Thoughtful Thursday: Offer

April 15, 2010

Thoughtful ThursdayToday’s Thoughtful Thursday is about a dilemma that just came up in my life. It has to do with breastfeeding, but in my mind it raises larger questions.

First, a note: I’ve had some posts about breastfeeding in the works for months and months. At first, I couldn’t get very far through writing them without bursting into tears. More recently, as I’ve come to a place of increasing acceptance, it’s been been less emotional but remains a sore subject. I really will write those posts eventually, because I would like to pass along what I have learned, much of which is particularly relevant to those with a history of infertility. In the meantime, in a nutshell: major supply problems, babies never learned to nurse, been exclusively pumping almost their whole lives to give them what little I can, 6 1/2 months and counting. I’ve started tapering my medications to begin the process of stopping, a decision that I came to after much struggle.

Today I got an offer from an acquaintance with a baby a few months younger than Burrito and Tamale. She lives in my neighborhood, and I think we’re working on developing a friendship, but I’ve literally only seen her three times. I happened to mention my milk supply issues, and she happened to mention her current surplus of milk. She offered me her surplus breastmilk.

Given that I have been exclusively pumping for half a year to provide only 5%-10% of each baby’s intake, often at great personal cost in terms of emotional well-being and time, clearly I believe extremely strongly in the benefits of breastmilk. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to deal with has been my inability to provide for them in this way, despite trying as hard as I’ve ever tried with anything.

Pro of accepting her offer:

  • Babies will continue getting breastmilk after I’m done pumping. They will probably get much more breastmilk than I’ve ever been able to give them.
  • Lets her avoid wasting what she’s not able to use.


  • Feeling of indebtedness.
  • There are babies out there who need the milk more, though I’m not sure if her milk would actually reach them.
  • Possible exacerbation of already-present feelings of inadequacy.

Take your pick of which Thoughtful Thursday question to answer.

How much generosity can you let yourself accept?


What should I do?

For once, my head and my heart aren’t agreeing, and I’m truly stumped.

24 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Offer”

  1. rosesdaughter Says:

    I have’t done a Thoughtful Thursday in a while, but here goes. How much generosity can you let your self accept? Well, that’s a hard one for me. I’ve always been sooooo independent. I have never ever needed to accept money/things from anyone. I have always been able to provide for myself. Fast forward to having my baby 4 months ago. I got laid off in my 7th month of pregnancy, so by the time the baby was born, funds were low. My parents, wonderful people that they are, moved in and starting paying my mortgage until I was able to go back to work. That was HARD for me to let them do, but my baby needed a roof over his head so I got over it. I now accept ALL help. All offers, all gifts. There would have been a time that 2nd hand clothes or products from Goodwill or the dollar store would have been a no no. Now, I actively seek out these things and if anyone offers me ANYTHING that I think will help my baby, I take it. It’s not about me anymore. it’s all about him.
    As to what you should do, if the kids are doing fine, do you really need it? If you really want them to have breastmilk I say GO for it and keep it moving. Let all feelings of inadeqacy go and do what’s best for your babies.

  2. Sara Says:

    Hopefully this isn’t too painful to consider. But what if the situation were reversed and you were able to offer her surplus – would you feel like she was indebted to you?

  3. a Says:

    Ya know, it’s probably because I work in a crime lab, but I have a strong aversion to the bodily fluids of other people. I nursed my daughter, but I think I would have been totally freaked out at the thought of her drinking someone else’s breast milk. Plus, I have it in my head (with no basis, scientific or otherwise, to back it up) that only my breastmilk would provide the immune system benefits. Nutritionally, I think it’s all the same, though.

    That said, my FIL has been supplementing his diet with my SIL’s breastmilk. He’s been battling cancer, and they read that it could help. Based on his latest scan, that (plus the chemo and radiation) seems to have worked.

    I don’t think I could do it, because it makes me kinda squeamish. But I remember a story from BlogHer last year, where one woman nursed another woman’s child. I wish I could remember who it was, so you could have a source for the opposing view.

  4. Kristin Says:

    There are very few people I can accept that level of generosity from. If I were in your situation, I would recommend accepting it. The biggest problem with donating through a breast milk bank is the rules are UBER strict about who can donate and when (for instance, those of us on allergy medicine can’t donate even though our docs have deemed it safe to nurse our children on it). Maybe you could trade off something so you wouldn’t feel so indebted…maybe babysitting or a dinner out (hehe, food for food) or something.

