Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Tale of Four Milky Mamas

Welcome to the April Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have shared how they advocate for healthy, gentle parenting choices compassionately. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


The second principle of attachment parenting is to “feed with love and respect.” This means to practice full term breastfeeding if possible and to respond to baby with love and respect regardless of whether you are feeding using your breast or a bottle. I would like to share how I do both in my life and also how I help other moms to do the same.

I have nursed Little Man for 13 months and 14 days as of the publishing of this article. I have done this because it is his choice when to stop nursing. For the first 2 months he was bottle fed my milk as I exclusively pumped. I pumped my milk for him because I had been given improper medical advice. I had little support and nearly lost my supply. I had to supplement his diet. At first I did not know that I had any other option other than formula and because of my parenting choices - I felt like I had failed my son. When my childhood friend found out that I was supplementing and how upset I was by it - she offered me her freezer of pumped milk. I can never thank her enough and could never repay the debt I feel I owe her.

I returned to traditional breastfeeding and was able to raise my supply with the support of the same friend and a lactation consultant. My supply returned and I was able to feed Little Man in the way I wanted. I returned to work though and again my supply dropped and I was struggling to keep up. I found help through Natural Parenting Network and was able to begin co-sleeping to raise my supply. I was also able to start my own small freezer of milk.

A few days before Little Man's first birthday, I looked in our freezer at the small amount of milk I had been hoarding just in case I ran out and needed more. It was going to expire faster then I could have defrosted it and had him drink it. I did not want it to go to waste - I've worked so hard to maintain a milk supply over the past year. It would be a slap in the face if I tossed it out so I jumped on Facebook and searched out the page I'd heard talk of before but never paid much attention to before, Eats on Feets - now Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HB4HB). I followed the links to find my local chapter, I posted under the 'Milk to Share' discussion and waited.

Luckily, I did not wait long as I might have changed my mind. Anne contacted me in need of milk for her daughter. Her email was short and she was direct.

Hello. I saw your post on Eats and Feets and would be very interested in picking up any spare milk you may have for my daughter. Thanks so much. Anne

Since I had no experience being on the giving side I had no idea what to expect. My donor had been a lifelong friend who had offered me extra milk when I was in need. This was a stranger - who did not know me and was trusting me with the well being of her child. I replied to the email, asking her where she was located and where I was generally located. We made a plan to meet at the local Babies R Us at 10 am.

I waited apprehensively in my car. I had forwarded what little information I knew about this woman to my husband - just in case[1] It was a rainy Sunday so I did not get out of the car as I had planned to wait for her. The store was not open yet anyway. I watched out my window and the mirrors at the strangers in the parking lot for any sign of the look I had worn on my face not so long ago. It is a mixture of desperation, fear and hope. Finally I saw her, my phone rang and we connected. It was a very short exchange. I put my small donation in her cooler along with the note I had hastily written about defrosting and storage - I had no idea if she was accustomed to this method of storage and feeding. We exchanged awkward goodbyes and ran to our separate cars. I called my husband - told him I was done and drove home.

When I got there and the pit of anxiety had faded - I emailed Anne again and told her that if she ever found herself in need again to please call, text or email and I would try to give her what I could. I did not hear from her for a few days but I finally got a message. She thanked me and told me that her daughter had liked my milk and she was grateful. It was at that moment that I felt I had come full circle. I was actually on my way to see my former donor when I got that message for dinner. I thought to myself, ‘I can do this, I can help other moms.’

After the initial excitement wore off an old familiar feeling crept over me: ‘What if I lose my supply again?’  What would I do for milk?  How can I feed two babies when I struggled to feed just one a few months ago?

I decided to answer Anne’s call whenever she called me if I had spare milk. I could not stress myself out over the what-if’s in life. I have since been able to donate about 90 ounces to Anne over three separate occasions - that is a lot when you think I used to struggle with my supply day-to-day. I still do not know Anne well but she is my sister-mama. I help with what I can to ensure that Anne is able to feed with love and respect however she chooses to feed her daughter.

Shortly after meeting Anne I began an extreme fitness program which has an included diet plan. I was initially worried that the plan my hinder my milk production. Well quite the opposite is true - my milk has increased and some of the worry I felt about feeding Little Man and Anne’s daughter has disappeared. I met another mom, Joy on Natural Parents Network who was struggling with her supply and thought that her only option would be to wean. I reached out to Joy and shared my experience and advice with her.

