The Best Laid Plans: 30 Minutes With Breastmilk Recipient Turned Donor, Rebekah

The Best Laid Plans: 30 Minutes With Breastmilk Recipient Turned Donor, Rebekah

Sooner or later, life’s going to throw you a plot twist . . . 

Both birth and parenting have taught me a lot but the greatest lesson of all might just be one in flexibility. As it turns out, you can make all the plans you want but sooner or later life’s going to throw you a plot twist . . . 

Breastfeeding has always been important to me so preparing for my son Alden’s birth I knew I wanted to exclusively breastfeed. A speech and language pathologist, while pregnant I was also training to become a lactation consultant. So naturally I was very aware of all the research demonstrating that breastmilk provides the optimal nutrition for babies. While breastfeeding isn’t a choice that’s preferred or even possible for every family, I knew very early on, it was what I wanted for my child. 

A different path – and an unsung hero . . .

Delivered at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Alden was perfect but my euphoria soon gave way to stress as, initially, I didn’t have enough milk to feed my son. Fortunately, our incredible nurse, Elcie, really listened to, understood and respected my desire to feed my son breastmilk. It was at this point that she mentioned supplementing with human donor milk as opposed to formula. 

Certainly lesser known than formula, it’s quite possible I would have been uncomfortable with the idea – at least initially – but I knew from my lactation training that donor milk is the best nutritional alternative if mom’s own milk isn’t available. As you can probably imagine, I leapt at the chance to travel a different path toward achieving this long-cherished goal for my family.

Not to ruin the ending here, but looking back it’s crazy remembering just how stressed and scared I was. I cried (a lot!) when I said goodbye to Nurse Elcie, asking through tears if she could come home with us (apparently that wasn’t an option) and quite honestly, I could still cry every time I think of her. A nurse who cares about, supports and truly advocates for her patients? I can’t even begin to tell you how much that means to me. I’m incredibly grateful to her and all the unsung nurse heroes out there. 

Maybe it’s not what I imagined . . .

Sure enough, my milk supply did come in but donor milk really provided that bridge to breastfeeding – just as it’s intended to in the case of healthy, full-term babies. However, Alden’s latch never established successfully so while we use time at the breast for both comfort and bonding, full feeding was never possible. 

This, friends, was yet another lesson in flexibility, teaching me that breastfeeding does not have to be defined so narrowly as nursing directly or exclusively from the breast. 

Alden, has been exclusively breastfed (just as I desired) in these first six months of his life and we achieved this through both pumping and bottle feeding. This is what my son needed to get the right amount of milk for him to grow and develop. Maybe it’s not what I initially imagined but that doesn’t mean it’s not wonderful – and most important of all, it works! Perhaps it’s time we all dig a little deeper and broaden our view of what success looks like.

Measuring in milliliters . . .

I should mention, I’m extremely fortunate to have an incredible support system. I worked with a lactation consultant throughout this journey and my husband, Nick, held my hand (literally and figuratively) every step of the way, making sure I knew he supported my choices no matter what. 

Meanwhile, my mom A.K.A. my constant cheerleader, Louise, still takes every opportunity to remind me how hard I’ve worked and how far I’ve come since those nerve-racking days spent counting precious milk drops in milliliters. 

Unbelievably, I’m now fortunate enough to not only have a surplus of breastmilk but am actually in a position to “share the health” so another baby, perhaps even a medically fragile baby can really benefit from what is truly an essential medical resource.

Plot twist? You’ve got this . . . 

Children start teaching us from day one. Perhaps one of the most important of those lessons is that something (such as breastfeeding) doesn’t have to look as you initially imagined or considered “perfect” to be both beneficial and beautiful. 

So to all those moms out there who don’t feel like they are really breastfeeding because their baby’s breastmilk is coming out of a bottle instead of directly from the breast, I’d like to remind you that plans change and that’s okay – every single one of you is a star! 

I was (and still am) blown away by this process. Grateful, excited and relieved, I’m thrilled to have this opportunity to pay it forward.

UPDATE! If you’re anything like us, little Alden’s already put a huge smile on your face but believe it or not, this story gets even better . . .

After a little sleuthing (and a guarantee from a colleague that she’d be thrilled to hear from us) we were able to get in touch with Nurse Elcie – yes, really! As it turns out, Rebekah left an indelible impression on the nurse extraordinaire and her practice. “I remember her {Rebekah} vividly – she’s my hero. She was so determined to breastfeed her son and I’m so proud of her.” Rebekah, however, didn’t just inspire Elcie. “Her willingness to breastfeed her son was immeasurable. I was able to use Rebekah’s resilience and determination to educate other parents. She has helped my practice tremendously.” Reminding other mother’s that they’re not alone in their struggles? That things really do get better? An incredible way to give back in and of itself.

As we all know, some circles are sweeter than others and Elcie is filled with pride upon hearing this story has come full circle. “I’m so glad she {Rebekah} is able to donate to the milk bank – it’s so important for our breastfeeding moms. My prayer is that every family can receive prenatal education regarding milk banking.” Us too Elcie, us too . . .

Interested in donating breastmilk? Simply want to know more about the process? Call (617-527-6263 x3) or email us ( any time. We’d love to hear from you!

Thank you breastmilk donors

Key Supporters

Maternal Healthy Equity Grant Recipient logo
Yale Appliance logo
Davis Family Foundation logo
Aria Covey Foundation logo
Massachusetts Foundation logo