  5. Rebecca Says:

    I can’t accept generosity. I suck at it. But. I would seriously consider doing this.

  6. Elana Kahn Says:

    I really like accepting generosity actually lol. Although sometimes I feel weird, it means I get stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise. In this case, the only thing you need to make sure is that she doesn’t have some bizzarro disease that she could potentially pass on to your twins. Weird things can happen with breast milk. But honestly, it’s an awesome offer and one I would consider.

  7. Eva Says:

    Well, breastmilk is a bodily fluid. It can e.g. infect babies with HIV. Usually one would rather not exchange breastmilk between different mothers/children. It is very unlikely that there would be a problem, but there is a small risk.

    And while breastmilk is best – formula is not such a bad choice (e.g. safe, controlled, and very well understood in how many or actually few risks it carries if it is used to replace breast milk).

    Regarding the other question, I find it hard to accept generosity. And usually it is the harder for me the more stressed I am. I try to get better at asking for help, and having children is actually a good training in this regard!

    And back to the problems with nursing: Problems with nursing are widely spread and so common (I was fighting with supply issues, too) that I sometimes think that evolution did not finish the whole develompental program in the nursing area…

  8. Idraena Says:

    Like Elana, I really enjoy accepting generosity. I have always been fiercely independent with skills, whether it be refusing my mother’s help with a difficult zipper at 3 or a peer’s help with a paper now. I always wanted to know that I could earn something, do it myself, be chosen for something based on my own merit. But I have absolutely no problem with accepting hand-me-downs, having friends buy me dinner, etc — so much so that sometimes I feel I’m way too selfish. If it’s something I don’t feel I can accept (but I want to), I tend to just say that, and they can make their own decision to rescind the offer or whatever they feel they want to do. I also find that I tend to offer my help to others with the very things I am fiercely independent about: I will gladly help others with the same paper I refuse to take peer criticism on, but rarely offer to buy people dinner.

    I think you should take the milk, or at least seriously consider it. In your place, and with your strength of feeling about the benefits of breastmilk, I think I would take it. Since you’ve already struggled with your supply issues and accepted them (however painful it has been), and you’re considering stopping, I think this woman’s offer is perfect. Also, while her offer is obviously incredibly generous and sweet, I think that in her place, I might not even see it as a big deal — a sort of “I have a surplus, why shouldn’t someone else make use of it instead of pumping and dumping?” And I think that what Sara says is also important — if you were in her place, would you feel she owed you something? Or would you simply be glad to help out a friend and fellow mom? Chances are whatever the answer is, she feels a similar way. Please keep us updated on whatever you decide to do, and I hope that whatever you decide, you feel comfortable with the decision.

  9. staciet Says:

    First of all, I am impressed with your dedication to breastfeeding the babies. I KNOW what the pain of not being able to adequately provide BM to your own babies feels like. I went through it myself. (I pumped like a madwoman, but was only getting 2 ounces a freaking day by 4 weeks. I decided to stop the torture I was doing to my psyche on day 28 and promptly started my period. Don’t even get me started on the whole period issue! Anyway, I wanted to provide BM for the boys but was unable to. So I beat myself up about it. I can relate to what you are going through.) For you to continue to pump even with all the struggle is downright amazing to me. I again dub you “Superwoman”!

    That being said, I think I would not accept the gift if I was in your situation. To me, it would break my heart over and over again each time I gave my babies someone else’s BM. You provided for them for 6.5 months. Formula is really good nowadays. It will be okay for them if you went to all formula with no BM.

    And there is the ewwww factor of someone else’s BM. I know you know her and all, but still…unless there was some testing done to it, I’d be leary of using it.

    Hugs to you. I know this decision has got to be difficult. Sending you strength while you decide what is best for your family–and you.

  10. luna Says:

    my cousin’s wife offered us some milk early on. in addition to the issues you mention — in particular overcoming my own feelings of inadequacy (after never being able to conceive and carry a child to term), then trying to induce lactation but only able to produce a tiny amount — I had to deal with an added complication. this woman did not have an easy time nursing at all, but she wanted to keep up her supply when she wasn’t suffering from mastitis or other stressful issues.

    I said thanks but no thanks several times, told her not to worry about us, but she insisted on pumping a bit for us. and I was grateful to have the milk.

