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When I first had my daughter, even after I made it through the normal stage of engorgement, I was left with a ridiculous supply of breast milk that was way too much for my daughter to handle. Having an oversupply of milk might sound great but it is definitely not fun.


I would wake up soaked in milk after leaking through two breast pads, a sleeping bra, a t-shirt, and my sheets. I used to shoot milk across the room when my baby would de-latch herself from my overpowering letdown.

In the first few weeks, I pumped a few times for just a few minutes for comfort. I knew not to pump or empty too much because I would only make MORE milk. (Remember: the more you empty the more you make.) I ended up staying home with my girl and never giving her a bottle, leaving me with a small amount from those beginning weeks stashed in my freezer.

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I went online and did a bit of research. Through mama to mama donation on Human Milk for Human Babies, I was able to give my milk to a mama in need. She so desperately wanted to give her daughter only breastmilk for her first six months of life and due to a breast reduction, she made very little milk. Even though I only gave her a small amount, it felt amazing to know my milk would be nourishing another little babe. This mom was so grateful and her baby was so sweet!

The practice of milk donation is very controversial, especially when it’s not done through a milk bank and it’s just mommy to mommy.

In the 1800’s, poorer women nursed other wealthy women’s babies for a living, straight from the breast, because it was seen as unfashionable to nurse your own. Then with the industrial revolution and more women working, lower income families used the rural poor peasants as wet nurses. “Wet nurses” as the norm stopped by the 1900’s because of the invention of formula and bottles. Formula feeding became the norm with the help of marketing and formula companies teaming up with physicians.

Today, with the rise in breastfeeding rates, more and more families are donating breast milk or getting donations of other women’s breast milk. Milk Banks and informal milk donation is the modern day wet nursing, and a way to create sisterhood across the world.

Have you ever thought of donating breast milk or felt curious what it’s all about? Are you a mama in need of breast milk for your baby? Here is some information to help guide and inform you:

1. The World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Canadian Pediatric Society all mention donor milk as the alternative and next best thing to a newborn having his own mother’s breast milk. “Mother’s own milk is always preferred, in part because some of breastmilk’s beneficial biological components may be reduced after pasteurization. But donor human milk can be an effective alternative when maternal milk isn’t available or falls short of the infant’s needs, according to the AAP.”

2. There are two ways to receive or give breast milk donations:

  • Through a milk bank (either at a hospital or directly from the bank) with a prescription
  • From another mama directly (most often through social media) in Private Arrangement Milk Sharing (PAMS), also called casual sharing.

3. There are many reasons a parent may decide to receive donor breast milk:

  • slow weight gain, weight loss, or failure to thrive
  • breast surgery or mastectomy
  • medical reason that does not allow a mother to make breastmilk or a sufficient amount of breastmilk
  • adopted child
  • premature baby
  • baby does not tolerate formula
  • breastmilk can not be given temporarily (possibly because of a procedure or because of a medication the mama is on)
  • baby needs post-op nutrition
  • immunological deficiencies
  • allergies
  • congenital abnormalities such as cleft lip/palate
  • maternal death

Seen through research and clinical practice, preterm infants fed human milk (including banked donor milk), have better outcomes than when fed formula alone, related to nutritional qualities, digestibility and immunological components of breastmilk. There is a reduction of length of hospital stay, Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), and sepsis in premies. More and more hospitals worldwide are using donor breastmilk for their sickest and teeniest babes.

Donor milk is often not meant to replace the baby’s own mother’s milk but to complement the mother’s efforts, especially when there is a medical need.

4. Why might a parent choose to donate/receive informally online with a fellow mama? Some moms donate and receive this way because it’s faster. There is no formal interview process or wait time and you can get your milk out or receive it as soon as the recipient or donor mama can come grab it (or you drop it off to her).

Donating or receiving this way will not cost you money. You may even create a life-long bond with the family you are sharing milk with which can be incredibly rewarding and special. And lastly, there will be no risk of losing any of the amazing milk properties in the freezing and pasteurization process done in a bank.

