There are some women who breast feed and have an abundance or even an oversupply of milk while there are moms who want to feed their babies breast milk but for whatever reason they struggle. For NICU babies, it is well documented that the properties in breast milk can be the actual difference between life and death. Mothers are realizing all of that.
On Mother’s Day 2015, Mia Bongiorno-Bucher received quite a gift and was ecstatic.
“Last Mother’s Day, we found out that we were expecting a baby after being told that we were not going to be able to get pregnant naturally,” Bongiorno-Bucher recalled.
With excitement, she and her husband, David, later announced that they would have a baby girl. Bongiorno-Bucher set up the nursery, painted special furniture, hung decorations and created a sweet sanctuary. She chose her baby girl’s name: Indigo, or Indie.
Indie’s due date of January 12 approached and on January 11, Bongiorno-Bucher noticed decreased fetal movement. She went to the hospital and the outcome was not what she expected.
“Unfortunately, they said that they could not find her heartbeat,” she noted. “That was very shocking. I had heard her heartbeat the day before.”
After labor induction and 20 hours, Bongiorno-Bucher delivered Indigo.
“She was beautiful. She just looked like a little baby doll and we got to spend the entire day just holding her and taking pictures with her,” she recalled. “It was a really beautiful sacred time but it was also the most painful day of our lives.”
Soon, the physical pain came as Bongiorno-Bucher’s milk came in. So she took out her breast pump that she had set aside in preparation for Indigo.
“I pumped just to relieve myself and I was just looking at this milk that was meant to be for my baby and I knew that I could not dump it down the drain.”
Freezer bags of milk piled up so Bongiorno-Bucher went online to Facebook and to informal milk sharing sites and found other mommies who needed the liquid gold meant for Indie. She helped six or seven moms over three months and she helped to honor her sweet Indigo.
“It was a lot of work but I enjoyed it. It was therapeutic for me.”
It is a gift for many mothers who have the very strong wish of providing their babies with breast milk.
Mary Ramirez is an administrator on the Harrisburg/Mechanicsburg Breastfeeding Support Facebook page and a former La Leche League leader. She fed her her first baby donated breast milk during her first year.
“When I had my first baby five years ago, I knew I was going to breastfeed. I didn’t think it would be as hard as it was. I ended up, for whatever reason, not being able to provide a full supply of milk for my daughter,” said Ramirez.
“I had made a bunch of friends through my local La Leche League group and one of them one day said, ‘I was pumping to donate and you need formula or milk or something. So how about you just take it?'”
Ramirez later connected with an online resource as well. In fact, a mom from New Jersey sent her thousands of ounces of milk.
There are different ways to donate or receive breast milk such as for-profit milk banks, non-profit milk banks and informal sharing sites. Breast milk is, of course, a bodily fluid. The CDC noted that HIV, Hepatitis B and other diseases can be transferred through milk. Milk banks will screen for contaminants and disease. With informal sharing, trust is involved.
“There is definitely a dialogue that happens with informal milk sharing unless you’re a close friend like the first one was. Most moms when they’re pregnant have a series of tests that are done and it is not uncommon or frowned upon at all to ask to see those tests.
“It just kind of wasn’t a thing for me. My thought is if the milk is good enough to be feeding her baby, then why wouldn’t it be good enough to feed my baby?”
Popular and local resources for breast milk donation
Human Milk Banking Association of North America: HMBANA
Three Rivers Mothers’ Milk Bank, Pittsburgh: Three Rivers Bank
CHOP Mothers’ Milk Bank, Philadelphia: CHOP Bank
OhioHealth Mothers’ Milk Bank: OhioHealth Bank
Eats on Feets milksharing community: Eats on Feets
Human Milk 4 Human Babies sharing network: Hm4hb.net
Harrisburg/Mechanicsburg Breastfeeding Support group Facebook page for sharing: FB Thread (must become a member of the page)