Please Pass the Milk

In honor of World Milksharing Week

My story is part of the Blog carnival organised by World Milksharing Week, to celebrate World Milksharing Week 2013. Click here to read more stories about milksharing. If you’d like to participate too, please visit this page.

I need a deep freezer and a lot of glass storage containers.

Actually, “a lot” may be an understatement; I need a Smucker’s factory of glass jars.

The life of stored breast milk can be safely extended with the use of glass receptacles and deep freezer storage. So, in my endeavor to store up donated breast milk for my unborn child, I start collecting glass containers. I buy mason jars by the case and put out a call to everyone I know to start saving them for me. Dozens of empty pickle, jelly, spaghetti, and all manner of food product-jars begin to manifest.

I run my collection through the dishwasher and then stand over the stove, dropping each one into a huge steel pot of boiling water. Each gets a 10 minute bath to complete the sanitation process. I'm pretty sure my baby, tucked in-utero underneath my tong-clad-hands, grows accustomed to this soundtrack of my pregnancy: the rolling boil that clanks the glass against the metal.

I order a deep freezer, and I divvy out the collected, sanitized jars to my small army of girlfriends who are ready to pump for my daughter.

After having undergone a bilateral mastectomy last year, I no longer possess milk ducts. Breastfeeding is not an option for me.

I’m coming off a harried path of altered plans and broken hearts, of the coping and improvisation of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. I will accept my friends’ milk with open arms and a grateful heart. And when those stores of cloudy, yellowish-white life force dwindle under the demands of my daughter’s voracious little appetite, I will branch into the world of public milk sharing.

In the end, other women’s breast milk will sustain my daughter for the first 9 months of her life:
17 different women. 4 counties. 89 days straight before formula was introduced. Some 270 days with breast milk in her diet – of which I did not provide a drop.

Ideally, of course I would never have chosen to do it this way. And frankly, it sounds a little scary in retrospect. But, like so many choices in life, it was not plucked from the ideal; this was a path born of improvisation.

And also so often like life, the process of managing the imperfect became itself beautiful.

Hungry to fill my daughter’s belly with the best odds I could, I drove across the southern part of the state collecting milk for her - and along the way got to witness the self-sacrificing love of friends and the goodwill and generosity of strangers. I found women on milk sharing forums, met them and talked with them, came home with bags of their milk, which I flash-heated and happily fed to my healthy infant, with her peditricians' blessing (and praise.)

So today, here is my great praise and deep gratitude to those women, to the women willing to give their time, efforts, and precious milk for the benefit of others. Here is to improvisation, to making the best out of what we’re given.

Here’s to milk sharing.



  1. Thank you for sharing your story. Our household has had a similar rhythm; not what we planned but an unbelievable gift :)

  2. Thank you Kathryn! I'm glad we can recognize our gifts.