In a previous post, I shared how we were able to give Little Piñata breastmilk from the time we brought him home from the hospital. This was mostly due to a mother who wanted to donate 1,500 oz. of breastmilk to us! We planned to pick up the milk from her about a week after we brought Little Piñata home, but getting out of the house was very tricky at that point in time; so my sweet mom agreed to meet the donor at a local McDonalds. She loaded up her car with a few coolers and we thought it would be a pretty simple exchange.
BUT, if you know much about frozen breastmilk you know that three coolers is not enough to store 1,500 oz of breastmilk! Especially when many of these bags had 8-10 oz in them! When my mom got there, she quickly realized she would need at least 4-5 more containers to store the frozen milk. She bought 5 styrofoam coolers at the gas station on the corner, thanked “Susan” profusely and called me right away! We laughed out loud together on the phone! Laughs of humor, but also gratefulness and a bit of panic. Where in the world would we find the freezer space for this? We had cleaned out the freezers in both my parents’ and our own house, but that was still not nearly enough storage space for all this milk. We were at a loss as to how to get immediate freezer space.
I had a newborn sleeping in the other room and Mr. Piñata was at work all day. I began researching deep freezers online, but knew we would need a temporary place to store it all until a good freezer was purchased and in our house. So, I directed my mom to drive to our church. Mr. Piñata was leading an all-day choir rehearsal and we thought surely someone in the choir would have a deep freezer where we could temporarily store 1,500 oz of milk, right? ;-)
With her 8 full coolers she drove to the church, but without any luck. Although one choir member suggested Craigslist. So, on a whim I checked it and there was a deep freezer listed for $70 at a garage sale less than 2 miles from the church where my mom was. It was almost 1pm by then, so I figured it had already been sold, but I gave my mom directions over the phone just in case. And the deep freezer was still there! We were ecstatic!!
We had been a bit nervous about feeding breastmilk from a stranger to our son. We couldn’t think of an ulterior motive of someone donating that much “contaminated” or “harmful” breastmilk, but it was still an uneasy feeling. After the coincidence of finding this deep freezer at the perfect time, we thought God really wanted Little P to have this milk! I got off the phone from my mom to let her handle the details.
This is where the story becomes a true miracle to us. Even though I lived through it, I just can’t believe this really happened. My mom called back to tell me that the woman selling the freezer was a lactation consultant. Yep. An expert in breastfeeding and all things related to breastmilk. :-) My mom started telling her the story about the woman that just donated her milk and the lactation consultant said, “Oh, I know “Susan”! I’m her lactation consultant! She’s so wonderful and sweet. She was devastated to give away all that milk that she pumped, but she’s so glad to find someone that could really use it!”
Oh.my.goodness! This was incredible! We took this opportunity to ask her quite a few questions about the safe handling, thawing and storage of breastmilk. My sister drove out with the family van to pick up the freezer (my mom didn’t have room with all the frozen breastmilk in her car). I started feverishly cleaning out our little storage room to make room for a deep freezer. What a day!
That milk lasted us quite a while!! Little P was still drinking some of “Susan’s” supply at 6 months. Of course that wasn’t the only milk we had. Along the line Little Piñata has had a total of about a dozen donors. Soon after returning home with LP, a close friend with a 2 month old said she wanted to pump twice a day and donate what she produced to us. This was such an amazing gift! And as other friends heard we wanted to give him breastmilk, we got connected to many other donors! We got matched up with a couple of local moms that were over-producing and who donated hundreds of ounces each to LP in just a few months’ time!
Even now at 15 months, Little Piñata is still getting at least 5 oz of donated breastmilk a day! He was almost exclusively fed breastmilk the first 6 months of his life. When he was around 7-8 months old we got to the point where our supply was at its lowest. And even then he got about 1/3 formula and 2/3 breastmilk. Once he turned a year old, we gave him about 10 oz of breastmilk and the rest goat’s milk, and have slowly gotten down to just about 5 oz a day.
This has definitely been more of a gift than we EVER would have imagined. I tried to nurse Little Piñata a few times using the SNS (supplemental nursing system) when he was a few weeks old, but it involved a lot of screaming and stress and we ended up not sticking to it. It’s so miraculous that even though I haven’t personally produced a single ounce of breastmilk, our 15 month old child is still drinking some each day! For me it’s a wonderful reminder of the importance of community. I love this story because there are so many selfless people involved and we just got to be a part of their generosity. It’s because of a dozen women that my son was able to have the gift of breastmilk that I was never able to give him myself. To this day I am so grateful to all of his “milk mamas.” They will always be such special women to our family because of not only the milk they gave, but the kind and generous spirit in which it was given.
What are some experiences that have led you to know that parenting happens as part of the greater community? How have others helped support your children in ways that make you eternally grateful?