From Donor to Recipient

Breastfeeding is a journey through challenges, through the highs and the lows. Sometimes breastfeeding is glorious, it’s amazing, miraculous even. What the human body is capable of amazes me. Sometimes though, breastfeeding is challenging, hard, and craze-inducing.

From Donor to Recipient | Twin Cities Moms Blog

In our home, we have experienced two very different journeys as we breastfeed our daughters. I carried our first child and my wife, Jeanna, carried our second. Comparing pregnancies, we couldn’t have been more opposite. From conception to labor and delivery, my pregnancy was essentially a breeze; I loved just about every minute of it – true story. Jeanna’s pregnancy was an uphill battle, from a herniated disc in her back at 9 weeks, to severe morning sickness, to gestational diabetes and finally a blood pressure that kept rising until labor was induced at 37 weeks.

The differences didn’t stop after delivery. I chose to breastfeed. This was something I knew I wanted to do ever since I was a little girl dreaming of becoming a mom. As I grew up I realized the nutritional benefits of breast milk for baby and my decision was further solidified. I exclusively breastfed Gradie, with an original goal of making it to one year, but ended up lasting 29 months.

When I say I exclusively breastfed I mean it, Gradie refused a bottle (and a pacifier) from the very beginning. There was never a point where she got ‘hungry enough’ to feed while I was away. She would go up to 10 hours while I was gone to work and nurse when I picked her up and throughout the evening, resulting in very little sleep for her mama’s for almost 2 years.

I returned to work when she was about 12 weeks old and I pumped while at the office. I had a relatively good supply and quickly built up quite a stash of frozen breast milk, we had to get a bigger freezer. However, she wouldn’t drink it, once she was old enough to have a sippy cup she still wouldn’t drink it, I guess thawed out milk just wasn’t the same as ‘from the tap’.

From Donor to Recipient | Twin Cities Moms Blog{Photo Credit: Jami Karow}

I had hundreds of ounces of frozen breast milk and wasn’t sure what to do with it.  I chatted with another breastfeeding mama and she suggested I offer it up for donation.  At first, I was like, WHAT? Then I did some research and found Human Milk for Human Babies groups on Facebook. I joined the local Minnesota group.  There were moms in the group who weren’t able to nurse because their supply wasn’t sufficient or they had breast cancer and were unable to nurse, among other reasons. This inspired me and I found some moms that I was able to share my ‘liquid gold’ with.

Fast forward roughly 4 years and Baby Hazel is in our lives. Jeanna was sure she wanted her to have breast milk but wasn’t sold on the actual nursing aspect. She tried for days to nurse Hazel in this manner, but at the end of the day, she chose to be an exclusive pumper and provide Hazel the nourishment she needs with breast milk in a bottle.

Watching Jeanna go through this process from day 1 of Hazel’s life has been eye-opening. Pumping hours after you’ve given birth is no fun and Jeanna stuck with it. Through the milk not yet ‘in’ to supply coming in, to battling to get enough milk for Hazel’s needs.  I didn’t pump until roughly 12 weeks after birth. Jeanna has pumped multiple times every single day (and night) to provide for our little girl. She has taken supplements and eaten lactation cookies. She has researched the best way to pump and the best accessories to increase supply and ease the pain and discomfort she is in. I am in awe watching her as she works so very hard to provide for Hazel.

While in the hospital as Hazel battled a tongue-tie and attempting to latch. We used donor milk to get her through. We were grateful for this option so as to not supplement with formula. When we left the hospital I got Jeanna home and headed out to another mama’s home to pick up donor milk. We had now gone from the donor to the recipient.

From Donor to Recipient | Twin Cities Moms Blog

When I was donating milk I was asked if the tables were turned and I needed breast milk for Gradie would I have ventured down the path of finding a milk donor. At the time I wasn’t sure. However, I can now say with confidence that YES – yes I will gladly use donor milk for our girls. The moms who are donating their milk are feeding their children; they’re fighting that pump, putting in the sweat and possibly tears to get through each pumping session. And when they’re able to, they donate some of that milk to other moms, like Jeanna and myself, who need it to keep our babies fed.

As we continue to supplement Hazel’s feeds with donor milk while Jeanna is increasing her supply we have realized, once again, that breast milk donation is a truly beautiful, selfless act. I am thankful to have seen the process from both sides – donor and recipient.

Debbie McLoughlin
Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, Debbie moved to St Paul, MN to attend the College of St Catherine a ‘few’ years ago. After graduation Debbie remained in the Twin Cities and pursued a CPA license and MBA degree. An accountant by day and (self-proclaimed) kick ass mom and wife ALL the time. Debbie now lives in Woodbury, MN with her amazing wife and almost 4 year old daughter. Hockey was Debbie’s first passion in life, until having her daughter 4 years ago, now she focuses on her daughter, her wife, her job, her blog and she still plays hockey as much as possible. Debbie and her wife are extremely passionate about equality for all and strive to share their two mom family with all, in an effort to educate others that families come in all forms. Debbie blogs over at Africa’s Blog ( and has a social presence on Facebook (, Twitter ( & Instagram (


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