When we heard Brittani’s story on Facebook, we knew we had to share. She was kind enough to do an interview with us and it’s one of the most inspiring acts of kindness we’ve ever heard. If you ever doubt your ability to make a profound difference in someone’s life, or turn a challenge into a positive impact, remember Brittani’s story! Note, the world record for milk donation is currently 11,115 ounces (to a milk bank, not shared milk), Brittani expects to break that record with her next donation — in just one week! History in the making….
How much have you donated so far?
I have donated over 6,000 oz to friends and local moms. I donated 400 oz to the first milk bank I found (but realized they were a for-profit company and after much research changed my mind on donating to them). Over 8,700 oz to Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas.
What are your plans for donating in the future?
Since I have such an overproduction I will continue to donate until my son is 12 months old. Milk banks do not accept milk after your baby turns 1. When I started my original goal was 12,000. Now I have changed it to 16,000 oz.
You definitely make a lot of milk. What’s the story?
From the beginning my son started to have problems – he couldn’t latch because I would be so engorged, only green mucous bowel movements, projectile vomiting from getting too much too fast. I had mastitis 3 times in 5 weeks. I sought after help from the beginning. I didn’t want to cause more of an oversupply but I felt trapped that if I didn’t start pumping I was going to hurt my son. I saw several lactation consultants, my OB, my PCP, his pediatrician, all anyone could tell me is how lucky I was. Several of them mentioned the fact that I could donate my milk. I even had an peds ER doctor tell me I should sell my milk.
My OB finally explained that there are some women with a hormonal imbalance that causes their body to overproduce. That my body does not understand that I am full and just keeps producing. I finally met a lactation consultant that thought she could help. She said she hadn’t heard of many cases where someone produces as much as I do. I had tried everything from not pumping, to block feeding, to total elimination method, peppermint, sage, no more milk tea, antihistamines, cabbage, and NOTHING even lowered my supply. She recommended I see an endocrinologist to see if I had pituitary gland problems.
I finally had hope that someone could help me, at least a little. They ran some tests and came back with the fact that I have hyperthyroidism and should really have trouble making milk. They didn’t have an answer as to why I overproduced. I just cried and cried in their office feeling hopeless knowing if they couldn’t help this oversupply, nothing would. Just as much as a woman with low milk supply has problems, overproducing is not a good thing – not like this. I am attached to my pump. It really puts a strain on my family as I spend hours a day pumping. I can’t skip a day or time because I am almost constantly in pain. And I feel hopeless because no matter what I do, I can’t lower my supply.
The best answer that I have now been given is when I am ready to quit, let them know and a medication can be prescribed to stop the milk production but it’s not safe to take while nursing. Most people tell me how lucky I am but those words I hate the most. I had a small pity party at the endocrinologist office and then I told myself I had 24 hours to be upset and I needed to move on. I needed to find a positive. At this point I had been donating because I had to. I needed space in my freezer and just didn’t know what else to do. But then I decided to change my attitude and I wanted to help people. I wanted to turn my problem into as much of a positive as possible.
How did you find out about donating milk?
I had heard about it with my first but never had any “extra” to donate. I also thought the process seemed complicated and it honestly scared me. My OB and the pediatrician had always brought up donating too.
What made you want to donate?
In all honesty I needed the freezer space. My husband’s answer was to just dump it down the drain. But I know it is “liquid gold” and I just could not handle that thought! So I started researching who can I donate to. I had the paperwork to get blood work done but the process seemed “daunting”. I originally donated to neighbors, friends, and heard of the Facebook page Human Milk 4 Human Babies. I made a post and started messaging moms in need. I was absolutely out of freezer space and needed to donate over 3,500 oz. I made my first donation to a mom and it was a large donation — 1,600 oz. Then I donated 1,200 oz to the next mom. I found a couple of more moms to donate the rest of the milk to. I started shipping milk to my best friend in another state who had a low milk supply. I felt like I was always giving away milk and people were eternally grateful. I read an article that talked about the actual milk banks and that because of informal human milk sharing the actual milk banks were running low. And I started to do research and decided that I needed to start donating to a bank as I wanted to help the sick and give them and their families a fighting chance.
How often do you pump every day to do this?
I pump 5 to 6 times a day. Everyday. Unfortunately because of my oversupply I can’t stop.
What tips do you have for moms who want to get started donating?
Try! I have a busy life – husband, 2 young kids, and I’m starting a business but I still find time to pump. Get a hands-free pumping bra and a pump with a battery so you can pump anywhere. It adds up quick and every ounce counts! Life can seem too busy to fit it in, but it becomes easier. I pump while eating dinner, cooking, folding laundry, etc. A hands-free bra really makes all of the difference in the world.
Also, donate no matter how much milk you can provide. If it was your baby in the NICU you’d want access to donor milk, and the milk banks are always running low. Any amount you can give is precious.
Do you do anything special? Either pumping routine, etc.
