To date, Ilse and I have had so few nursing issues it's ridiculous. She's a super nurser, and I've had massive amounts of milk.
But I think back to 2008. My sweet newborn Uli. Such terrible, terrible troubles feeding her. A very small mouth that couldn't latch well despite several visits with different lactation consultants. And my milk supply simply refused to come in, whether it was the c-section or the medications or just me... ugh, it didn't matter. It was awful. For a mama who wanted to breastfeed exclusively it was more than disheartening, it was nightmarish.
I pumped round the clock to build my milk supply until she could learn to latch, but we had to come up with some way to feed her in the meantime. Our midwives had connections with a for-purchase milkbank, and I was very grateful for the breastmilk we were able to buy from them. But at $4/oz we weren't going to be able to afford it for long, and I worried my supply wasn't coming in quickly enough to meet Uli's needs.
|Have you milkshared? There's a chance this was your milk!|
I tearfully told one of my friends my situation during a phonecall, and she showed up at my door that same week with nearly 40 oz of her own expressed breastmilk. I felt blessed. Her gift, along with the purchased milk and what meager amounts I was pumping, was enough to feed my hungry little one until she finally grew enough to latch and my milk finally had a chance to come in. It took nearly six weeks, but we did make it. We were a nursing pair!
And then I went back to work. And my supply that had been doing so well with direct feedings dipped once more. The anguish! So I upped the number of times I pumped per day. And took fenugreek. And dropped by the daycare mid-day to get a dose of milk-making baby vibes. And pumped more. And nursed and nursed and nursed whenever my baby and I were together. And it was just enough.
Until one day, it wasn't. I showed up at our daycare provider's house, and I didn't have enough milk for my daughter for the day. The freezer stash I'd carefully built before returning to work had been wholly depleted, and I hadn't gotten enough from pumping the day before. I handed our provider the few ounces I did have and broke down in tears. I didn't know what to do. I was so embarrassed to find myself crying over breastmilk. What would this woman think of me? I imagined her rolling her eyes and telling me to just buy some formula already. But she didn't do anything of the kind. Instead she hugged me. And then offered me something I hadn't expected. She said her daughter (just a month older than Uli) refused to drink from bottles, and thus she had unused expressed milk in her freezer. She offered to share her entire freezer supply with my daughter. I can't fully describe how I felt at that moment, my feelings of gratitude. It was amazing, her gesture. Amazing. I accepted wholeheartedly and Uli thrived.
After that I upped my fenugreek supplementation and pumping sessions. Uli began to eat solid food during the day and nursed more at night. Once she turned a year old we introduced goat and cow milk and then I breathed a sigh of relief. I continued to pump for a few months past her first birthday, but eventually felt okay giving that up. She gradually reduced her time at the breast, eventually nursing only at bedtime.
Uli nursed for the last time earlier this year, when I was a couple months pregnant with Ilse. The first night I didn't nurse her to sleep she asked for my milk a few times but soon accepted that I wasn't able to give it to her. There were no requests the second night. She was weaned. Just like that. I'd imagined the end to our nursing relationship was going to be as dramatic as its beginning. But instead it was simple and sweet. To be cherished.
I am so thankful to the other mothers who shared their milk and helped make Uli's and my nursing relationship possible. If it hadn't been for them we may not have been able to nurse in the first place. Or our nursing may have ended earlier in frustration and with feelings of failure. But instead, my daughter was provided with the breastmilk she needed and I was given the time my body needed to build and rebuild my supply.
Milksharing. It's a beautiful thing.