  11. ^WiseGuy^ Says:

    How much generosity can I accept?

    As much as the length I would be willing to go for somebody I dearly love.

    I cannot decide whether you should accept the offer. There is no plain Yes or No.

    A colleague recently went to meet her SIL who had just delivered a baby. This colleague’s son is a little over 2. She still has the supply, and she breastfed her nephew for all the while she was there. The SIL is not breastfeeding because her supply is not good at all.

    My question is: ‘Would you have offered to do the same for your acquaintance/friend?’

  12. ana Says:

    First let me say, I am inspired & impressed by your perseverence in this area. My boy also never latched on, and I have been exclusively pumping. I was making way more than enough for 3 months, and suddenly my supply has dropped to less than 50% of his intake, and dwindling daily despite regular pumping at work and home. I am feeling another bout of mastitis coming on this week, and my husband is begging me to stop pumping, but I really want to try to give him whatever BM I can. Not sure how long I can keep it up—I am toying with the idea of quitting, but your >6 months is really motivating me to keep it up (we are not quite even 4 months yet)

    Yes, take the offer. I would, as long as I knew the woman well enough to know she is not carrying any potential disease. If I was asked this BEFORE I had my son I would have said NO WAY, how GROSS! but now, I see the >12 oz some woman at my work pumps and leaves in the freezer, and I am tempted daily to “accidently” take hers instead of my paltry 4-5 oz! When I had an oversupply, and my freezer was running out of room, I ended up throwing some milk out (I am definitely crying about that spilt milk now!) & I understand why she wants to give it away.
    I don’t think you should feel unduly indebted to her. Grateful, yes, but you are not taking anything of value away from her if she was going to toss it. Its like taking ripe tomatos from someone’s garden when they have 100s—they are going to go to waste you might as well get your lycopenes.

  13. Carrie Says:

    I say take it. She can’t donate it to a milk bank because she would have had to be prescreened and therefore they wouldn’t take her “old” milk, but only the “new” stuff after she passed the screening. She can try to look online for someone who would want it, but you’re right – the chances of it getting to them are slim.

    You could use it, she doesn’t want to throw it away – perfect!

    And I don’t think you should feel indebted to her… she obviously wants to help and the feeling of being helpful and your sincere gratitude should be sufficient 🙂

  14. I can accept quite some generosity, but I always like to be able to give (back) too – otherwise I feel out of balance.

    With regard to breastfeeding and your dilemma – I don’t really know what to tell you. I’ve found that, as a mother, it’s nearly impossible to make rational decisions about breastfeeding. I’ve struggled with it emotionally as well, although I had no supply or nursing issues.

    So I’m curious to read your post about the subject when it’s ready. There’s also an interesting article that appeared in the New Yorker last year about breastfeeding:

    Good luck with the decision.

  15. Photogrl Says:

    To be still pumping, trying your best, is incredible!

    I struggled with supply issues with Miss O. and ended up supplementing from about 4 to 9 months, when I sadly, tearfully weaned her.

    I can understand how your heart and head are holding opposing views.

    For me, I’d take the breast milk. I wish I would have known someone who could have offered such a gift to me and my baby.

  16. Shinejil Says:

    I think the offer is kind, but may not be the best thing for you or your babies. Just as you did when grappling with IF, you need to protect yourself. You don’t need to do something that causes you unnecessary pain.

    There are the health concerns–and not just HIV. I was screened out of donating to a milk bank because I had spent too much time living in Europe (!). Mad cow disease was the issues, methinks. So there are other diseases, as well as medicines and drugs, to think about.Also, though milk is amazingly anti-bacterial, most donated milk is pasteurized to ensure its safety. This may be overkill and paranoia, but worth considering.

    You have done your damnest, and imho, done very well. Pumping sucks, absolutely. I hated it and hate it. And I admire deeply any woman who sticks with it as you have.

  17. Jericho Says:

    I say accept it. She’s so willing to help, and you’re right, unless she’s already signed up for a donate-your-breastmilk-to-African-babies program, she’ll probably have a lot go to waste. I doubt she’ll feel like you owe her anything. Its ultimately your choice, though. Whats the DH think?

  18. Dora Says:

    I just don’t know.

    But first of all, it’s amazing that you’ve been able to exclusively pump for so long. Pumping sucks. 😉 Please don’t beat yourself up over your supply issues. My understanding is that most twin moms have supply issues. And you had such a physically traumatic birth experience. You are an awesome mommy. How much or how little breast milk you produce is not the measure of your awesomeness. Burrito and Tamale are magnificent, happy babies.

