Special Delivery In Seattle- A Tale of Donated Breastmilk

It’s a good thing I’m not a modest person. My trip through security on my way to Seattle involved lots of hollering back and forth about my “BREAST PUMP!” and me “BREASTFEEDING!” and confused looks and requests for inspection… and so on and so forth. Β But I made it through without any real hiccups or drama.

I shoved my Hygeia Enjoye back in my already over stuffed tote bag and made my way to the Starbucks. Standing in line, I heard faint crying noisesΒ coming from my bag. Heads turned, eyes shifted. “Oh, it’s just my breast pump,” I smiled, making everyone in line all squirmy and uncomfortable. (The Enjoye has a feature where you can record your baby’s cries to help with let down.) It provided much fun and entertainment for me as it continued to randomly play throughout my wait in the terminal while people, I’m sure, wondered how and why I would be smuggling a baby on board.

While in flight, I had to lug my bag to the butt-crack sized closet known as the restroom on the plane to pump. One quarter turn of my head in there and I was glad I also had my small, manual pump with me. There wasn’t enough room in there for me to take my sweater off, let alone set up an electric pump. Plus, I didn’t even want to know what the passengers and flight attendants would think about the noises coming from within. I pumped out 5 ounces in about 5 minutes, then realized I didn’t bring a cap for the bottle I pumped into and left my storage bags in my checked baggage. I figured if I left the bottle attached to the pump, zipped tightly inside a cooler, and kept it in my bag upright, it wouldn’t be an issue.

Fast forward to baggage claim. I lean over, tote slung across my shoulder (now randomly playing airplane noises, which somehow recorded over my crying baby and, I’m pretty sure, don’t do anything for letdown), and I feel something wet on my arm. Hmmm… that’s strange. I double checked the cap on my water bottle and figured it was condensation.

However, upon further inspection once I arrived at the hotel, I discovered a full 2.5 ounces were missing from the bottle, the entire bottom of my bag was soaked with breastmilk, and I’m fairly certain at least an ounce of it leaked out into the overhead compartment without my knowledge. Let that be your PSA.

Always check the overhead cabin for breastmilk before laying your bag up there.

As I type this, I can smell the sour breastmilk wafting from my unpacked baggage. Excuse me… let me just go toss that in the wash real quick. ::gag::

I decided to just haul my handy, small manual pump with me out to Nintendo HQ the next day. Nintendo was a very super secret place where they didn’t allow us to take any photos (except in a very plain, devoid of anything super interesting room), and they required us to be escorted everywhere… even to the bathroom (with the CUTEST silhouette of the Princess outside the ladies room, which I totally wanted to take a picture of and Tweet, but I’m in no place to deal with a lawsuit).

The first time I went to pump, I felt I should warn my escort that my bathroom visit would be a while.

“I’m probably going to be at least 10 minutes,” I said.

He looked concerned.

“Oh, it’s just because I’m going to need to pump.”

He looked confused.

“Like, breastmilk, you know? I’m breastfeeding and-”

“Oh! Yeah. Fine. Okay,” he hurriedly cut me off with a “Whoa! TMI” look.

You’d think I just told him, “I’m going to go into the bathroom, expose my breasts, attach these suction cups the size of a cat’s head to my nipples and milk myself like a dairy cow,” all while miming the process.

But he was cute and nice and obviously not used to being around lactating women. It was funny.

Throughout the 2.5 days I was there, I pumped and saved 64 ounces. And on Saturday morning, minutes before my shuttle picked me up, I handed it off to a mother from Portland, visiting friends in Seattle. She plans to use it to supplement her own breastmilk supply for her 3 month old daughter (born on Leyna’s due date). She expressed her gratitude several times, offered to buy me coffee and gave me a big hug. It was an AMAZING feeling.

A week ago I wasn’t even thinking of donating my milk to anyone. I was struggling with the decision to bring it home with me on the plane or dump it. Neither option was one I was really comfortable with. I already had so much stuff I was lugging home with me, and the trip logistics were stressful enough. I didn’t want to deal with hauling it all home. But to dump it? Gah. No. That just couldn’t happen.

