When our second child was born in November of 2019, we were blessed to get off to a pretty smooth start with our breastfeeding journey. But for the first several weeks of his life, our little guy had a habit of sleeping through some of his mid-day feedings, so I began pumping right away to balance out those missed nursing sessions – and pretty soon we had built up a solid stash of frozen milk. By the start of 2020, I began pumping a few times each day, in order to continue stockpiling milk for my planned return to my office upon the end of my maternity leave in May of 2020. Then by early spring of 2020, our son had already started to nurse for shorter periods of time, but I was still pumping lots of ounces of milk each day – and by now the new chest freezer we’d just installed in our garage to hold all the pumped milk was already nearing capacity. Yet at this same time, the Covid pandemic started to take hold in New York City.
With everyone sheltering in place, we realized that I was not going to be heading back to my office anytime soon – and since I would be home with my son for the foreseeable future, I could keep nursing him through all of his feedings – and so we had no immediate need to use any of our frozen milk, and in fact, we had way more milk stockpiled than we could timely use now that I would be home with my son indefinitely. But we did not want to let that hard-earned, life-sustaining goodness go to waste. After looking into a few options, we decided to donate our extra milk to the New York Milk Bank, so that we could help babies and families right in our local community, which at the time was suffering so very badly from the pandemic.
In July of 2020, we made an initial donation of approximately 254 ounces of milk, which was all that the milk bank had capacity for at that time. Over the course of the next several months, as the pandemic wore on and our son happily continued to nurse and thus we still had no need to use any of our frozen milk, we made three more milk donations, as the milk bank had room for them – although we did hold on to a small amount of milk that we planned to use to help wean our son when the time came maybe in the spring of 2021. But then in March of 2021, one year into this pandemic, I was able to get vaccinated. Our son was still nursing a little bit each morning and evening, so we were thrilled to be able to keep nursing him and now pass some vaccine antibodies to him through my breastmilk. But this meant that now we definitely would not need any of the remaining milk we had in our chest freezer – and so in April of 2021, we made our fifth and final donation to the milk bank of our entire remaining stash of frozen milk.
In total, we donated approximately 2,088 ounces of milk. We never imagined that we would be in a position to do such a thing, and in fact had it not been for this pandemic we probably never would have wound up having such a surplus of pumped milk. As the pandemic took hold in New York City last spring, it made us want to do what we could to help out others who were struggling during this difficult time – and that is why we first decided to donate our extra milk. The fact that the pandemic continued to rage on for so many more months – thus keeping us at home more – is what enabled us to keep having so much extra frozen milk available to donate. We have been lucky enough to remain healthy and safe throughout the pandemic, and our hearts felt so heavy thinking of those who were not so fortunate and were struggling – especially those new parents trying to care for their newborns in these difficult and uncertain times. Donating our son’s extra milk seemed like a wonderful way to offer some help to the babies who were being born in the middle of all of this commotion, and to have some good come out of so much bad.
Every time I nurse our son, I am cognizant of how lucky we are, because our breastfeeding journey has been an “easy” one, and we have been able to feed him the best thing that we can in the best way that we can for the last 18+ months. We are so happy to be able to pass our milk on to those babies who most need it and otherwise would not have it, because we know this milk can help make life a bit smoother, easier, healthier, and less stressful for these babies and their families. It means so much to us to know that so many babies out there living through such already challenging times might now grow up a bit happier, healthier, and stronger because of our donations. Our chest freezer is finally nearly empty, but our hearts are very happy and full.