This was her response which still brings fresh tears to my eyes.

First, thank you so much for taking the time to write me your advice! The nerves, the uncertainty I was feeling left as soon as I started to read. It's amazing what other's words can do for you! You made me realize how I had slowly let myself forget about still eating for 2 and needing to get [all] my calories! The same day you wrote I heard from another lady about how I should be having a lot of protein and that was a first. I'm not big into meat but I'm working on getting protein into my diet. I do eat a lot of spinach but hadn't touched it once in the last week so I went right back to that too! It all WORKED!!!!! My milk has been dropping, and [now] I'm getting more!!! It's wonderful!!!!!! Thank you so much for you[r] advice! I prayed that God would see me through this, however that needed to happen, and you were an answer to [my] prayers! Thanks again SO much![2]

I cannot express how happy any of this makes me to be able to not only continue my own choices in parenting but to help other moms to do the same. If someone pays you a kindness today - look for the opportunity to do the same for someone else. You never know how far you can go.


Calorie Calculator for Women from About.com
Which foods can boost your milk supply? from Motherwear Blog

1. In retrospect this seems very silly. However, being the daughter of a retired police officer, living in the region of the US that I do my guard is always up. Even more so since Little Man came along and was in the car.
2. Response edited for readability only.


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

  • Natural Parenting Advocacy by Example — Jenn at Monkey Butt Junction uses her blog, Twitter and Facebook as her natural parenting soapbox.
  • You Catch More Flies With Honey — When it comes to natural parenting advice, Kate of The Guavalicious Life believes you catch more flies with honey.
  • From the Heart — Patti at Jazzy Mama searches her heart for an appropriate response when she learns that someone she respects wants his baby to cry-it-out.
  • I Offer the Truth — Amy at Innate Wholeness shares the hard truths to inspire parents in making changes and fully appreciating the parenting experience.
  • Advocating or Just Opinionated?Momma Jorje discusses how to draw the line between advocating compassionately and being just plain opinionated. It can be quite a fine line.
  • Compassionate Advocacy — Mamapoekie of Authentic Parenting writes about how to discuss topics you are passionate about with people who don't share your views.
  • Heiny Helpers: Sharing Cloth Love — Heiny Helpers is guest posting on Natural Parents Network to share how they are providing cloth diapers and cloth diapering support to low income families.
  • Struggling with Advocacy — April of McApril still struggles to determine how strongly she should advocate for her causes, but still loves to show her love for her parenting choices to those who would like to listen.
  • Compassionate Advocacy Through Blogging (AKA –Why I Blog) — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares how both blogging and day-to-day life give her opportunities to compassionately advocate for natural parenting practices.
  • A Letter to *Those* Parents — Zoie at TouchstoneZ shares how to write an informed yet respectful reply to those parents — you know, the ones who don't parent the way you do.
  • Why I Am Not A Homebirth Advocate — Olivia at Write About Birth is coming out: she is a homebirth mom, but not a homebirth advocate. One size does not fit all – but choice is something we can all advocate for!
  • Why I Open My Big Mouth — Wolfmother from Fabulous Mama Chronicles reflects on why she is passionate about sharing parenting resources.
  • Watching and Wearing — Laura at Our Messy Messy Life advocates the joys of babywearing simply by living life in a small college town.
  • Compassionate Advocacy . . . That's The Way I Do It — Amyables at Toddler in Tow describes how she's learned to forsake judgment and channel her social energy to spread the "good news" of natural parenting through interaction and shared experiences.
  • Compelling without repelling — Lauren at Hobo Mama cringes when she thinks of the obnoxious way she used to berate people into seeing her point of view.
  • I Am the Change — Amanda at Let's Take the Metro describes a recent awakening where she realized exactly how to advocate for natural parenting.
  • Public Displays of CompassionThe Accidental Natural Mama recounts an emotional trip to the grocery store and the importance of staying calm and compassionate in the storm of toddler emotions.
  • I will not hide behind my persona — Suzi Leigh at Attached at the Boob discusses the benefits of being honest and compassionate on the internet.
  • Choosing My Words — Jenny at Chronicles of a Nursing Mom shares why she started her blog and why she continues to blog despite an increasingly hectic schedule.
  • Honour the Child :: Compassionate Advocacy in the Classroom — Lori at Beneath the Rowan Tree shares her experience of being a gentle and compassionate parent — with other people's children — as a classroom volunteer in her daughter's senior kindergarten room.
  • Inspired by the Great Divide (and Hoping to Inspire) — Rosemary at Rosmarinus Officinalis shares her thoughts on navigating the "great divide" through gently teaching and being teachable.
