The biggest redeeming act my body committed for not being able to hold the girls full-term was having my milk supply come in immediately after they were born. I was a proud over-producer, and the girls had my milk for months as my milk supply slowly tanked and eventually dried up. I’m not bitter about it anymore – I did my best, and they had breastmilk when they needed it the most while at the NICU.
I did save one bag of milk that was basically half colostrum and half milk, full of antibodies and essential nutrients. I saved it for the first time they’d get sick, placing it in the back of my freezer to make sure it stayed frozen at all times.
With the girls getting sick for the first time this past week, I decided it was time. So I thawed it out, made sure it didn’t smell weird, made a pitcher of formula for the day and mixed it in.
I’m sure it did them good, because a day later things started to get much better – River started eating again, Lydia’s cold practically went away, and I felt extremely proud of myself for keeping that 4oz little bag since December. And yes, you can keep it frozen solid, either in the back of your freezer or in a chest freezer, for up to 12 months. Freaking breastmilk, man. It’s amazing.
In hindsight, I wish I had saved more of those early-milk bags. Colostrum was so important for the girls, and that’s why I didn’t think to save any at the time – they were so tiny and fragile that I wanted to make sure they had all the antibodies, fat, carbs, and protein they could get. But I still feel like I should’ve put some away “for a rainy day”.
There’s absolutely no pressure for breastfeeding in this post – formula nowadays is amazing and my girls’ growth is proof of that – but, fellow moms, if you ARE breastfeeding, I highly recommend pumping some and storing them for their first sickness. Frozen breastmilk is even useful after it’s gone “bad” – you can give your baby a milk bath for eczema and dry skin.
If you don’t breastfeed and still want a part in this goodness, you are able to get donor milk from milk banks (or if you have an amazing, sweet nursing Mom friend – thank you, Caroline, for the 50+ baggies of milk while I was struggling mentally and physically with breastfeeding). Milk donors go through a special screening process to make sure the donated milk is just perfect for any baby.
If I’m ever pregnant again, this is something I’ll want another shot with. But not exclusively breastfeeding – I miss the freedom of pumping. That sounds ironic because I felt like a slave to a machine, but I mean freedom as in Rick could bottle-feed them my milk. It was so nice to watch my body do what it’s biologically meant to do (that’s right, men, if boobs were for anything else, beer would drip out of them instead), so nice knowing my girls were getting exactly what they needed, and so fucking nice to not have to shell out over $400 a month on formula. But we still love you, Gerber, and you make our girls full and happy.