It's not every day you wake up to headlines screaming about breast milk sharing. Kudos to celeb mom Alicia Silverstone for making it happen! The vegan mama has had some rather, ahem, questionable parenting choices over the years, but her latest adventure is bringing serious attention to something even us regular moms can relate to: breastfeeding struggles and how to work around them.
As one of those moms who falls in the three out of four American women who start out breastfeeding AND the half who have stopped by 6 months, the Kind Mama Milk Share Silverstone has kicked off is just the sort of thing I wish I'd known about years ago.
I live in a rural area. We don't have a La Leche League. There are no lactation consultants at the hospital where I gave birth (or working for the pediatricians in my community). The nurses at that hospital had poor training -- if any -- on initiating breastfeeding.
And I struggled. Mightily. From severe pain in my arms from pregnancy-induced carpal tunnel that made it hard to hold my daughter to one breast that simply never filled with milk to postpartum depression to a lot of awful tips from the aforementioned nurses (who I trusted because, hey, I was a new mom and thought the medical people knew better!), I didn't make it more than a few weeks despite all my best efforts.
Mine is the story we hear all too often from moms. We try and try and try again, and when we fall short, we blame ourselves. It's been eight years since my daughter was born, and I still carry a bit of guilt around on my shoulders.
But today I'm more empowered than I am guilty. I look at all the options I didn't have, and I want to see them become available for more moms, so they don't have to encounter what I did.
Not every mom will be able to breastfeed.
Even if she wants to (those who don't want to are another blog post ... this is not a knock on them).
But there ARE other options out there, and milk sharing is one of them.
The trouble is, it's not well publicized.
In my little rural community in 2005, I had never heard of such a thing. I didn't know there were women producing so much milk that they had freezers full of bags of boob juice their babies would never drink. I didn't know there were women who cared enough about other people's babies to want to do this for each other.
Would I have taken them up on it? I don't know. I do have fears about safety (although there are a number of pretty easy ways to make breast milk sharing safer).
More From The Stir: 7 Ways to Keep Baby Safe When Using Donor Breast Milk
But I imagine merely having another option, a good option, would have been so ... freeing ... so empowering. It could have given me a chance to balance out the "breast is best" mantra that I'd been raised with as a breastfed kid and older sibling of another breastfed kid with the knowledge that my body just wasn't doing it.
I remember the amount of time I spent weeping during those early days, sometimes by myself, sometimes in the arms of a husband frustrated that he could do nothing to help me, most often while my hungry daughter wailed in my arms, her cries fueled as much by the stress she sensed in me as by her hunger.
Could I have avoided it all? Could it have been so simple?
Maybe not. But MAYBE!
So many of us want to breastfeed our kids, and when we can't, we are devastated. But milk sharing is a close second best, and the options are growing. What we need now is to get attention for them, for moms to spread the word!
Would you join a breast milk share? Would it be as a mom seeking milk or a donor?
Image via aaron_anderer/Flickr