Then I posted this blog the day before I left. I knew women donate breastmilk, but didn’t think I had enough time to coordinate it, to fill out paperwork or get bloodwork done. A couple readers and Facebook fans pointed me to HM4HB (Human Milk 4 Human Babies). I posted on the Washington chapter’s Facebook page that I was willing to donate what I pumped if someone could pick it up from me at the hotel, and I had a reply within minutes. Easy peasy.

She didn’t ask that I have any medical tests done. It was very much an honor system. She asked if I had any illnesses, was on any medication or any special diets. I informed her I’d be having some adult beverages while there, and she was comfortable with that. Beyond that, there was no paperwork to fill out, no doctors to see, no tests to take.

Now, I’ll be honest and say I’m not sure I’d ever be comfortable feeding my children breastmilk from strangers (though I would consider breastmilk from women I know well), BUT I had no problem giving it, and I certainly don’t judge my recipient for using it. Just, for me, I’m not sure it’s something I’d feel comfortable with (and I know my husband wouldn’t). What about you?

Regardless, it felt like the right thing to do, and I’d rather it go to a family who needs it than to the Seattle sewer system.

I’ll be back tomorrow to share more details about my Seattle trip to Nintendo and how MIND BLOWING the new Nintendo 3DS (#SAMP) is, but I just had to share this story with you all today. It warmed my heart that rainy, cold and gray day.

Kendall is 2 years 11 months and Leyna is 3 months old

  • Dagmar ~ Dagmar's momsense - Hi Jill,

    what a wonderful thing you were able to do! I wish I would have thought of something like this in the last 4,5 years. I’m going to BlogHer this year and would love to donate some milk, but I only have a hand pump and don’t think I’d be able to pump much at this point — L only nurses to sleep and maybe one more time during the day.

    Thanks for this great example of generosity between moms!

    Will I see you at BlogHer again?

    Dagmar
    Dagmar’s momsenseReplyCancel

    • Jill - Thanks! Yes, I definitely plan to make it to Blogher this year. Looking forward to catching up!ReplyCancel

  • Melissa B. - I think it’s awesome that you donated your breast milk! Major Kudos! Airport security is such a hassle, I think the donation was a great idea.

    I, like you, wouldn’t be comfortable giving my baby a stranger’s milk but if I was in the situation where I couldn’t produce enough or had other circumstances preventing myself from feeding my child breastmilk it might be a different story….

    We need more lactating Momma’s like you in the world πŸ˜‰ Glad your trip was relatively uneventful!ReplyCancel

  • Jenn-O - Awesome!! I’m so glad you got to donate it and everything worked out. Kudos to you!ReplyCancel

  • Myndee - Good for you! When my milk dried up after I got pregnant a second time, I was really bummed that my daughter wouldn’t get breastmilk for a full year. At that point, I would’ve taken donated milk from someone I knew- even if I just “e-knew” them. And I would gladly donate any extra I had to someone in need. I’m glad you were able to help another mama out like that!! πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

    • Myndee - I wanted to add- 64oz in 2.5 days…IMPRESSIVE!!ReplyCancel

  • Ado - Hi, I just found your blog through Twitter – I was intrigued by the idea of donating your breast milk to a stranger and here I am. What a great posts. So glad I stopped by. Plan to read more. (-:
    PS: “But-crack sized airplane bathroom!” I’m rolling!”ReplyCancel

  • pamela - Oh that is so sweet! you totally made her day!ReplyCancel

  • Janine @ Alternative Housewife - Love it! I think that I would take breast milk from a stranger if the other option was formula. And I know I’d rather use a friend than a milk bank. I feel like it’s an honor system that works because there is no payment involved and moms who breastfeed are choosey about what goes to babies otherwise they would probably not be BF. (I know that’s not PC but it’s true.)