5. Why might a parent choose to donate or receive through Milk Banking?: The Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice states that, “Donor human milk banking is the process of providing human milk to a recipient other than the donor’s own child. It involves recruiting and screening donors, storing, treating, and screening donated milk, and distributing the milk on physician order.” Going through a milk bank will ensure safety.

6. Screening a donor for a milk bank

When a parent decides to use a milk bank, they will start with a conversation about requirements, type of screening and storage requirements. Next is a screening questionnaire, more detailed set of forms asking about health and lifestyle and consent to contact the mamas and baby’s physicians.

The infant’s doctor is contacted to make sure the donation will not have an adverse effect on the mom’s own child. The donor’s blood is tested for HIV, human T-lymphoma virus (HTLV), hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and syphilis. HMBANA (Human Milk Banking Association of North America) requires additional serological screening for cytomegalovirus and tuberculosis.

7. Processing and storage of milk at a milk bank

It is extremely important that the milk given out from a bank is treated/pasteurized because most of the milk goes directly to the most fragile of babies who are immunocompromised and whose lives may be dependent on it.

Banks collect, process, screen, store and distribute the milk to individuals who have been prescribed by a licensed practitioner. All donor milk is screened for bacteria and it is refrigerated or frozen until it is dispensed. Freezing, although it preserves most the unique milk properties, does not destroy many of the pathogens. Careful heat treatment is done with Holder Pasteurization preserving as many as the properties as possible

A note on pasteurization: It is a myth that all the best nutrients and “good stuff” is destroyed in this process. Kelly Mom writes, "Pasteurization is a very gentle, controlled heating process using special equipment that kills viruses and bacteria while still maintaining 95% of everything that was originally in the milk.”

8. Safety

Donor milk banks worldwide have shown an incredible safety record and there has never been a recorded case of becoming seriously ill from donor milk received from a recognized bank. However, it is very important to know how a mother is screened and how her breast milk is tested and processed whether you get the milk directly from the mama or if you receive it through a bank.

With informal sharing of milk, straight from another mother, there is no way of being 100% positive you are receiving safe milk—unless you pasteurize the milk yourself, it is not being done. There are possible risks associated with informal sharing such as diluted milk, contamination with pathogens or chemicals (medications), or environmental contaminants. There is the low risk (but risk nonetheless) of disease transfer. And the risk of poor hygiene and improper storage of the milk before it gets to you.

What questions can I ask a mother I am going to receive milk directly from?

Ask for her medical records, if she is on any medications, if she smokes, how she stores and handles her breastmilk and pump equipment, and her alcohol/drug use. You can even go onto the HMBANA (Human Milk Banking Association of North America) website and use their screening criteria to make sure you ask all the right questions.

Eats on Feets, the first established milk sharing organization, has created four pillars for safety that you should follow:

  1. Informed choice
  2. Donor screening
  3. Safe handling
  4. Home pasteurization.

9. Some women, after the loss of a pregnancy, decide they want to donate their breast milk.

Breast milk will ‘come in’ after the placenta comes out regardless of your baby passing away which is absolutely heartbreaking. Some of these women find comfort to know their milk is nourishing another newborn in need or may feel like it’s their own baby’s gift to another.

10. Breast milk is expensive from a milk bank

Because of the expense of screening donors, processing, dispensing and record keeping, milk banks must charge for their services. Depending on the country you are in and the service setting, the price will vary. In 2013, the price was $5-$6 an ounce, plus the expense of overnight shipping. The donor of the milk to a milk bank does not pay any money. If your baby does not have a medical need, health insurance will not cover the cost of breast milk.

If you receive breast milk privately from a fellow mama, it will depend on the mom whether she wants to ask for compensation or not (hopefully not and if so, you may want to find someone else!) HOWEVER, if you go through the milk sharing established organizations online they are not-for-profit.

