If you could bottle up my love for Aria in liquid form, it would be seen in these thousands of ounces of breastmilk I have pumped … I have poured my heart and soul into it and I just hope that the babies/parents receiving the milk can somehow feel that love when it reaches them.”– Keren, donor mom
We recently spoke to Keren Elie about her decision to donate milk, including why she shared her “love in liquid form” for baby Aria. Her pregnancy and subsequent breastfeeding journey was challenging, but rewarding—for both her family and babies in need!
Keren, thank you for agreeing to share your milk donation story! To start us off, could you explain your background a bit?
I live in Brunswick, Maine with my husband, Tom, and my daughter, Aria. We have three rescue pets: Otto, Damien, and Jetta. I work in the affordable housing field and have a background in social work.
Let’s discuss baby Aria a bit more. What was your pregnancy and breastfeeding journey like with her?
I had a very rough pregnancy. In fact, I had such severe pain that I was actually on crutches at one point. I now know that Aria was pretty cramped up in there, as she was born with congenital torticollis. Unfortunately, we didn’t get that diagnosis until much later. As a result, breastfeeding did not come easily to us. Far from it, actually. It’s been one of the hardest and most rewarding journeys I’ve ever been on. She struggled to transfer milk at first, and I was sent home from the hospital triple feeding (nursing/bottle feeding/pumping) every 3 hours. All I knew was that I had a baby that latched but could not get milk. Despite her best efforts.
I’m not really sure why I kept going. I almost stopped so many times. I think a large part of it was that even though she wasn’t very good at it, she really loved it. It was her comfort zone, her happy place, and even though it didn’t work a lot of the time, when it did it was pure magic.
At one point my husband looked at me and said, “I don’t know if anyone else would ever still be doing this after what you’ve been through.” The logical thing probably would have been to move on. But something told me to stick with it, and I am so glad I did because my sweet, beautiful, healthy baby eventually got the hang of it. One tongue/lip tie revision, four weeks full of physical therapy exercises five times a day, and hours and hours of sending videos and audio messages to our amazing lactation consultant later, and I had an exclusively breastfed baby. Donating to other babies in need is truly a gift and one of my greatest points of pride.
What made you want to donate milk?
It seems like a no-brainer now, but at the time it was a very emotional experience. I had accumulated quite a stash as a sort of trauma response to having such a difficult early journey. I cried when I made my first donation, but they weren’t tears of sadness. Also, I was so proud, and in a way relieved because it felt like we were coming full circle.
Donating my milk has been a healing experience for me. I always tell Aria we are sharing our milkies with other babies when we pack it up! She smiles, and while she can’t understand exactly what is happening she definitely knows it is something good.
Keren, thank you for speaking with us. Any final thoughts on donating to babies in need?
If you could bottle up my love for Aria in liquid form, it would be seen in these thousands of ounces of breastmilk I have pumped. The thing about love is that it feels good to share it, and that is exactly what we are doing. I struggle to find words to describe the amount of sheer love that went into this process from me. I have other words: Perseverance. Dedication. Discipline. Frustration. So much trial and error over the months… and so, so much love. I have poured my heart and soul into this. Hopefully, the babies receiving my milk can somehow feel that love when it reaches them.
I have been blessed with an oversupply, and I recognize that it is a privilege. If you are reading this and are not in the same boat, please remember that your worth is not measured in ounces. Feeding a baby is hard work no matter what that looks like, and you are doing great. Your mental health always comes first.
Keren also gave a nod to Paula Norcott, IBCLC of Maine Mother & Company and MaineGeneral Medical Center, postpartum doula Mary Quinn, Jessica Queley Sobey, newborn photographer Alyssa, and nurse Alicia. We appreciate her willingness to share her experience with us.
Screening to become a breast milk donor is an easy four-step process. Once accepted for donation, milk can be shipped for free door-to-door or through one of our donor milk depots throughout the Northeast.