This is Part Two of Joshua's story. Part One can be read here: Joshua's Story: Why I Chose Another Mother's Milk
It's hard to believe it has been one year since the home waterbirth of my son Joshua. He's grown into a 22-pound healthy, happy, loving toddler and I couldn't be more blessed. It has been 10 months since we received our first donation of breastmilk through the Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network. He has been exclusively breastfed, minus a small amount of solids here and there, for these past 10 months as well. We haven't needed a single drop of formula. Twenty incedible mothers have donated their milk to us. I have traveled to and from 5 different states, excluding the travels within my own to pick up milk. It has been a wonderful journey, but we're not stopping here.
It has been proven that human milk is beneficial past the age of one. The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding to 2 years of age and beyond. The AAFP noted in 2001 that children weaned before 2 years of age were at an increased risk of illness. In the second year of life (12-24 months), 448 mL of breastmilk provides: 29% of energy requirements, 43% of protein requirements, 36% of calcium requirements, 75% of vitamin A requirements, 76% of folate requirements, 94% of vitamin B12 requirements, 60% of vitamin C requirements. (Dewey 2001; Breastfeeding Past Infancy Fact Sheet)
Freezer Full of Joshua's Milk
One may think these nutritional percentages of human milk do not apply in Joshua's situation because I am not the mother producing his milk. The milk that Joshua consumes, for example, does not know his age. When nursing, breastmilk typically changes with time to meet a growing child's needs. Receptors on the areola signal messages to mother's body pertaining to a specific baby's need. Yet, the few donors we have currently willing to continue pumping for Joshua all have babies of their own close to his age with the exception of one mother. The milk he will continue to receive is almost perfectly matched for his body, nutrient for nutrient. Even with the slight discrepancy in ages, human milk is still a much healthier choice over cow milk or other artificial substitutes.
Human milk is designed perfectly for humans, especially young humans. Any other milk, including cow, does not compare. If mothers can breastfeed their own children for a full term duration of years, and give them all the wonderful benefits from their milk, then I want the very same for my child. I do not want to give him a sub-par subsitite when a more nutritious option is available - one that caters beautifully to his developmental needs as a human toddler. If I was able to continue breastfeeding Joshua, he would be self-weaning in his own time, with a nursing goal of 36 months. I know 3 years old might be an unrealistic goal for donor milk, but I am going to do my best for as long as I can to get him human milk. We have made it to one year and I would love to reach the WHO/AAFP recommendation of 2 years, but each day and every day is a blessing.
Milk sharing has not only changed our lives, but also those of the women who have donated to Joshua. I asked a few of them to share their thoughts on what this experience has meant to them:
"Donating milk to Joshua turned the burden of oversupply into a blessing. Imagine how many babies could be nourished as nature intended if all of us who have extra knew we could share it!" ~Natalie E.
"It has meant the honor of giving life - nutrition that was made for babies - to a precious child. Each child is a bundle of possibilities - our common future as a species - and preventing even just one from suffering the effects of formula when milk is so readily available reminds me of my humanness and our connection to each other." ~Jennifer A.
"It might sound silly or strange, but donating to Joshua has been a life-changing experience. Giving my milk to this beautiful boy and his beautiful mama was my first experience in donating milk to a stranger. I was so honored that Lindsey felt trusting enough of me and my family to welcome my milk into their life. Joshua is one boy whose life I have been able to enrich and he is one of many children in a network of women changing the world." ~Alexis S.
"I picked him up; he looked me in the eye and reached for my hair. I looked at Lindsey and we smiled at each other. And the love I felt for this child, who was not my own, but who I helped to nourish nonetheless, was overwhelming. This. This is what it's all about. To see babies thriving, mothers smiling, and knowing that if we all come together none of us will ever have to stand alone. I choose to see my oversupply as a gift. Gifts are meant to be shared - given to people that we love. Donating milk is an incredible experience. I won't lie, pumping isn't easy at all, but I think of what Lindsey went through trying to nurse Joshua and there's just no way that I couldn't donate. It's an honor to be chosen to help feed another woman's child." ~Samantha P.
I am very thankful to everyone who has contributed to this journey so far. I am thankful to the women who are continuing to donate to us, and to their own children for wanting to continue receiving nourishinment from their mothers. After all the heartache and struggle we went through in his first few months of life, I never would have imagined that at one year old, Joshua would transition from a breastfed baby to a breastfed toddler. He is now officially "full term donor feeding."
Thank you so much for the continued support and opportunity to share our story with you.
Reference:Dewey KG. "Nutrition, Growth, and Complementary Feeding of the Breastfed Infant." Pediatric Clinics of North American. February 2001; 48(1).
If you would like to donate milk or need milk for your baby, please visit the Breastmilk Donation page to discover your options.
World Milksharing Week Homepage
World Milksharing Week Homepage
For additional books, websites, and articles geared toward nursing and milksharing mothers, see Breastfeeding Resources.
Lindsey Ward is a 24 year old wife and full time mother to two beautiful children - both whole and happy! She's a homebirthing, lactivist, intactivist who considers herself to be 'semi-crunchy.' She says she is both loved and hated for her health-conscious advocacy for babies and their mothers. Ward serves clients through her Virginia based, Know Better, Do Better Birth Services, and also directs Intact NoVa.