For several weeks now I have been donating breast milk to a friend who’s baby is a month younger than W. The mama and baby live over an hour away but due to some extenuating circumstances they’ve been around here a bit more than usual in the last week.
I kept this on the down low from family members because they really just wouldn’t get why I, or the mama would go out of our way to provide breast milk rather than use formula. (Not meant to start a feeding war- I have excess milk and this mama who wants her baby to have breast milk has supply issues.) Earlier in the week we were both attending the memorial service of our mutual friend’s sister and the mama asked if I’d nurse her baby. She had frozen milk, but it was much easier for me to nurse her. And so I did. This was the second time I’ve nursed a baby other than my own (the first time being last summer when I nursed my best friend’s baby at her request). I am perfectly comfortable doing so, but I must admit nursing another woman’s baby in public can draw some unusual stares when they know it’s not your baby.
Today we attended a benefit for the young children of the recently deceased sister of our friend. I nursed the baby for the second time while making plans for the mama to pick up my frozen milk. Long time readers will remember we live with my parents. Today being Sunday, we were all home when they stopped by to pick up my milk, and we were minutes from sitting down to dinner. The conversation went something like this:
My dad (D): There’s someone here.
Me: Yes they are friends…
D: stopping by for a visit now.
Me: No they are just picking up milk.
D: I just bought milk today!
[Does he really think I'm giving away his cows milk?]
My Mom (M): I think she means breast milk. Is that even safe?
Me: there are somethings we try to spare you from knowing…
Meanwhile I open the freezer and grab all my frozen milk.
M- to my father: Times are different now.
My friend came in with her four week old baby girl, three and a half year old son and husband. The baby needed to nurse, so she sat down to nurse her (she produces some milk but not nearly enough to fully feed her daughter). We all chatted as my father walked in and out tending to the dinner on the grill.
Now, my parents are, well, my parents- they know to expect the unexpected. As I sat there with our friend nursing her baby I thought, please don’t ask me to nurse her. Thinking that may be just a little too much for my parents as they are just learning about the donating. She noted we were getting ready to eat dinner and said something about getting going. I asked her if her baby was all set. I am not sure what I meant, but she looked at me with that look in her eyes, and I knew she wanted me to nurse her. She raised her slightly and said “can you?” And so I moved next to her on the couch, took her baby from her arms, and latched her on. In front of my family.
It was fine. No one dropped their jaw to the floor and the baby had a full belly. Later on my mother told me she thinks it’s wonderful, what I am doing, and that she’s heard of people doing this. In some ways, I think the way it came into the open was the best way it could. It’s less abstract when you’re seeing the baby who needs the milk and the parents who so appreciate it.