    I love that you name-drop Starbucks in a post about Seattle. Also, small world that your milk ended up with a mama from Portland, which is where I am. πŸ™‚ Oh, and also very cool that your pump has that record feature!ReplyCancel

  • Denae - I love the idea of donating. Like you I dont know if I would feed my child anyones breastmilk. I would trust people I know well or milk from a milkbank. i have always said that if I ever overproduce I will donate to the milkbank. I love the idea of helping feed babies – especially NICU or special needs babies.ReplyCancel

  • Holly - I would absolutely use donated breast milk if I couldn’t breastfeed my child! With all the crap I have found in the past in formula and friends have found (and has been reported on the news) I wouldn’t use it ever again for my children… BTDT unhappy with the results.. I would ask many of the same questions.. drugs, alcohol, diet, meds, illnesses.. I would also (which you may/may not know) go through the persons facebook page πŸ™‚ Believe it or not a facebook page says a LOT about a person! πŸ™‚ Going through their info, wall and “likes” gives you an awesome insight into a person πŸ™‚ Do you play online/facebook games? Do you cheat at them (believe it or not there are cheats and I *absolutely* feel that cheating at an online, virtual game with no tangible win says a lot about a person and their honesty!). Do you like pages like “I got WASTED last night”, “Marijuana should be legal”, Disease/illness support groups.. does your wall talk about how your husband is a cheater or you are a cheater (STD/STI possibility), are you talking about your three times daily trip to McDonalds or your home grown garden… the facebook page just says SO much! Now don’t get me wrong.. I’m not judging on any of those positions.. just saying that if you were making a quick evaluation of a person that these would give some great insight into them πŸ™‚ You can get a real feel for a person and therefore might not want as many “assurances” from a mother that is donating to your child πŸ™‚ I donate milk and I have been asked for blood tests from my pregnancy and I have been asked just a few questions.. I also have been asked for my SONS medical records to show that he is growing nicely and consistently on my milk. I have arranged with a friend that if anything happens to me she is to take my son and breastfeed him until he naturally weans.. and if something happened to my milk supply tomorrow I would be on HM4HB within hours getting milk for him πŸ™‚ You can pasteurize the milk but it does kill some of the goodness. MOST items are not passed through BM though.. so it is actually very safe πŸ™‚ HM4HB has more info on the safeness of donated breast milk for anyone that is interested in finding out more … rather than just being grossed out by the idea. πŸ™‚ Awesome that you were able to donate and help out the momma rather than dumping the milk πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

  • MamaCampbell - As a recipient of HM4HB donated milk for the past 2 months now, I want to thank you for sharing your story & sharing your milk with that mama & baby! I hope more moms will start doing the same. I cannot produce enough milk for my son after literally trying everything, but donor breastmilk made it possible for us to avoid formula supplements for the past 2 months. I am so grateful for mamas like you who help me make it possible to feed my baby how I wish my body would let me. (and my son is THRIVING on breastmilk, whereas he had tummy troubles on formula supplements). I know that my son is still getting the best, whether or not it’s totally from me. Several of my milky mamas have shown me their prenatal blood tests, and others I have a dialog with to get to know them & answer questions. I find another way to get to know your donor is friending them on facebook–you can learn a lot about someone by reading their wall posts, what sorts of pictures they put up, etc. We need more mamas like you out there! :o)ReplyCancel

    • MamaCampbell - P.S. I have the same pump and it cracks me up what sorts of things it accidentally records or my girls record. ;o)ReplyCancel

  • Elizabeth Flora Ross - That is so incredibly cool! I wish I’d thought about donating when I ended up with a freezer full of breast milk after I decided I would not be going back to work after all. Shortly thereafter, my daughter decided she would never drink pumped milk again. Had to have fresh milk directly from the source. I HATED having to dump one single ounce of my milk. I was able to use some to make rice cereal when she started eating that. But a lot got wasted. πŸ™