    Back to the offer. I don’t know. I’ve gone back and forth with my opinion as I’ve read the comments. At the twins age, I really think the benefits of BM over formula is just not that great. Really, the most benefit is from the colostrum. I’ve been supplementing since Squeaker was a few weeks old. I just didn’t have enough for her cluster feeding, evening appetite. That eased up at about 3 months, but then I went back to work. I can’t pump enough at work for her to have during the day. Squeaker has been at daycare since she was 13 weeks old, and despite getting mostly formula during the day, has never been sick. She’s healthy and pudgy and delightful. She happily goes back and forth between the breast and bottle. (So take that LLL!)

    Go with your gut. It’s not wrong to do what you need to do for yourself emotionally. B and T are thriving, and I’m sure they will continue to do so.

  19. Dora Says:

    It is a lovely offer, though. As to how much generosity to accept, I truly believe that sometimes receiving is giving. That we can give someone a real gift by allowing them to give to us. Hearts are opened and bit by bit the world is changed.

  20. coffeegrl Says:

    This is hard. I was in a situation with a group of new parents/babies and Baby E’s mother wanted him to get breastmilk but she had supply issues. So in the early months, Mother A in our group donated a bunch of her breastmilk to Baby E’s family who happily accepted it. Then, when the time came for Baby A to enter daycare full-time, Mother A didn’t have enough of a supply for her own baby. As I result, I gave a bunch of excess milk I had stored to Baby A’s family. The whole thing felt very natural and organic, but we’d all come to know each other fairly well having seen each other at least once a week from the time our babies were born (and we still see each other at least that often). It might have felt really different if we weren’t part of a small personal group & community focused on parent support (with lots of regular interaction). People are often surprised when they hear this story, and definitely weirded out at times. I get why – but in this case it totally worked.

  21. I have been the recipient of A LOT of generosity, and I have to say I think it’s a good thing in the long run. Owing favors keeps us grounded and connected to our fellow man. She has a surplus, you need that milk. Take it and do something nice for somebody else.

    However, six months is a good amount of time to breastfeed, and many moms (including myself) wean at that time. Betty got an ear infection after weaning, but other than that she’s been a healthy, happy baby. And quite frankly, I’ve loved the freedom that this has afforded me. Ask yourself if it’s time. Sometimes the universe gives us answers to the questions we’re not asking.

  22. Star Says:

    This is a no-brainer: take the milk! It can’t be anything but helpful to the babies. (I’m assuming you trust that your friend does not have any diseases). You don’t need to feel indebted to her — she has too much and if I were in that position, I would be SO happy to have another baby or babies benefit from it. I have no idea why people are squeamish about breast milk. We drink milk from hundreds of cows all mixed together every single day and we don’t know where they’ve been etc. Personally I would much rather give another woman’s milk than formula to my baby as much as possible. IMO (sorry to be the turd in the proverbial punch bowl) formula is processed food: you can certainly survive on it but it will always be inferior to eating whole foods. Which is not to say that anyone who has struggled with supply should feel bad about feeding formula to their baby — quite the contrary! We all do the very best we can and sometimes things don’t work out as we hoped despite our best efforts. But I will be a hypocrite here (because I too would be devastated if BF had not worked out for me) and say try to divorce your emotions about the subject from your decision about whether to take the milk and just base it on what you believe is the best thing to do for the twins. Hang in there — in a few months they will be on table food and this will all be in the rearview mirror. Hugs to you.

  23. Sara Says:


    A note from the other side… I had my baby 11 weeks ago, and while my body may not be good at holding babies in, it’s great at making milk. I have a freezer full of extra. Mu friend is – God willing!- adopting a baby this week. I have offered her my extra milk, and she has accepted. It gives me a great deal of joy to know that my extra will help a baby grow, and that baby’s immune system will be better for having my milk. It makes ME happy to know I’m doing something nice.

    I’m terrible, personally, at accepting help and generosity, and I am trying to remember that the giver profits, too. I know I feel that way as the giver!

  24. Mel Says:

    I do feel queasy sometimes near too much generosity because I wonder how it will weigh on my heart–that feeling of being indebted (more than feeling inadequate for taking help). I had this probably after the twins were born and shot myself in the foot more than I needed to.

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