During my fourth pregnancy I learned about Ireland’s only human milk bank located in County Fermanagh. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge advocate of breastfeeding. I support soon to be and new mums with their personal breastfeeding goals and I refer to International Board Certified Lactation Consultants regularly. I have also breastfed my children past age two and value alllll the things breastfeeding has to offer. The idea of donating breast milk to the facility who would then provide it for babies in need all over Ireland really appealed to me. The milk bank donates to hundreds of babies every year and I have always had an adequate supply of breast milk… so why wouldn’t I?
Three words: my mental health. Allow me to explain.
Following my second pregnancy I went through the hell that is post natal depression (story here). It went on for months and I could write multiple blogs about how it negatively impacted my relationship with my baby, my partner and others. If you have gone through it yourself, then you know exactly what I am talking about- and I’m sorry! It took endless hours of talk therapy and support from my closest family and friends for me to come out the other side and decide to have a third child.
During my third pregnancy, I heard some new mums claim that they felt a huge reduction in PND symptoms after consuming their placenta in capsule form, also called placenta encapsulation. I knew I needed to try it following my birth! I never wanted to feel that low again. I’m happy to say the capsules definitely helped and I felt a noticeable difference.
But what does all of this have to do with the human milk bank? They do not allow new mums who have consumed their own placenta capsules to donate. This is cited in their own literature. The main reason I chose to encapsulate my placenta is because of how much it helped with boosting my energy levels and mood. While I absolutely 100% value the necessity of milk banks and the donation of breast milk, at the end of the day my mental health is more important. My relationship with my new baby is more important. The stability of my household is more important. My LIFE is more important.
It broke my heart to be unable to donate breast milk to the milk bank, but I chose to consume my placenta again and find an alternative… informally sharing my breast milk! This is essentially giving one’s breast milk to another family in need without going through the process of donating to a facility. It is perfectly legal and I chose this option because I could help myself with encapsulation AND help a baby. I had informally shared milk before so the concept was not new to me and I knew where to look online to source someone in need.
I donated 150 oz of my frozen “liquid gold” to a mum with an autoimmune condition which had flared, which meant she had no choice but to go back on some heavy medication which was not safe to consume while breastfeeding. This mum contacted me, asked questions regarding my health and yes, I informed her that I had consumed my own placenta capsules that were made by me (I’m a certified Placenta Remedies Specialist) in my own home. This mum had no issue and we met in person when she collected my milk. I also met her eight month old daughter who would be receiving the milk and I felt a bit emotional. My heart swelled and I felt really proud about still being able to donate my milk. My fourth baby is now a toddler and I have donated breast milk to a total of three mothers.