I only have two kids, but I breastfed three babies.
Yep, I breastfed my two babies and then another baby who wasn’t mine.
In all fairness, I actually pumped for the one who wasn’t mine, but still … that baby drank my breast milk.
Are you cringing yet?
I don’t blame you if you are, because for a while … even I cringed when handing over those bags of my frozen milk.
That “someone else’s baby” was actually my best friend’s baby, a boy only 10 days older than my own son. Unable to pump (and too financially strapped to afford formula), my friend found herself in a desperate situation. She didn’t qualify for any state-assisted food programs and was upset that her son was going to miss out on all the benefits of breast milk that formula simply cannot supplement.
I, on the other hand, was a stay-at-home mom whose milk-laden breasts had engorged to three times their normal size because I was (apparently) a milk-making master. One day, as we were talking about her lactation issues, I made the off-hand comment that I felt like a friggin’ cow.
Without warning, she started to tear up at the thought of what her own son would miss out on.
In an effort to cheer her up, I jokingly said,”Well hell, I’ll feed him.”
As the words left my mouth, my heart suddenly softened and I followed it up with a more sincere, “I will feed him.”
I will feed him.
Immediately after I made my offer, alarm bells rang in my head.
What the hell did I just agree to?
My brain started churning as I mulled the idea over in my head, and although it seemed a little creepy and slightly invasive, I couldn’t actually think of one good reason not to help my friend (aside from my own socially-stigmatized misgivings).
“Would you even want me to?” I asked her.
“Yes, I would,” she answered back, slowly at first and then echoing it a second time to confirm not only to me, but also to herself.
So despite the fact that I was a little unsettled about the whole idea, I pushed forward. After getting a clean bill of health from my doctor (and the approval of her pediatrician), off we went: me pumping and freezing, her thawing and feeding.
I was feeding someone else’s baby with my own breast milk.
Oh, people sure had a lot to say about it. Even though I didn’t go around advertising the situation, our social circle of new moms talked about everything from diapers to circumsicion. Naturally, the topic of milk donation came up one day and I told them about my friend.
The room went silent.
Eventually, someone broke the silence with, “Oh, uh, wow, I didn’t know people did that.”
“That’s disgusting,” said another mother, more forcefully. Her voice so clearly portrayed her strong and unwavering feelings on the subject that I didn’t even respond; nobody wants a brawl during playgroup.
The tension in the air was so thick that if one of our babies had dared cry in that moment, a window might have shattered.
I don’t fault them for their knee jerk reaction — I was also initially a bit skeeved out at the whole idea. But the more I thought about it (and trust me, I had plenty of time while pumping for two babies), the more I became aware of all the other ways we use our bodies to provide for other people.
Blood drives are so acceptable that we often host them in workplaces and schools.
We praise bone marrow donors when they allow someone to suck the marrow directly from their bones and inject it into another person.
Women sell their eggs, men sell their sperm, and we create actual human beings out of said donations!
Hell, we even take organs out of people who die and put them into people who are still alive and no one seems to call that “disgusting.”
But if you tell someone that you donate your breast milk, they recoil in horror.
That doesn’t make any sense to me.
We had wet nurses long before we had Red Cross blood drives, sperm banks, and casual sex, so why is it so socially stigmatized to feed a baby something that nature always intended it to have?
It’s because of boobs, isn’t it? This country (and society in general) has a really hard time grasping the fact that breasts are used for more than just sex, which is made painfully evident by all the public breastfeeding debates.
Who needs real milk when you can have formula without all the boobs!?
I don’t know about you, but if I ever need a blood transfusion, I want real blood. The kind that has everything in it that I need, not a more socially acceptable fake version of it.
So breast milk donation?
Yes, I think I’m more than cool with it. Aren’t you?