Photography: Rachel Burt Photography By Julia van Zon
When Lucy began her breastfeeding journey with baby Pippa, she never imagined how her own journey would help so many other Australian mums and their babies. Lucy has been breastfeeding Pippa for almost two years and simultaneously collecting milk for donation for premature babies and babies whose mothers are unable to breastfeed.
As soon as Lucy knew donating her oversupply of breast milk was a possibility, she jumped at the opportunity to help others. Her first donation was 40 litres of liquid gold when Pippa was just four months old.
“The gift of being able to help babies and mothers in need of breast milk is the most empowering thing I’ve done,” she said.
"Lucy is not the only one proud of her contribution; her family and friends, especially her father, are extremely proud of her."
Lucy’s father comes from a village in Syria where he remembers feeding from many different women when he was around three. Lucy explained, “my father thinks it’s just amazing, and he said to me, I always knew you could do something like this to help others because you’re so kind and giving”.
Her amazing gift is transforming the lives of mums and their little babies through her donated breast milk. Women breastfeeding other mother’s babies is not a new concept. Wet nursing dates back to Ancient Rome and was a common practice amongst many cultures. In Australia, informal sharing of breast milk has been documented in maternity wards since the 1940s.
"In 2006, formal milk banks started establishing around Australia to help premature and sick babies and their mothers."
The Mother’s Milk Bank Charity, was established in 2009 and has distributed approximately 150 litres of Lucy’s precious breastmilk to babies who really need it. One little baby who has benefited from Lucy’s donated breastmilk is Aurora and her mother, Jay.
Jay’s breastfeeding journey was an extremely challenging one. Health issues led to a caesarean section and Aurora spent her first few days in a special care unit. She was started on formula but did not react well and was later diagnosed with eczema and silent reflux. Despite taking Motilium, Jay was struggling to produce enough breast milk and by four months, her supply had completely dropped off. Aurora had stopped gaining weight and after an emergency visit and a specialist paediatrician appointment, it was clear she needed calories immediately. Jay frantically contacted the Mothers Milk Bank Charity and within a few days had received donor breast milk for Aurora. Once Aurora started on the donor breast milk, she was a new baby. “She stopped arching her back and screaming, her energy went sky high, she was happier, her face filled out almost immediately and her reflux improved. Aurora would get so excited when she saw the bottle and would cry when I took it out for a half-time burping session,” Jay explained.
Aurora is now thriving, full of energy and loving life thanks to Lucy’s precious breast milk donations.
"Lucy does not know who receives her donated breast milk but when she heard how she helped Aurora and Jay, it was an overwhelming feeling for her."
“All the hairs on my body stood up and I started crying a little – good tears. It was an amazing experience. I am just so grateful I can help another baby thrive,” she said.
Jay also feels very blessed she was able to access donor breast milk and is now focused on enjoying every moment with little Aurora.
“Right from the beginning, Aurora was the bravest little soul. Despite the obstacles she has faced so far, she is still the happiest little soul and her love for life is inspiring. I look forward to showing and teaching her so much in life and for her to grow up as healthy as she can be – I believe the donated breast milk has given her the best start possible,” she said.
"Lucy attributes her donor breast milk success to an amazing oversupply but also her Milk Mate breast pump that caught and collected most of the milk she donated."
“The first 40 litres I donated wasn’t once from me sitting down with a double electric pump on, it was all from my Milk Mate, sometimes 150ml in one go,” she said. Milk Mate is dedicated to supporting all mums and their breastfeeding journeys and donates $1 from every pump sold to the Mothers Milk Bank Charity.
This amazing organisation collects, screens, pasteurises and distributes donated mothers’ milk to babies where their own mother’s milk is not available.