A really important part of donation/receiving of breastmilk is that you as the mama make your own informed choice. This topic brings about a lot of ethical questions and concerns. You need to make sure you never feel pressured to donate your milk. Do not let the “yuk-factor” in our society push you away from gaining more knowledge.

Donated breast milk can be lifesaving for sick or premature infants. Stay open-minded and do your research on ALL feeding options and their risks and benefits. If you decide to become a donor, remind yourself that it is something only a mama can do and that you may create a life-long connection with another mama and babe. And that can feel pretty great.

Resources:

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

On Friday President Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control is now advising people to wear a cloth mask if they need to go out in public in a place where social distancing would be hard. The CDC is not asking people to wear masks all the time, just when you're going somewhere public like the grocery store, the pharmacy or using mass transit—places where it may be hard to keep your distance from others.

What the CDC says about cloth face masks:

The CDC says it's recommending cloth face masks because recent studies show that people can have COVID-19 while asymptomatic, meaning they feel fine and because they don't know they are sick they might still be going about their daily routine in their community.

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Basically, masks don't protect the wearer as much as they protect people from the wearer (who might not know they are sick) by blocking respiratory droplets "So it's not going to protect you, but it is going to protect your neighbor," Dr. Daniel Griffin at Columbia University, an expert on infectious diseases, tells NPR.

CDC experts are "advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure."

They say if you're going somewhere where it's hard to maintain the proper social distance of six feet, like a grocery store or a pharmacy, then it's a good idea to wear a simple cloth mask.

"The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance," the CDC states.

"You may need to improvise a cloth face covering using a scarf or bandana," the agency notes on its website.

A DIY cloth mask is an extra layer of protection:

The CDC still says that staying home and practicing good hand hygiene is the best protection against COVID-19, but a cloth mask would be an extra layer of protection if you must go out to get food or unavoidable medical care.

According to Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, certain types of fabric are better than others when it comes to making a mask. While he CDC says improvised bandanas or scarfs are better than nothing, Segal says DIY mask makers should aim a little higher for the masks to be effective.

"You have to use relatively high-quality cloth," Dr.Segal, who is researching this topic, tells NBC News.

According to Segal you don't want to use a knit fabric (like an old T-shirt) but rather a woven fabric. He suggests a double layer of heavyweight cotton with a thread count of at least 180 (like quilters cotton). If you don't have a cotton with that high of a thread count, line it with flannel.

For more tips on how to sew a fabric face mask, check out these instructions from Kaiser Permanente.

No-sew methods:

If you're not a sewer you can still fashion a mask, and there are plenty of no-sew tutorials online showing you how. Use heavyweight woven fabric like Segal suggests and make one of these without a sewing machine.

How To Make a Pleated Face Mask // Washable, Reusable, No-Sewing Required youtu.be

Should kids wear masks? Talk to your doctor.

The CDC says "Cloth face coverings should not be placed on young children under age 2, anyone who has trouble breathing, or is unconscious, incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the mask without assistance." Babies' faces should not be covered, they should not wear masks.

For older kids, the CDC is not recommending masks if you're just going for a walk around the block or playing in the backyard (which is the extent of most kids' outings these days). The masks are more for grocery runs, which many parents are opting to do alone these days.

But solo parents and those with partners who are in the military know that leaving the kids behind isn't always an option if you're the only adult in the home. If that's your circumstance, choose delivery options when possible to avoid taking your children to public places like grocery stores and pharmacies (the kinds of places the CDC recommends masks for).

If you are concerned that you may need to take your child somewhere where a mask would be required, call your pediatrician for advice on whether a mask is appropriate for your child's age and circumstances.

If you have no one to watch your children while you get groceries and cannot get them delivered try contacting your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. They may be able to put you in touch with someone who can fetch groceries for you so that you don't have to take your children to the store with you.

The President says it's not a rule but a recommendation.

"It's really going to be a voluntary thing," President Trump told reporters Friday, contradicting the CDC recommendation. "I'm not choosing to do it."