I pump anywhere and everywhere. It is part of my routine. If I get too busy, I pump on the go. I put on a hands-free bra, connect the pump, wear a nursing cover and go! I have ridden in the car doing this and yes even driven doing this (though I do not recommend it since it is NOT the safest thing to do).
Where do you donate and how does that work?
Do a little research on milk banks before you donate. I chose a bank that I “thought” would be easy to work with. They seemed easy, sent someone out to me to do my blood work and were friendly. Then they became PUSHY! I mean I was sick in the hospital for the week and had received several emails from them asking why I hadn’t shipped milk. After that I really started to look into them and found out they are a for-profit company. The problem with for-profit companies, besides the fact they make money off of the work I am doing, is they also do A LOT of research for formula with the “donated” milk. I have nothing against formula as it is needed. But I do believe I have a right to know what my milk is being used for.
After that I decided to find a new bank. I was concerned that the local bank would be difficult as I had to go to the lab to have my blood drawn and I thought I had to drop off my milk vs. shipping. This was a daunting task as I did not know how I could possibly get 2,000 oz of milk and two kids inside the hospital at the same time to drop it off. I called one day saying my freezer was filled to the max and I wanted to donate but didn’t know what to do. They were so helpful. They even set a courier to MY HOUSE to pick up the milk! Because I donate so much, they send someone each time! It couldn’t be easier for me. They provide the bags and are just so thankful for each ounce that comes through. I highly recommend finding a bank through this website – https://www.hmbana.org/
Also to add, the bank I donate to does sell the milk. BUT there is a lot of cost involved for a milk bank. They pay for the supplies, shipping, couriers, medical tests, and operating expenses for the bank. But they do not profit from the sale of the milk. Also no one with a medical need for milk is turned away even if they cannot pay.
How many hours do you think you’ve spent pumping?
I would say I spend about 3 to 4 hours a day pumping. That doesn’t always include the washing of pumping parts or even always packing them up. I pumped more in the earlier months than I do now. So I would say at least 700 hours at this point.
Do you know how many babies have benefited from your milk?
I personally know of 7 babies because of the local moms and friends I donated too. As far as the bank goes, I have no idea. A great fact, one oz of breast milk feeds a preemie three times.
Tell us about your pumps.
My first breast pump I ever purchased was the end of 2009 getting ready for my daughter to be born Feb. 2010. I had done tons of research on pumps because I was determined to breastfeed. At the time I had narrowed it down to Ameda and Medela. But since Medela was not a closed system they quickly lost and Ameda was my choice.I loved how small the Ameda was. But now knowing different things I LOVED that it came with all 3 sizes of flanges. It made it convenient since no new mom knows how those things are suppose to work. I had choices if it didn’t seem to fit/work. I also liked that I could plug it in or use AA batteries. Who would ever think you need to pump on the go so often?
My daughter was born and like I said I was determined to breastfeed. I didn’t know that babies could have problems latching. I tried really hard, I saw several LCs, and no one ever talked about tongue/lip ties but my daughter didn’t latch. She lost too much weight and they convinced me she needed a bottle. At 3 days old I was not going to give up, then I was told she was dehydrated if I didn’t give formula she was being admitted to the hospital. AHHH what happened to my plans!!! I was determined, wasn’t that how it was suppose to work?!?! But of course as all new mothers learn, God just smiles at us as we make these plans.
So after 8 weeks of trying to latch then giving a bottle of breast milk, I gave up hope that she would latch and I became an EP. It worked out great. But at 12 weeks old my pump stopped working. Well that is a HUGE deal when you EP. At the time I was just pumping enough for her to eat, not much more. And well 4 hours is a HUGE deal because then the engorgement sets in. I called Ameda and they didn’t mind getting me a new pump but because the time I called it would be 3 days before I would get one. They even said they would cover the cost of a rental. At the time I didn’t even know where to rent one.
So I started my Google search as my baby cried from hunger and I was crying from pain. I found a local shop and went there begging for help. She let me know that she couldn’t rent an Ameda but she could rent a Hygeia for me. At the time she thought the tubes would work. Well we quickly learned they didn’t. I bought a new kit, but of course the flanges were too small. I didn’t care. I had a screaming hungry baby and I was too full! So I got milk and they fed her while I kept pumping. Once I got home I did not know that the flanges weren’t not suppose to come off of the other part that connects to the tubing. So I broke them off and stuck my larger Ameda flanges on. I was good to go! I was only going to rent this pump while I waited for my Ameda. I was hoping my Ameda was getting in on time because I was leaving to go on vacation and the Hygeia didn’t use batteries. Big deal when you are traveling! Thankfully my Ameda came in. However, after 3 days of using the Hygeia I barely responded to the Ameda. So for a week I carried both pumps while I traveled. One to actually pump the other that had batteries and to use while flying, sitting at the airport, etc.
This was my start to my newest love – Hygeia! I have been recommending their products since. My son was due this past June. I knew I wanted the new battery operated Hygeia! I NEEDED an LBI. Since it worked so well last time (which I realize I forgot to add the Hygeia doubled my supply over the Ameda!!!) I knew I had to have it.