Milk Sharing: A Mother’s Story

Author // Eva van Dok Pinkley

I would like to offer another option to formula and milk banks not covered in the article "What's in Your Baby's Formula."

I’m a 41-year-old mother of a beautiful 12-month old, Oliver.

After trying for 5 years to get pregnant, even going against my better judgment and conscience and doing fertility treatments that failed, I ended up childless but with a diagnosis of DCIS, noninvasive breast cancer. I am thin, a yogi, eat a whole foods diet and am gluten, sugar and dairy free and this still happened to me.

My double mastectomy was in July 2010 and exactly two months later, while on a hiking trip to Yosemite, I became pregnant — completely naturally. I hadn’t even begun my reconstructive process yet.

Although I had a sneaking suspicion that the removal of my cancerous cells somehow paved the way for my healthy pregnancy, my lifelong dream to breastfeed my child would clearly not happen.

I checked into milk banks and found them to be a great alternative, and are clearly necessary for milk for premature newborns — but for the rest of us, their milk is incredibly expensive. Few of us have the means, in this economy, to pay for that.

I set out on my milk sharing journey and had a life-changing experience. I live in Brooklyn, New York and put the word out first on parent’s listservs, and then later on Facebook milk sharing communities.

Because of the amazing women that helped give my son life and health, I now have a very healthy little boy. He has only been on two days of formula, and I am soon weaning him from his breast milk. He has had over 100 donors, many of whom have become close friends.

I was clear on the evils of formula and ALSO clear that even if I had had the money for milk banks, they pasteurize the formula to such a degree that much of what makes breast milk so amazing is no longer there.

The milk sharing journey must be done safely and with awareness. I consulted many lactation consultants on how best to match up the donor’s milk with my son’s age, what to get in terms of screening, etc. My pediatrician helped in the journey, and almost every single one of my donors were screened for HIV, HEP, etc.

Breast milk is and should be a free-flowing resource. And a magazine such as Pathways is a perfect medium to help spread the word of this vital formula and milk bank alternative.

I’ve presently been helping other breast cancer survivors on their journey to find milk for their little ones and they have had the same experience. And it’s not just in New York — there are now milk sharing communites all over the country, in towns and cities that you wouldn’t expect.

Since making your own formula can be a risky practice, maybe it should not be the first alternative to formula.

If done safely and wisely, milk sharing is a viable alternative. I have a bionic baby now — with so many wonderful antibodies in his system!

About the Author:

Eva van Dok Pinkley is an actress, freelance writer/researcher and mom to beautiful Oliver, 12 months. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and son.

Pathways Issue 33 CoverPathways to Family Wellness  magazine, Issue #34.

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