First Lady Melania Trump is urging others to do it, howeverm tweeting, "I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone—we can stop this together."

[This post was originally published April 3, 2020. It has been updated.]

News

Last month Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom announced some big news: The engaged pair are expecting a baby!

Perry announced her pregnancy when the music video for her single, "Never Worn White" showed her rocking a bump and this weekend she announced she's expecting a girl...by posting a photo of Bloom's face covered in pink frosting.

She geotagged the photo "Girls Run the World" and captioned it "💕 It's a girl 💕."

Clearly, this man is thrilled about becoming a #girldad.

Perry is due in the summer, as she previously noted on Instagram.

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"Let's just say it's gonna be a jam packed summer..." she captioned her original pregnancy announcement.

"OMG, so glad I don't have to suck it in anymore," Perry tweeted after the big news went public.

"I am excited. We're excited and happy and it's probably the longest secret I've ever had to keep," Perry explained in a live stream with fans.

Of course not long after Perry announced her pregnancy the world changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Because of the pandemic, Perry and Bloom have postponed their wedding, according to People and are pretty much just laying low at home trying to enjoy Perry's pregnancy as much as possible during this difficult time.

Perry recently told Stellar Magazine that the wedding is about more than throwing a big bash, so while it would be totally normal to be disappointed by having to postpone it, the mom-to-be seems to be in a good place regarding her nuptials.

She told Stellar: "It's not about the party. It's about the coming together of people who will hold us accountable when things get really hard. Those are just the facts when you're with someone who challenges you to be your best self."

The little girl Bloom and Perry are expecting will have a lot of people to love on her. While this is the first child for Perry, Bloom is already a dad to a 9-year-old boy who will soon be a big brother.

Congratulations to Perry + Bloom!

News

Lizzie climbed up the playground stairs on all fours, walked across the small suspension bridge and slid down the big red slide at our neighborhood park. I followed just inches behind my 4-year-old daughter ready to catch her.

I had become her shadow by necessity. Her actions were often unpredictable and sometimes dangerous so my arms became her safety net. Her big brown eyes and unruly curly brown hair encapsulated her carefree spirit, and I adored her with a love I never thought myself capable of.

She walked over to the swings and stood there, stiff, her eyes glazed over. She didn't look to me for help. She didn't point, raise her arms up or ask me to place her in the swing. But I knew what she wanted—I sensed it.

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"Do you want to swing, Lizzie?" I asked in a gentle voice. She remained silent.

I didn't expect an answer, but I always asked in hopes today was the day she would choose to use her voice to form a word for the sake of communicating with me. I placed her in the swing anyway and pushed her to the exact height I knew she preferred.

A look of contentment came across her face and a giant smile curled her lips. She was in her happy place. This place was a place I wasn't allowed in—not yet anyway. She lived in an alternative universe inside her head, and after the park, we would spend the rest of the day inside using therapy techniques to pull her from this place into the real world. I missed my daughter and the connection we once had.

There were so many quirks I thought were hers alone, when in fact they were symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.

Here are five possible signs of autism parents should know about. If you notice something that concerns you, please reach out to your pediatrician.

1. Change in language

As a baby, Lizzie's language gradually changed from babbling to gibberish. "With typically developing language skills, infants will babble often as early as two to three months indicating first instances of intentional and social communication," says licensed clinical speech language pathologist Julie Liberman. "An early sign of autism may be seen in infants creating nonsense syllables without added social-communicative behaviors."

Lizzie lost her social-communicative sounds and began to mimic noises from her environment such as screeching sounds or sirens. She also developed a few sounds such as "diddle diddle" that she would repeat all day long. The transition was subtle and slow—enough that at first I didn't recognize that it was happening. .

2. Sensory processing issues

"Sensory processing is how our brain and body organize and respond to sensory information. Issues develop when we are over or under-responsive to sensory information which impacts the body's ability to organize it, or modulate it and so responses range outside of typical parameters and dysregulation is observed," writes licensed occupational therapist Rachel Wolverton.