  • Introverted Advocacy — CatholicMommy at Working to be Worthy shares how she advocates for gentle parenting, even though she is about as introverted as one can be.
  • The Three R's of Effective and Gentle Advocacy — Ana at Pandamoly explains how "The Three R's" can yield consistent results and endless inspiration to those in need of some change.
  • Passionate and Compassionate: How do We do It? — Kelly at Becoming Crunchy shares the importance of understanding your motivation for advocacy.
  • Sharing the love — Isil at Smiling Like Sunshine talks about how she shares the love and spreads the word.
  • What Frank Said — Nada at miniMOMist has a good friend named Frank. She uses his famous saying to demonstrate how much natural parenting has benefited her and her family.
  • Baby Sling Carriers Make Great Compassionate Advocacy Tools — Chante at My Natural Motherhood Journey shared her babywearing knowledge — and her sling — with a new mom.
  • Everyday Superheroes — Who needs Superman when we have a community of compassionate advocates?! Dionna at Code Name: Mama believes that our community of gentle bloggers are the true superheroes.
  • Words of advice: compassionately advocating for my parenting choices — MrsH at Fleeting Moments waits to give advice until she's been asked, resulting in fewer advocacy moments but very high responsiveness from parents all over the spectrum of parenting approaches.
  • Peaceful Parenting — Peaceful parenting shows at Living Peacefully with Children with an atypical comment from a stranger.
  • Speaking for birth — Lucy at Dreaming Aloud soul-searches about how she can advocate for natural birth without causing offense.
  • Gentle is as Gentle Does — Laura at A Pug in the Kitchen shares how she is gently advocating her parenting style.
  • Walking on Air — Rachael at The Variegated Life wants you to know that she has no idea what she's doing — and it's a gift.
  • Parenting with my head, my heart, and my gut — Charise at I Thought I Knew Mama shares her thoughts on being a compassionate advocate of natural parenting as a blogger.
  • At Peace With the World — Megan at Ichigo Means Strawberry talks about being an advocate for peaceful parenting at 10,000 feet.
  • Putting a public face on "holistic" — Being public about her convictions is a must for Jessica at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, but it takes some delicacy.
  • Just Be; Just Do. — Amy at Anktangle believes strongly about her parenting methods, and also that the way to get people to take notice is to simply live her life and parent the best she knows how.
  • One Parent at a Time... — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment believes that advocating for Natural Parenting is best accomplished by walking the walk.
  • Self-compassion — We're great at caring for and supporting others —from our kiddos to other mamas — but Lisa at Gems of Delight shares a post about treating ourselves with that same sense of compassion.
  • Using Montessori Principles to Advocate Natural Parenting — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now tells how she uses Montessori principles to be a compassionate advocate for natural parenting.
  • Advocacy? Me? — Seonaid at The Practical Dilettante discovers that by "just doing her thing," she may be advocating for natural parenting.
  • Feeding by Example — Mama Mo at Attached at the Nip shares her experience of being the first one of her generation to parent.
  • Compassionate Consumerism — Erica at ChildOrganics encourages her children to be compassionate consumers and discusses the benefits of buying local and fair trade products.
  • The Importance of Advocating Compassionately — Kristen at Adventures in Mommyhood acts as a compassionate advocate by sharing information with many in the hopes of reaching a few.
  • Some Thoughts on Gentle Discipline — Darcel at The Mahogany Way shares her thoughts and some tips on Gentle Discipline.
  • Compassionate Advocacy: Sharing Resources, Spreading the Love — Terri at Child of the Nature Isle shares how her passion for making natural choices in pregnancy, birth, and parenting have supported others in Dominica and beyond.
  • A journey to compassion and connection — Jessica at Instead of Institutions shares her journey from know-it-all to authentic advocacy.
  • Advocacy Through Openness, Respect, and Understanding — Melissa at The New Mommy Files describes her view on belief, and how it has shaped the way she advocates for gentle parenting choices.
  • Why I'm not an advocate for Natural Parenting — Mrs Green at Little Green Blog delivers the shocking news that, after 10 years of being a mum, she is NOT an advocate for natural parenting!
  • Natural Love Creates Natural Happiness — A picture is worth a thousand words, but how about a smile, or a giggle, or a gaze? Jessica at Cloth Diapering Mama’s kids are extremely social and their natural happiness is very obvious.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Compassionate Advocacy — Even in the progressive SF Bay Area, Lily at Witch Mom finds she must defend some of her parenting choices.
  • A Tale of Four Milky Mamas — In this post The ArtsyMama shares how she has found ways to repay her childhood friend for the gift of milk.
  • don't tell me what to do — Pecky at benny and bex demonstrates compassionate advocacy through leading by example.


