A mother with a rare condition produces ten times more breast milk than an average woman. So she has donated more than 600 gallons of it.
Elisabeth Anderson-Sierra, 29, from Beaverton, Oregon, dedicates an incredible ten hours a day to pumping her milk, which she defines as her ‘labor of love’, confessing that it has become like a full-time job.
The mom-of-two has Hyperlactation Syndrome which means she produces around 225oz, or 1.75 gallons, of breast milk a day, almost ten times the average.
However, her six-month-old daughter, Sophia, only needs to consume 20oz a day and so Elisabeth hands the rest over to local moms who are unable to produce enough milk themselves, gay couples, and a milk bank for premature babies.
The precious milk which has about 4,950 calories, is packaged, labeled, and stored in four huge freezers in the house where the devoted mom lives with her two girls and her husband, public safety officer David Sierra, 52.
Elisabeth says she has fed ‘thousands’ of babies with more than 600 gallons of her breast milk since falling pregnant with her eldest daughter, Isabella, who is now two and a half.
But instead of resenting the time she has to spend pumping every day, or worrying about any distress she might suffer as a result of her condition, the former U.S. Coast Guard boatswain’s mate says producing the ‘liquid gold’ is her ‘labor of love’, insisting that she is happy to be able to help other parents and children.
‘I realized I was an overproducer when I was pregnant with my first child, but when I had my second baby my supply ramped up,’ Elisabeth explained.
‘Now Sophia is six months old I pump five times a day – as soon as I wake up, after breakfast, after lunch, after dinner and again at midnight.
‘I produce up to 0.625 gallons of milk during my first pump alone.
‘In total I will spend around five hours a day just pumping and then with storing, labelling, sterilizing etcetera, I easily spent eight to ten hours.
‘Pumping is not fun – it is uncomfortable and it hurts – but it is my labor of love.
‘I’ve not had a day off in two-and-a-half years; it’s more than a full-time job.
‘It is instant gratification when I donate locally because I see the babies and I see them thriving.
‘It will have helped thousands of children. The milk at the milk bank goes to micro pre-emies, so just 1 fl oz can feed three or four babies.
‘I don’t discriminate – I have donated to gay couples and to mothers who are on medication or had their breast removed due to breast cancer.
‘It’s an amazing feeling.’
Elisabeth usually breastfeeds at home but will also pump discretely in restaurants, while driving and in other public spaces.
Around half of her milk is picked up from her house by local moms or couples who often choose to reward her for her time.
The other half is donated to California milk bank Prolacta Bioscience.
Elisabeth is paid $1 for every fl oz she donates to the company to cover her time but says that she does not profit from her work.
Instead, she spends the money on the equipment, storage and extra food she needs to continue pumping and sharing her milk.
The devoted mom said: ‘Donating has been a massive part of my life for the past few years.
‘When I first started it was very very hard, mostly because there is really no price on it and all the blood sweat and tears that go into making it.
‘It was like giving away a portion of the paintings on the Sistine Chapel… priceless and hours of work.
‘There was also fear. What if I gave away all my milk and something happened to me to where I then dried up and couldn’t feed my own baby?
‘I’d hear horror stories about that happening to mothers al the time! I’d then be the one in the position that I’d be desperate to find donor milk.
‘I eventually got over it, and kept donating everything I had on hand.
‘It makes me feel like I am giving back to my community and I’m participating in humanity.
‘I would encourage other mums to reach out to their own community and consider donating.
‘Breastmilk is like liquid gold – it should never be thrown away. And there is a high need for it out there.’