Lizzie walked on her tiptoes, flapped her arms when she was excited and ran full speed into the couch cushions over and over again. Many toddlers do similar behaviors, and we thought she was just being quirky and adorable. As part of her diagnosis, though, we came to understand that these repeated behaviors were signals that her processing was under-stimulated. She needed these movements to help her body and brain function. This also works the opposite way, too. Many kids are over-sensitive to lights, sounds and/or touch, so they become easily overstimulated. They might cover their ears, melt down when clothes are put on their bodies or withdraw from crowds.

3. Lack of response to name

Lizzie displayed what I call "selective hearing." I would stand in front of her, saying her name with a raised voice and she wouldn't respond or look up. She appeared to be deaf, but as soon as the theme song from her favorite Dora the Explorer TV show came on, she would run from the other room to watch.

As autistic teen advocate Matteo Musso explains, "Because we hear your voice so much, we don't usually respond to our name. It's that you say our name the same way all the time. A TV is more auditorily complex. One-word, same voice, can get lost in our thoughts and in our brain."

4. Repetitive behavior

My daughter began lining up her toys by color and her green peas at the dinner table. We thought she was brilliant! She is brilliant, but as it turns out, not because of her repetitive behavior.

While many children love repetition—as any parent who's got their child's favorite bedtime story memorized knows—what I learned is that the kind of repetitive behavior we saw in Lizzie is one of the core symptoms of autism.

"Individuals with autism typically find much comfort in repetitive behaviors, giving them a sense of control over their environment in a quite unruly world," says Dr. Caroline W. Ford, clinical psychologist and director of the Fairhill School and Diagnostic Assessment Center in Dallas. As she explains, autistic children experience real difficulty when their repetitive behaviors are interrupted: "When asked to change or alter the repetitive behavior, many autistic children become overly anxious."

5. Loss of connection

One of the most beautiful moments between mother and child is the first time her baby looks into her mom's eyes. It was in that moment with Lizzie, the connection formed was so strong I knew I would be willing to do anything for her.

Slowly over the course of months, she became more and more distant. She wandered around the house aimlessly and didn't seem to need me at all. As long as there was food and drink available, she was content to be all alone. It was hard to measure because it was a feeling, a distancing, a loss of connection. I second-guessed my feelings regularly. Mothers have a built-in intuition with their children, which should never be underestimated.

After my daughter's diagnosis with autism at the age of two, we researched and implemented a 30-hours-a-week home therapy program (although it's important to know that early intervention supports can also be found through community organizations and school systems—you don't have to do this alone). Now, I'm happy to say, Lizzie has made good progress, and I've found (and offered) support in the generous community of parents of autistic children like mine. I even started a non-profit, United in Autism, which partners with local charities to bring community-building, emotional-support events to special needs moms all over the country.

My daughter continues to be a source of joy and amazement. Most importantly, I know now that my daughter and I are not alone—and we never were.

Learn + Play

Starting this weekend Target and Walmart will be limiting the number of people allowed in its stores to give shoppers and staff more space to spread out and adhere to social distancing recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Beginning April 4, Target will actively monitor and, when needed, limit the total number of people inside based on the store's specific square footage," Target notes in a news release.

Walmart's corporate message is similar: "Starting Saturday, we will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store's capacity."

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At Target you will also notice staff wearing gloves and masks over the next two weeks as the company steps up its coronavirus protection measures.

Many people are choosing to stay home and order groceries online, but that's not an option for everyone as long lines at some Target's prove.

"We're incredibly proud of the commitment our more than 350,000 frontline team members have demonstrated to ensure millions of guests can count on Target, and we'll continue to focus our efforts on supporting them," says Target's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, John Mulligan.

Target is open this weekend but—along with Costco, Aldi, Publix and Trader Joe's—Target stores will be closed on Easter Sunday to give the essential employees in these stores a much-deserved break.

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