    You did an awesome thing, but it’s no surprise! That’s just you! πŸ™‚

    Also, your stories from the trip cracked me up!ReplyCancel

  • Caitlin - I’m so glad you were able to find someone who needed it and it all worked out! I’m not sure if you knew, but milk donation has been a hot topic as of recent, with Eats for Feets growing, now called Human Milk 4 Human Babies. A friend of mine was interviewed by NPR about using donated milk, you can listen read here:
    http://www.npr.org/2011/01/24/133110199/moms-who-cant-nurse-find-milk-donors-online
    Here is her story about why she uses donated milk:
    http://www.drmomma.org/2010/12/joshuas-story-why-i-chose-another.htmlReplyCancel

  • Kristen - My baby is 3.5 months old and I’m still in full oversupply omg-I’m-drowning-him phase. Totally thinking of donating milk through the same place you did. Just not sure if I should have a supply to donate already or pump on an as need basis if someone near me pops up with a need for milk.ReplyCancel

  • Chelsea - I’ve been donating breastmilk for a year and a half and it is a great feeling. I donate to a “breast friend” (as my husband calls them) that I met at a breast feeding support group at a local hospital.

    I found out I was pregnant when my first son was 4 months and my supply dropped drastically around 20 weeks. I had donated thousands of ounces and didnt have a huge freezer stash anymore. I was still nursing and had enough for almost the rest of his first year for daycare. I ended up using donated breast milk two days before my second son was born and my milk came back in.

    I am very thankful that I had this option. Although I wasnt sure I would be able to accept it before I needed it, the situation arouse and I didnt have any other choice (in my mind).

    I am currently tandem nursing an 18 month old and a 5 month old and pumping for another “breast friend” who is in need of donated milk and I wouldnt have it any other way.

    From a mother who has donated milk and used donated milk, THANK YOU.ReplyCancel

  • Jill - You rock. That is all.ReplyCancel

  • Lorien - I got the link to your blog from HM4HB facebook and I just wanted to say two small things: first, you are AWESOME for donating your milk — I donated a bit too when we found out my small frying wouldn’t drink my milk from any container that wasn’t my boob. Second, seriously funny blog which I am cheerfully bookmarking as I type.ReplyCancel

  • Lorien - I got the link to your blog from HM4HB facebook and I just wanted to say two small things: first, you are AWESOME for donating your milk — I donated a bit too when we found out my small frying wouldn’t drink my milk from any container that wasn’t my boob. Second, seriously funny blog which I am cheerfully bookmarking as I type πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Courtney - What a tremendous gift you gave her! I dealt with oversupply issues when my son was first born, and I worked to correct them. It was painful, and I got mastitis twice in his first 6 weeks. I wonder if I should have pumped the excess and donated it…but I fear that would have contributed to a continued oversupply problem.

    Also, now I’m wondering if I don’t quite have this pumping thing down…I pump for around 20 minutes/session while I’m at work, and if I get 4 oz, I feel like a badass. How are you getting 5 oz in 5 minutes with a manual pump? Should I try that instead??ReplyCancel

    • Upstatemamma - I pumped A LOT when my baby was little (I was working to build up my supply so I could give the baby I was adopting breastmilk as well) and I did find that I could get more with a manual when I was hitting walls with my electric. I would not only pump but I would also use my other hand to squeeze my breast and help get all of the milk out. Sorry about the visual. It worked wonders. I would do that for a few days and then I could go back to my electric pump and would get teh same amount.ReplyCancel

      • Courtney - Thanks for the advice! Maybe I need to go get a manual pump this week. I thought electric would be much easier and more efficient, but I’m willing to try anything to make sure I keep up with my son’s intake!

