It’s nearly 11pm on a Saturday.
It’s been a rough day. Husband is TAD. I had to pick up his dry cleaning, vacuum under the table, get numbers made for his softball team jerseys, keep three needy & cabin fevered kids fed, alive and marginally happy, clean and cut 12 lbs of strawberries we picked last weekend and haven’t had time to cut (we were quickly running out of time on those!), vacuum under the table again, plan for our son’s birthday, load the dishes, unload the dishes, do eleventy loads of laundry, get a last minute gift for a birthday party for one of the kid’s friends, cook dinner then prepare the extra chicken I defrosted but didn’t need, do the dishes again, vacuum under the table again (where does all of this blasted dirt come from???), put the kids in time out (they decided to lose their minds from the weather and dad being gone), and last but not least, convince them to clean their room. This is a pretty typical day for a military spouse with her service member gone.
But that wasn’t the end of my day. That wasn’t all I did. I also pumped for 6 hours, washed bottles twice, stored milk, did the math for the milk I have in the fridge vs freezer and add to that, the dads of the baby I’m pumping for came over with the baby, Rowan’s, grandmother. (I was a surrogate and I am currently 7 wks postpartum and exclusively pumping for the sweet princess I carried).
As I pushed onto midnight, for the third night in a row (I couldn’t seem to get to bed with everything I needed to do before going to bed with my husband not home to help), I had a mountainous sink of bottles to wash — washing usually takes about 20 minutes twice a day but when the guys bring back storage containers, it takes longer. I soak the bottles, scrub every nook and cranny (requiring 3 different types of bottle brushes, a specific type of soap that cuts the fat from the milk and a $300 UV bottle dryer and sanitizer by WabiBaby). I had to put clothes away that I had to wash because I use reusable breast pads by Bamboobies. And I had to pump last minute before retreating for the night but I had to wait until it had been 2.5-3 hours from the last pumping session so I decided to go ahead and clean up the kitchen at 10:30 at night.
As you see, pumping exclusively isn’t easy. And it is certainly not free. I have to purchase pump parts, bags, bottles, wet bags to take my pump parts on the go, nipple butter, breast pads, bottle dryer and sanitizer (seriously worth the $300 if you were wondering!), breast pumps, pumping bras. There is an increase of water and electricity usage. Bottle brushes, soap. I have an entire upright freezer that has been taken completely over with milk. It currently has more than 1400 ounces in it (as well as the 1400 ounces that have gone to Rowan and she is just 7.5 wks old!)
What is “free” is my time. My time is technically free. But it is valuable. I spend about 6 hours a day actively pumping — attached the pump. 25% of my time is spent milking — MOOOO! This is every 2.5-3 hours AROUND THE CLOCK. Yes that means I am getting up 1-2 times a night to pump for 45 minutes each time every night. The dads are getting more sleep than I am at this point. This means that I plan my life in 2.5-3 hour increments. It doesn’t matter if we are at a family outing or my son has baseball. It doesn’t matter that dinner needs to be prepared or I have a PTO meeting. I pump anywhere I go – Fortunately I have some really awesome and supportive friends and families and my children don’t really even notice that I do this — this is their normal.
I have been told many times that I am greedy for being compensated for my milk. Formula costs about $.15-$.40 per ounce depending on the brand and specific type. While compensating for breast milk is often more expensive than purchasing formula, it is not excessively so — especially when you add in all of the positive aspects of breast milk. (I just want everyone to know, I also think formula is food and that every parent has the right to feed their baby the way that suits their family best!) I am not sure where the argument of being greedy came from. I have heard that it does not cost me anything to make the milk that I produce, why should I charge others for it. I am preying on those who need this milk desperately. For one, I hope I adequately proved above that producing milk is not free. This is why we do we not expect a receptionist to go to work for free. It does not cost a person a penny to pick up a phone and answer it – is that person’s time more valuable than mine? I am selling a good. That is the bottom line here.
I should disclose that I do not feel that everyone should charge for their breast milk. You should do what you feel is best for you and your family. I have donated (without compensation) tens of thousands of ounces in the past. I have also been compensated for milk for more than 40,000 ounces. All I am saying is I am not in your pocketbook (or bra!) so please stay out of mine. Next time you see a woman asking for compensation for milk, think about what this woman has gone through to produce the milk. If you are milk sharing, share safely. Be sure to ask your donor for STD tests. If you are a donor, do your due diligence and meet those you have met online safely — take your husband, a friend and always meet in a public place.
If you are interested in compensated donation, check out these sites:
Tiny Treasures Milk Bank – This milk bank pays $1 an ounce but requires the strictest of testing, sanitation, and other parameters of pumping. The positive is that you never have to worry about the donor not needing your milk or not receiving payment. However, you are 1099’d for your donations which can be hard on your tax return. This bank creates a ultra concentrated milk product to give to the most fragile of micro preemies — this milk is perfect for these preemies who do not have extra energy to expend on digesting even regular breast milk.
Only the Breast – This is an online community/forum that allows you to post or browse classifieds. You get to respond to whomever you want to and set your price per ounce to whatever you would like. You can choose local pick-ups or shipping milk to your recipient. You do have to weed through some weirdos but there are many families looking for milk as well as even adults looking to compensate for milk for various reasons (medical reasons, body builders, high paying men with fetishes that want to consume your milk — seriously!)
Facebook Groups – Like this and this. Finding groups on FB make it slightly easier to spot a scam or weirdo. Many times the admins are vetting participants and you can facebook stalk to make sure you aren’t getting cat-fished!
Eats On Feets – It is a facebook group that has state chapters. Parents post that they are looking for milk and women post when they have an excess. You may not compensate in this group, but you can replace bags and always thank a donor with small gifts or tokens of appreciation.
Human Milk for Human Babies – Much like the above, this is a world wide milk sharing facebook community.
Whatever you choose to do you with your milk, I support that choice. Before you look sideways at a woman who chooses to ask for compensation, think about me, think about my story and think about how I am a military spouse, doing this as a gesture of kindness but I also treat it like a job. You can have compassion while getting paid!
Written by: Melanie Binversie, Owner of Stars and Stripes Doulas