I was 2 months postpartum when I read a news story about this “unique milk bank” that paid mothers for their milk. It was just one in a dozen headlines I skimmed as I was browsing the news, but as a lactating mother, I was interested and read the article. My eyes popped when I heard how much money these mothers made selling their milk to Mother’s Milk Coop! I was incredulous and told my husband about it, in a “that’s crazy”, kind of way. But it didn’t take long for the wheels to start turning in my head. “Huh….I could do that…no really, I could….” Until 10 minutes later I was looking at their website and filling out the application. I was so intrigued!
My baby, little Camille, is my 5th. I’ve breastfed all my babies through 1-2 years, and 5 babies is enough time to experience all the ups and downs of breastfeeding, to realize that it isn’t always a blissful experience, but it’s always worth the sacrifice, the time, the pain. I always get extremely engorged right after birth, but things always normalize and then my supply has been what I would call average. So I really wasn’t sure if pumping would really amount to anything for me. In the past, I’ve never pumped more than I needed to have a few bags in the freezer if we wanted to try going on a date and leaving the baby. Was I really capable of pumping enough to make this worth it? There were several moments where I almost didn’t complete the application process. But I thought that I was still so freshly postpartum with a slight over-abundance that I thought perhaps if I started now, I could establish a decent supply.
However, I really fretted over how to start pumping in a way that wouldn’t take milk away from my own baby. I was really nervous about that. I spent hours trying to find the answers online and learned a lot about the way breasts are stimulated to produce more milk, and the best ways to do so. I started feeling confident in an approach that worked for me and my family’s needs. My plan was to pump twice a day: once in the morning directly after my baby’s morning feed, and once late at night, just before I went to bed. As a homeschooling mother of 5, this was the best I could commit to! So I dusted off my 9-year-old pump and started on my schedule.
For the first couple of weeks, my pumping sessions produced about an ounce. But I just kept doing it and stayed consistent, and soon enough, my body started to recognize those pumping times as a “full feed”, and slowly I started producing more and more milk. About a month into pumping, I was producing 5 oz. each time, and then eventually 7-10 ounces each time! I was so excited about my ability to produce extra milk. It’s hard to express how jubilant I was the first time I filled up the box to ship back to Mother’s Milk Coop. 600 ounces of milk that my body had made, and it was going to go to help little babies grow up to be healthy and strong. I began to believe so much in the mission to pump extra milk. It’s such a natural extension of what mothers naturally do best: take care of people, and look out for the little ones.
I’m proud to say I’m now working on my 4th shipment to MMC.
One unexpected benefit of pumping was what it did for my supply to my own daughter. She is now 9 months old and she still breastfeeds frequently throughout the day. I know based on comparison with my previous 4 children that I’ve never had a supply at 9 months postpartum that is as full as mine is now. In the past, I would never have to deal with engorgement issues if my baby missed a feeding at 9 months old. But I do now.
Pumping has given me an abundance of supply at this age that gives me an assured peace of mind that I’m making quite enough milk to give her as much as she needs.
So that even if my daughter is distracted at all day and doesn’t nurse much, I don’t need to worry that my supply will go down as a result…the pumping I do at night will still signal my body to keep making more milk. Who would have thought that pumping extra milk would not only NOT interfere with my supply to my own baby, but actually help to keep it going! This has definitely been a wonderful side benefit.
I think I’m definitely an unlikely member of MMC. I wasn’t looking for ways to donate extra milk, and I didn’t even have an over-abundant supply. I’m definitely well below MMC’s average of making 800 dollars a month. But the modest amount of money that I’ve made so far has been a nice surprise for our family this year. We decided to just throw it at our debt, so the first thing we were able to do was quickly knock out the tail end of my husband’s student loan. I’m excited about the other ways we’ll be able to quickly pay down debt that we weren’t anticipating, which will in turn become extra money in our pocket that doesn’t need to go to a monthly bill.
I believe firmly in the financial incentive that MMC offers, because it was what initially attracted me to joining, and it has been what has kept me going. Pumping is HARD WORK, and I know for a fact that I would have given up months ago if it weren’t for that extra money I knew I could make. That’s hundreds of ounces of milk that little babies would not have gotten. I believe MMC’s financial model will be THE factor that makes the difference in recruiting more moms like me to step up and realize that they too can do this thing, and together we can make a big leap in reducing the number of babies who will go without breast milk.