I’d Like to Thank the Stranger Who Breastfed My Baby


I'd Like to Thank the Stranger Who Breastfed My Baby


When my daughter was born it took five days for my milk to come in, and because she was jaundiced there was discussion of using donor milk in the interim. The failure I felt was palpable, even as I knew it was not any sort of reflection on me. The idea that her first taste of mature milk would come from another woman weighed on my shoulders. Ultimately, my milk came in just in time, and I did not have to further confront those disappointments.

A change of tune

Five years later, my son was born two months early, and my expectations were turned inside out, stepped on, and shredded. A million situations that would have seemed intolerable with my daughter were now completely out of my control, and necessary to save Rowan’s life.

One major shift was becoming comfortable with the idea that there would be firsts I would have to surrender to the cause of my son’s health. Ideals that seemed so important with a full term baby were discarded in the face of a baby who only weighed three pounds. That’s not to say these things seemed inconsequential, just that the choices were made for us by prematurity, and we were along for the emotional ride.

The oft used phrase, “it takes a village” is never as true as it was in the weeks after Rowan’s birth. It took a more than a village to raise Rowan past his inauspicious start, it took a town. It took a city. It took a metropolitan statistical area.

Precious cargo, delivered from the milk bank

There is one member of our village who will never know she visited, even less that she moved in with us for a few days. I’m talking about the woman (or women) who donated the breast milk that became calories, nutrients, and medicine while I once again waited for my milk to come in.

I wish I could find her, to tell her just how important the time she spent getting cleared to donate was. Breast milk is vitally important for premature babies – in some cases it literally saves their lives, as it can prevent deadly intestinal issues.

If you’ve donated milk, whether to a milk bank or to a friend, know that you have joined the village of the babies you have helped. Even if you never know to whom the milk flows, you are forever a part of that baby’s family, of that baby’s story.

And if, like me, you find yourself having to manage the emotions of broken expectations, know that it’s not a failure. It’s not that your baby is getting less of you, it’s that he’s getting a direct infusion of the compassion that we all need to get through the rough first months of a new life. You’re getting a solid example of how we can’t do this in a vacuum, of the importance of your tribe, and a lesson in letting go. It’s one we all have to learn repeatedly, some of us just get a head start.

If you’d like more information about donating (or receiving donated) breastmilk please visit National Milk Bank or the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

Our next recos:

What You Should Know If You Have A Preterm Baby

Pumping in the NICU – Liquid Gold or Liquid Guilt?

18 Things to Expect in the NICU

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  • As a NICU Mum of 27 weeker twins (one now angel baby), I had an over supply of milk and as my baby was so tiny I was taking up too much room in the hospital freezer so they asked me to start donating after 6 days of pumping. I continued to donate for 9 months and enjoyed every minute of it knowing at least some NICU mums will have one less thing to stress about.

  • Thank you so much for writing this. As a surrogate who has donated over 14,000 oz in the last 5 months, I cried reading your story. It makes the nipple pain, cleaning, bagging, sterilizing, freezing, packing, and hours and hours spent pumping worth it. I’m so glad to be a visitor in these villages!

  • I donated milk for months on end as my son was a premie too. My body on the other hand produced enough milk to feed 9 lbs twins. One day while pumping at hospital there was a mother of premature twins and she wasn’t getting any milk, she look jelously at me pumping and said that she wished she had that much milk to feed her kids. I decided right there and then that i would donate any exsess milk i had. I was so glad that i was able to give what is best for my child, that i wanted to help as many others as i could. So to anyone that ever got any your are more then welcome i hope your children developed as beautifully as mine did.

  • I donated milk and have never had the opportunity to understand the experience from the other side, including the emotional turmoil aspect. I really appreciate it.

  • Thank you SO much for this posting!! I SO needed to see this. I’m currently still nursing my 1 year old, but we are weaning. I went through the process of becoming a milk donor when he was a few months old and I realized I had more than enough milk and wanted to help any babies in need. The process was a lot of work on my end, and I wondered if what I was doing was really worth it at the time. But now that I’ve donated 500+ ounces, I’m so happy that I went through with it! Really this article brought me to tears, because I’ve never read a mom’s point of view as someone who received donated milk. I’ve thought about the many babies and families I could be helping while I pump, clean, store, label, drive to hospital for donation, etc. But to actually read THANK YOU was too much for me to handle.
    HUGS to all!!

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