  1. What a beautiful and inspiring story, Shannon! I am so thankful to be able to donate milk through my local Eats on Feets chapter as well. Being able to give and receive support from other women seeking to feed with love and respect is truly priceless.

  2. Nice background! ;-)

    What a sweet tale and coming around full circle... wonderful. I suspect, though, that you're going to give back ten fold! You have become an amazing resource to the parenting community.

  3. That's a lovely story. I donated milk last time but never connected with the woman who used it. I think I'd like to try donating again this time, and to feel more positive about the experience. Because it really is a beautiful gift that you were able to receive and then pass on as well.

  4. What a sweet, sweet story! I am very unresponsive to a pump - I don't think I've ever even gotten an ounce per session - but I was able to donate what little was in my freezer once to a mama. It was a wonderful feeling, and I knew that I was helping as much as I could. You are incredible, Shannon!

  5. Oh! I meant to also say, you weren't silly to be safe. Better to er on the side of caution, even if it later looks like paranoia. You were already reaching out so much to have met her at all.

  6. Thanks ladies. I do what I can. My friend's mom read this this morning and wrote me a beautiful email that made me cry again. I think all of us just sharing and swapping stories and advice makes a difference every day.

  7. This is such a beautiful and inspiring story - thank you for sharing.

    Sometimes it seems like there can be all kinds of barriers to offering help, whether real physical issues, or just barriers put up by our minds. This story shows how getting past those barriers makes it all worth it, as insurmountable as they may seem up to that point. Thank you again for this post!

  8. That's beautiful, thank you for sharing such an inspiring story. Not just about breastfeeding, but what a great story about overcoming obstacles in general.

  9. You're a true inspiration! It takes a deep and loving commitment to do what you're doing and you should be proud of yourself! Thanks for sharing :-)

  10. Thanks everyone. I just hope that maybe my story will encourage others to reach out and help each other the way my friend and then myself helped other mothers. It is hard doing what we do and then add to that the stress that despite all your best efforts you just might not be able to get through another day and it can be crippling. I do what I can and I'll do it as long as I can. Hopefully my little ripple will carry through to the next mother in need.

  11. This is a beautiful, beautiful story. I cannot find the words to express how it made me feel. I literally got chills reading it. What an amazing, lifee changing circle of life you are in with these women. Wow! Love and blessings to you all!

  12. Your generosity shines through in the willingness to share the precious milk... setting "what-ifs" aside.

    This is lovely also...

    "If someone pays you a kindness today - look for the opportunity to do the same for someone else."


  13. This is a great CarNatPar post! Your story of overcoming your breastfeeding challenges is inspiring. And you generosity to help other moms through compassionate advocacy and active donations is awe-inspiring! Thank you for sharing your kindness. I'll be posting it on facebook and twitter. Spread the <3

  14. What a great story! I also think it wasn't silly to be aware of safety... still, you gave a wonderful gift!

  15. Thanks again ladies. I met up with Anne again today. I did get to meet her daughter too. She is such a beautiful child - I am so glad I can help them.
    @HRM - thank you. I do feel very blessed.
    @Amy - after reading your post, your comment means a lot to me. Thank you.
    @ Zoie thanks for the share!
    @WAB thanks I don't think I'll ever stop being careful but I always feel silly in retrospect. Oh well...


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