Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother's Day Inspiration

A late-breaking Friday post from Emerald Apron

As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, I’m going to write about one mom who has really inspired me. Emma Kwasnica is a mother who has organized a global milk exchange network, Human Milk For Human Babies Global Network (HM4HB), over the past six months. Moms and dads all over the world are now able to find donor milk for their babies because many nursing mothers have an excess of milk or have expressed and frozen a huge stash that they will not be able to use. Families can find their local HM4HB group on Facebook, where requests are made and donors offer their milk.

There are a variety of reasons why babies may need donor milk. Some mothers of preemies or working mothers have trouble expressing enough milk for their children and look for donor milk. Some mothers did not receive the support to be able to breastfeed successfully or are unable to breastfeed due to insufficient glandular tissue and have turned to donors. Adopted babies whose parents cannot or do not want to induce their own lactation have found a solution in donors (Elton John was recently in the news about this!). Whatever the reason that a baby is not breastfed by his or her own mother, the HM4HB enables him or her to get milk.

Some controversy has erupted over mother-to-mother milk sharing, with health agencies warning about the risks of getting milk from another mother. While I understand that they are concerned that the milk may be handled improperly, I would counter that lactating mothers like myself are very knowledgeable about expressing and storing milk safely. As far as health concerns, HM4HB advocates for informed milk sharing, encouraging recipients and donors to discuss health information and share blood test results. Unlike using a formal milk bank, informal milk sharing is free of charge.

I feel fortunate to have had the support I needed to be able to develop a successful breastfeeding relationship with my son. However, in the beginning I was pressured to supplement with formula before my mature milk came in. (I now believe that was unnecessary and could have sabotaged us, but that’s another story for another day.) I wish I had known about the possibility of donor milk then, and I am frankly rather annoyed that the pediatrician and lactation consultant didn’t even discuss it as an option. Though I don’t have an excess of milk to donate at this point, I am hoping to be able to help a family or families in the future.

That Emma Kwasnica saw the need for a global milk sharing network and acted on it to set up HM4HB is pretty rad, to use her own terminology. Please share a story of a mom who inspires you!


the gnome's mom said...

I donated through HM4HB while they were still Eats on Feets. Since I had to supplement in the beginning, it meant a lot to me to be able to donate. Here is my story:

Jodine said...

Great story, gnome's mom! I love how you went from despair at not able to feed your own baby, to joy and pride at having enough milk to share with another family. You wrote, "Now not only can I sustain my son, but I helped sustain someone else’s daughter. I am not a failure. I am a mother."


I'll bet there are literally thousands of moms around the world right now who are giving a silent thank you to Emma and the almost 300 moms who keep milk-sharing pages on Facebook operating, as they feed their babies human milk.

I blogged about Emma Kwasnica and HM4HB last week.

A funny think happened on the way to the milk bank...

Anonymous said...

My child received milk from another woman when I couldn't pump enough when I was working. The many hours of separation made it very difficult to re-establish my supply after it took a hit due to illness. A few months later, I was able to produce enough to supplement another friend's child. I pumped for her until she turned one, as that was the arrangement I had with her family.

Now, I am honoured to be one of several hundred women around the globe operating a HM4HB page, and facilitating even more milky matches. I am so thrilled every time I log on to the page I admin and see women sharing information, advice, friendship, and of course, lots of milk!

Emma said...

I am so honoured. Thank you for the shout-out for HM4HB and for recognizing my contribution to this global movement. Please also know that NONE of it would have been possible if the 280+ page admins had not stepped up and answered my call to action. They came in droves, from all corners of the globe, to support babies having access to their birth right --human milk. These women are the most dedicated, hard-working people I have ever had the pleasure to collaborate with. They don't stop. They work through the night on projects and then go on to mother their *own* babies throughout the day. Coffee is definitely a universal vice! ;-)
And, of course, the network only runs at all because there are mums who need milk, and mums who have it to give freely. A great big 'thank you' as well to all the babies who share their mama's milk with other babies in need.
This is the stuff world peace is made of.
Thank you, again, for recognizing this amazing endeavour. Your support is invaluable to us.
Much love~
Emma, in Montreal

Danielle Arnold-McKenny said...

Emma said it all. I'm just going to stand here and applaud.
love to all the moms and babies


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