thing...and like you mentioned folks are so sexualized about the breast in our society, that anything dealing with it is "weird" to talk about.

  3. It's very odd that talking about breast milk is such a taboo.

    I think it's wonderful that you have helped so many babies. I had a bad time with my supply during my daughter's NICU stay and would have loved to have had the option of an 'under the table deal'!