Sunday, January 2, 2011

Bittersweet End

I made my final donation on Thursday.  I've been slowly weaning off the pump over the last month and now I only pump if I'm really engorged in the morning.  My son is 12.5 months old now.  I'm somewhat torn about packing up the pump.  I've been able to give so much through using it, but the pumping era had to end sometime.  We're still nursing 6+ times a day and will be until we decide to wean in another year or so.

I made my first donation in March.  I started pumping for work at three weeks postpartum and went back to work at six weeks, and my freezer filled up far faster than I expected.  I hadn't even heard of milk donation at the time, but I found out about it when I ran a search for something like "what to do with extra breastmilk.  After a lot of thought and research, I decided to donate privately.  I have a lot of dietary restrictions that turned out to be ideal for babies with certain allergies.

My first donation was to a family awaiting the birth of their adoptive child.  My freezer was completely full, with no room left for food, and I gave all of it to them except for about 100oz.  I never held on to that much again, once I saw how quickly I could replenish 100oz.

My last donation was actually to two families -- a pair of twins whose mother just needed an extra 5-10oz a day for daycare, and a little girl with milk allergies whose mother worked and didn't respond well to the pump.  It was my third and second donation to these two families, and I helped the twins get past a year without needing any formula.

I ended up donating a total of 4000oz to 7 babies in 6 families in 4 states over the past 9.5 months.  Sometimes I feel like I shouldn't have weaned off the pump and could have given more, but then I look at those numbers and realize that what I did give was pretty amazing.  It is really hard to move on from being a donor, but I know it is time.  I haven't worked out of them home since the end of July, and I think my son has only taken 2 bottles since then and won't take milk from a cup either.  He is very much a "booby baby" and I love our nursing time, since it is the only time he sits still for a cuddle.

I'm sure I'll be donating again when we have another baby.  It would bother me not to, especially since I now know what my body is capable of.  All the pain and frustration in the beginning was worth it.  I am still breastfeeding my toddler and I also helped grow seven other babies, most of whom are now toddlers or going to be soon.  I'll miss my built-in reading time, but it is nice not to have to schedule my mornings around pumping.  It could be tedious and uncomfortable, but it was worth every moment, every dollar I put into the pump and supplies, and every ounce.  It only seemed weird to me at the beginning, and now milk donation seems like a normal thing to do for anyone healthy with extra milk.  I gave what I could, and what I got in return was far more valuable than money.  I received a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of self worth I'd never felt before.  Helping those babies while watching my own grow up was incredible and I am so happy I was able to be a donor.

My final donation.  I wish I had taken pictures of all of them, but I didn't think about it until the last two.

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