This I Believe

Diana - Cornwall, New York
Entered on February 6, 2007
Age Group: 30 - 50
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I’m pumping breastmilk for a baby that is not mine.

It’s not the first time I’ve done this. When my youngest child was a year old, I pumped many ounces of my milk for a local adopted baby I never met. The new parents wanted their son to have the benefits of human milk despite not being able to provide it themselves. I pumped what I could, and the boy thrived on human milk.

This time, I’m pumping my milk for the baby of a dear friend. My friend has an older child, for whom she could not provide her milk due to a series of unforeseeable medical and logistical circumstances. She has spent over 3 years gathering resources of information, tools, and people, forging a plan to provide her milk for her next baby.

The baby, a girl, arrived 3 nights ago, at my friend’s home. The gentle, midwife-attended birth was drastically different from the intrusive birth experienced by her son. While my friend’s preparations have served her well and this lactation journey is off to a better start, supplements are necessary at this time.

The baby is fed one-ounce supplements in addition to the nourishment she receives directly from her mother. This single-income family feels so strongly about feeding their daughter human milk that they purchased donor milk from a milk bank in preparation for this possibility. I have offered to provide whatever I can pump, in case they run out of the 32 ounces they have stashed in their freezer before my friend’s body begins to produce enough milk.

Why is it so important that their baby receives human milk? The benefits of species-specific, human milk for human babies are amazing. The World Health Organization recommends four safe methods of feeding an infant, in order of superiority: mother’s milk from mother’s breast; mother’s milk from another feeding vessel; milk from another human mother; and artificial baby milks.

Human milk contains nutrients in the perfect proportions for human babies. The proteins are easily digested, there is exactly the right amount of fat and cholesterol to supplement a growing baby’s needs, and there are special compounds in human milk that enhance our babies’ brains. Human milk is a living substance, full of antibodies and other immune properties. A baby who receives human milk will enjoy protection from many common illnesses and certain cancers. Best of all, it tastes great — simply sweet. Just ask any baby!

I’m not sure how much milk I’ll be able to provide; my own nursing child is over 2 years old now. My body easily produces enough for him, but my breasts are in their “autumn” stage – ready to go dormant when my child is finished breastfeeding. I will pump as often as I can and give my friend every drop. While some might question my choice, I see my donation of milk as an investment in something far bigger than myself. I believe in human milk for human babies.