        I sort of wish I hadn’t corrected the oversupply problem so I wouldn’t have to worry about keeping up…but mastitis twice in his first 6 weeks was making me want to throw in the towel on breastfeeding. And I’m so glad I didn’t! πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

    • Jill - Keep in mind that this was after 5 hours of not breastfeeding or pumping, early in the day, and I produce an oversupply to begin with.ReplyCancel

      • Courtney - Thanks, Jill. For some reason my body is backwards, and I tend to pump more in the afternoon!ReplyCancel

  • Upstatemamma - I think it is a wonderful thing that you did. I agree that I most likely would not take breastmilk from strangers but I would and have donated my extra milk to women in need. It is way better for that milk to go to a baby and a mom who can use it than to have to dump it.ReplyCancel

  • Khristi - I donate to the milk bank in Canada but they thoroughly screen, blood work and everything, as well they pasteurize the milk, so if I was getting donated milk I’d do it through them. And you need a doctor’s prescription get some. Demand is high and supply is low.ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - I’m just sitting here chuckling at all these women who are coming to you blog from the H4 site, maybe excepting all sweetness and light from such an angel who would do such a thing. Wait until they get to the archives and find all the f-bombs. πŸ™‚

    I, too, think it’s awesome you donated and am so glad to hear how easy it was. I would definitely take breast milk from a stranger but I’m no germaphobe to begin with. Anyone who is caring enough to donate milk is caring enough not to donate with an illness. I mean, who would even do that?ReplyCancel

  • Lynda - I have insufficient glandular tissue and no matter what I did, I was unable to produce enough breastmilk for my children. My first had primarily formula in hist first year.

    With my second, I was lucky enough to connect with a lactivist friend from high school who just had a baby and offered her extra milk to me. When she went on vacation, she set me up with an acquaintance of hers (a complete stranger to me) who offered me milk when she was away.

    I understand people who are kind of wigged out by feeding stranger milk or donating at all, but for me it was such a blessing for my baby to be able to drink BREASTMILK and not need to buy formula nearly as often.

    I wish milk donation was all around easier. It’s a godsend.

    Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • Beth M - It is great to hear you donated your milk. I donated with 2 of 3 my three kids. (I was lucky to keep up with my boy!) I donated all of my milk through Milk Share. There were a couple of families that drove to pick up milk from me. One family received milk when they came in town with their adopted daughter to visit family for the weekend (they stopped my house at 2am and got it out of a cooler in my driveway!) Another couple of families, I mailed frozen milk to. Those were all on the we trust you are a breastfeeding mom path that you experienced.
    Now we don’t know what to do with the extra space in the freezer so I keep buying frozen veggies now! haha

    For those looking to donate or receive milk, also check out Milk Share:
    http://milkshare.birthingforlife.com/

    BethReplyCancel

  • Holli - Jill,

    As a fellow breastfeeding mom who has pumped and traveled, a Seattle resident and a supporter of Hygeia’s fresh approach to pumping…and a designer of a breastfeeding clothing line (!), I loved your post because it resonates with my approach to a potentially challenging situation with humor and grace.

    Warmly,
    HolliReplyCancel

  • Adam - I’d also be skeptical of giving my son breastmilk from someone else. It’s strange in some ways, since in a lot of villages any kid who’s hungry gets fed by the nearest woman, but it would be really strange, for me, to warm up milk that didn’t come from my wife.ReplyCancel

  • Kari - What a great idea to donate instead of taking it back home with you. I donate through HM4HB too. It’s such a great organization!! As for airplane pumping, I’m an in my seat pumper. No way am I going into the stinky coat closet sized bathroom to pump. This week I’ll be taking my 7th & 8th flights and when passengers around me hear that cow mooing near them it’ll be my Freestyle breastpump. πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

  • Carolie - As a mom about to adopt a newborn daughter (she’s due in three weeks!!!!), I am so insanely grateful to moms who pump and donate. Our daughter will already have some fragile health issues, and knowing that we can give her breastmilk instead of formula is a HUGE relief, and a HUGE gift.

    Thank you for doing this…and for blogging about it.

