Four Ounces of Freedom

When I tell people that I am gluten and dairy free for breastfeeding Baby E I often get the wide-eyed “How do you do it?”. I admit that I sometimes milk it, no pun intended, for dramatic effect. “Oh, you know, I eat vegetables, fruits, sometimes chicken…” the reality is we have a healthy and delicious diet. For me it really wasn’t the food that was the hardest to give up, it was the stash.

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Any breastfeeding mom with milk in the freezer will tell you what a precious commodity it is, liquid gold in a bag. I have gone to great lengths to protect my stash during threatened power outages from hurricanes, snow storms, and wind gusts over 60 mph, calling on friends with generators with the strange request to put bags of my frozen milk in their freezer. Luckily it has never come to actually transporting said stash to one of these kind souls, but the plans were in place before the storm watches went to warnings. During the first two months of Baby E’s life I had built a stash of 15 4 oz bags of milk. I diligently pumped every morning, ounce by ounce teaching my body to produce an extra feed or two. Why you might ask? For me, bag each represented a date night with Jer, an extra glass of wine at a party, a way to feed Baby E if I got horribly ill.

When she was two months old we finally figured out what was making Baby E so uncomfortable, gluten and dairy. And then, like that, the 15 bags of freedom were on lockdown. Tainted with gluten and dairy they had to be removed from the rotation. Knowing all to well what a commodity breast milk is I didn’t have the heart to throw them out. I knew I had the option of donating the milk or even selling it, but I was really hoping that Baby E would outgrow her intolerances and would be able to use it.

Like Washington, DC after the great earthquake of 2011, I began to rebuild. A few doses of fenugreek and many, many bowls of oatmeal later, I was able to pump each morning and rebuild my stash and then some. As Baby E grew and ate more and more my production and so subsequently my stash increased greatly. (I find such satisfaction and comfort in putting a four ounce bag of breast milk in the freezer it sometimes worries me.) Each time I placed a new bag in the freezer I saw the “old stash”, each bag coming closer and closer to it’s 6 month expiration date. I went so far once as to eat a tablespoon of cous cous, hoping Baby E had outgrown her intolerance and the milk could be used. Sadly the result was a bad case of diaper rash and some choice spit ups, along with a couple more 4 ounce bags of tainted milk. What to do with these bags began to weigh heavily on my mind.

It was a chance encounter at a Thirty-One party that saved the gluten and dairy tainted milk from the trash. Thank God, since like I said, I don’t think I would have had the heart to throw it out. I met a woman who had just had a baby, her second, and was having trouble with milk supply. She was thinking of supplementing with formula and was clearly lamenting the thought. All of a sudden the words just fell out of my mouth, “I know this is kind of weird, and you hardly know me, but I have 15 or so bags of milk in my freezer that I can’t use.” After discussing why and that I was pretty sure I had no horrible diseases, she happily agreed to take the milk.

The next morning I packed up the bags, along with a box of Mother’s Milk tea, and a note thanking her for using my stash. I wanted to include in the note a big “thank you” for further inspiring me to continue to breastfeed despite all of our obstacles. Knowing there are moms out there that want so desperately to breastfeed but can’t for whatever reason, especially when they are so close to home, reminds me what a blessing it is that I can, and how absolutely wonderful each and every one of those four ounces of freedom are, for myself or perhaps, if the situation arises, another mom in need.

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