For many mothers, the bonding and nutritional benefits of breast milk are something they are very thankful for and long to experience. For two local adoptive moms, the benefits of breast milk were given in an act of love from donor moms one ounce at a time.
April Stracener and daughter, Elena
April and Derrick Stracener had an open adoption of baby Elena in Texas in September 2017. April attempted to induce lactation to breastfeed her daughter, a process many adoptive moms attempt.
“I think it’s more successful if you’ve lactated before,” says April. “When it wasn’t successful I knew I wanted to supplement with donor milk and that’s where it started.”
While in Texas, Elena’s birth mom went into labor and April knew upon Elena being discharged she would have enough milk to last a little while. She soon turned to groups like Eats on Feets – Kentucky and other similar community groups seeking donor milk for her newborn.
Knowing the benefits of breast milk led April to her decision to use donor milk. Having the nearly perfect mix of vitamins, protein and fat, breast milk is also known to be more easily digestible and contains antibodies that help fight off viruses and bacteria.
“It was so unreal. The donated milk just kept coming in and our fridge kept getting full. These moms are just so precious. We were exclusively using donor breast milk until Elena was 16 months old,” April said, as she held back tears from the overwhelming gratitude she had for the many moms who donated. “I’m so thankful for these mommas that are sharing the love. Some would give 24 ounces at a time and every ounce added up.
The Straceners would soon receive over 4,000 ounces from one donor alone.
“I never expected to be able to do that,” April speaks on being able to exclusively breastfeed her baby. “A baby that was non-biological, exclusively fed on breast milk — it was pretty special.”
April admits that at first the thought of using another mother’s milk was strange to Derrick.
“By the end, he was making breast milk donation runs for me and knew how to thaw it out properly and all,” April said. “He was all in, it was awesome.”
April was very appreciative of all the moms willing to donate and acknowledged the time and energy it takes for a woman who is lactating to pump. She has since spread awareness to many others on donor milk.
“I am just so thankful for these women taking the time to do for my baby what I couldn’t give,” April said.
Summer Wilson and daughter, Nolie
For Summer Wilson and adopted daughter Nolie, their journey started off similarly.
“With my background as a massage therapist and doula, we try to lean as natural as possible with our family so that’s where the possibility of donor milk started,” Summer said.
Summer also attempted to induce lactation with the support of local friends and, like April, became open to donor milk after lactation was unsuccessful at that point in her journey.
“I realized how common it is around the world for mothers to help other mothers feed their babies,” Summer said, referencing her experience gained from years of work as a doula in prenatal and postpartum settings.
Summer was able to use breast milk for an entire year. During that year, she and her husband Steven would soon find their family expanding once again after she became pregnant with their son, George.
“When Nolie was 11 months old I had George and I was able to use my own milk,” stated Summer. “During that 11 months though, there were times we had 1,000 ounces of milk stored in the freezer, and times we were down to just a few bags.”
That experience motivated her to repay the favor and show love to other moms needing donor milk by becoming a donor herself.
“I was determined. I was determined because it meant so much to me that other women were able to do that for Nolie,” Summer said. “I ended up donating over 12,000 ounces back, much of which to a neighbor who had also adopted and chose donor breast milk.”
Summer encourages mothers who have never thought about becoming a milk donor to do so and found that many moms would donate smaller increments as the baby no longer needed it or wouldn’t take it anymore. She said there are always babies who could use it, so she encourages moms not to throw unused milk away, but to connect to local groups in finding a match to a mom searching for milk for her baby.
“Becoming a donor gave me an even bigger appreciation for all the women and their efforts throughout our year,” Summer said. “It was so good for me to understand the other side. I’m thankful for the time and effort they put into sitting down and pumping because that’s something I could never repay them for.”
For more information donor opportunities visit Eats on Feets – Kentucky.