    (And yes, I’m going to go through your archives, and the fact that you drop f-bombs encourages me rather than discourages! Just because one believes in breastmilk as the best sustenance for a baby doesn’t mean one must be crunchy-granola, or born-again bible-thumper! πŸ˜€ )ReplyCancel

  • Courtenay G - Ha ha. I had to travel for work when my son was 9 months old and I totally brought my PISA with me. I had an empty row, so I simply put my jacket over me and used my battery pack and pumped in my seat. I was discreet and didn’t have to be holed up the tiny toilet.
    As for using donated milk, I guess I just don’t know unless I was in that situation.ReplyCancel

  • dianthe - loves it!! i would definitely accept breastmilk donated from a stranger – i considered it while i was on vacay when Sydney was a baby – i had a pretty good freezer stash but not knowing how much she would eat, i had a few mamas on standby as back ups!

    i’ve donated to a friend and will probably try to donate when i go to BlogHer if Myles is still breastfeeding then – normally i would haul it back home but he seems completely uninterested in breastmilk unless it comes straight from the tap!

    and i know what you mean about the airplane bathroom! for me, the smell is always horrific so i pumped in my seat instead! i covered up with a blanket and went to town – fortunately, the plane is so loud that no one noticed!ReplyCancel

  • Chelsey - I just wanna say that what you did was super… 64 ounces isn’t a whole lot… but its something… I know… I just received over 500 ounces to feed my baby who had had seizures… I never thought i would be comfortable doing something like that…you would think it was gross and weird to some… but its not… when it comes down to healing my baby …. to nourishing her the way GOD intended…I”LL DO IT…if i cannot feed my child from my body… let her be fed by the breast of another… and… my baby is growing to be a chunker…shes almost a year… shes beautiful… and perfect…and i thank GOD every day for being allowed to keep her…and i thank GOD every day for hm4hb’s and her “milk mammas”…. the seizures are no more due to medicines given but I feel the BM is what keeps her healthier now…. <3 KUDOS TO YOU FOR BEING A MILK MAMMAReplyCancel

  • tobasco - I wanted to also thank you for donating your breast milk. I was unable to make enough milk for my daughter. I made about 1/3 – 1/2 of what she needed, after pumping 8x a day for 4 months and taking obscene amounts of every galactagogue you can think of. It would have meant the world to me to be able to supplement with breast milk. Thank you, also, for blogging about it. Breastmilk is such a mystery to so many women, we need to talk about the many options as much as possible.ReplyCancel

  • Megan - I pump in my classroom when my students are at lunch. There was a technician in my room fixing the air conditioner, and he probably had the same TMI look on his face when I asked him to leave my room so I could pump.ReplyCancel

  • mandy - Wonderful article! As a lactation consultant, I would not feel comfortable receiving breastmilk without screening etc. but I totally understand the feeling!
    Eats On Feets has a great resource for safe milk sharing for those interested:
    http://www.eatsonfeets.org/#resourceReplyCancel

  • Melissa - So awesome! I saw this on Human Milk 4 Human Babies. My daughter refuses to drink from a bottle and is too young for a sippy cup…so when I am at work she won’t eat. Of course I have to pump so I am continuously storing milk at the moment and need to cycle through the milk to save for the new stuff (not sure why since she won’t drink it!) So I wanted to donate it and came across HM4HB. It’s so cool to know you can feed your own child AND someone elses. I agree…I don’t think I could take a stranger’s breastmilk especially without any screening, but I am so happy to be able to help out. I’m not sure if I would take it from a friend…just seems odd to me but if I am ever in that situation I may think differently.ReplyCancel

  • ashley - ok after reading 5oz in 5 minutes… i couldn’t focus on the rest! haha. it takes me 20 minutes to get 2-3 oz! Damn! pumping at work would not be so bad if i could squeeze out 5oz in 5minutes! amazing! πŸ™‚ReplyCancel

    • Jill - That was a rare feat for me, Ashley. I was so engorged! Do you use a manual pump from time to time? Sometimes I get more breastmilk faster with a manual.ReplyCancel

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