CARLSBAD — Tabitha Frost, a Carlsbad mother of three young children, has given new meaning to the word breastfeeding.
To date, the 29-year-old stay-at-home mom has donated 15,000 ounces of her own breast milk to moms and infants in need. She’s able to do this regularly because she produces an overabundance of milk.
Could she earn a place in Guinness’ World Records? The current record according to its website is:
“The most breastmilk donated is 1569.79 litres (55,249 UK fl oz; 53,081 US fl oz) to Mother’s Milk Bank of North Texas and was achieved by Alyse Ogletree (USA) in Argyle, Texas, USA, from 11 January 2011 to 25 March 2014.”
At the rate she is going, she just might: Frost has been donating since her second child was born in 2016 after she learned she suffers from hyperlactation syndrome.
“I have had an oversupply of breast milk with all of my three kids,” said the former preschool teacher. “Hyperlactation syndrome is just the technical term for producing more milk than a baby needs. For me, it is something that needs to be stopped gradually.”
Her kids with husband, Nick, a property manager, are son Jaxon, 4, daughter Adelaide, 2 and youngest daughter, Cleo, 8 months old, who is still breastfeeding.
Bottomline: to avoid painful, heavy breasts, and/or risk infection, Frost needs to pump her breasts every three hours. She said the condition is rare, but hyperlactation syndrome doesn’t run in her family.
“It isn’t something that can be stopped suddenly,” she said. “It is rare, but I do know some fellow donor moms with hyperlactation syndrome as well. I do not know if it runs in families or not. It certainly doesn’t run in mine.”
Real life woes
And if you thought pumping every three hours gets in the way of real life, it does for Frost, but she has learned to cope.
“With my first two kids, it did get in the way of life,” she said. “I scheduled things around my pumping schedule, which meant I missed out on a lot because I had to pump. After having my second child, being a new resident of Carlsbad, and feeling lonely and overwhelmed as a mom of two, I became very active and established a routine that made me happy.”
It is a routine she still has today.
“Once Cleo came along, I learned to adapt,” she said. “I don’t let pumping get in the way. I pump when I need to pump, no matter where I am or what I am doing. This allows me to enjoy being out in my community and spending time with my family and friends. It is my life and I try to embrace it.”
And, yes, pumping so often leaves Frost sore at the end of the day and sometimes stressed.
“Any breastfeeding and/or pumping mom can understand just how difficult and painful it can be,” she said. “It is something I have gotten used to after having three kids. Our bodies were meant to do this.”
However, when she is pumping and if she is at home, she is at one of her “stations” sitting comfortably and “this is the time I catch up on emails, work on my blog, etc.,” she said. “Other times, I am pumping in the car or wherever I am at the time. I am always multi-tasking!”
As for donating, Frost began giving her breast milk after her second child was born in 2016.
“My nurse in the hospital asked if I had ever thought about donating because I had more milk than she had ever seen!” she said. “That is when I decided to look into breast milk donation.”
How does one donate breast milk?
“There are a couple different ways in which I donate breast milk,” she said. “Some is donated to local moms and friends of friends. Most of the time, they provide me with breast milk storage bags to replace the ones I used for their donated milk. I also donate to Prolacta through Tiny Treasures Milk Bank.
“Although they compensate me $1 per qualified ounce for my time and effort, I am not profiting financially by donating my milk,” she continued. “There are many websites where you can sell your breast milk, but I decided to go a different route.”
Volunteering or participating in community service such as this has always been a part of who Frost is, she said.
“It all started at a young age,” she said. “As a girl, I used to volunteer at the local animal shelter, I was a Girl Scout, a sorority sister and a scholarship pageant queen. I am always donating to someone — whether it is donating used goods to a local shelter or organization or donating my extra breast milk.”
Of course, the best part about donating her breast milk is knowing that she is saving lives and providing the proper nourishment for babies who need it to thrive. However, it does have its drawbacks including managing her oversupply.
“It really is a full-time job to do this,” she said. “I cannot help that my body is making so much milk. I have had numerous breast infections, clogged milk ducts and pain from having an oversupply. Managing it is quite a challenge. I try to prevent clogs and infections by being on top of my pumping routine. Going longer stretches in between pumping sessions does not work for me. I can develop a clog or infection very quickly. “
Luckily, Frost has some help with her donations, as Prolacta is the intermediary between her (and its other donors) and various hospitals. She said she is either donating directly to the recipient or it is used to make breastmilk products through Prolacta. Frost said she is particularly drawn to families with a medical need for breast milk:
“Whether a mother has a medical condition which prevents her from producing milk, their child has a medical condition, or a baby was born prematurely, these are the people I am drawn to and want to help,” she said. “Of course, I always appreciate a genuine thank you from any of my recipients.”
Speaking of mothers who get her breast milk, Frost said the milk that she donates to Prolacta is also used to make fortified breast milk products for babies born prematurely who are in the NICU in various hospitals.
As for when she will stop pumping this time around, she said she is hoping that it will be shortly after her daughter is no longer interested in breastfeeding, which could be after a year to 15 months.
“This is a great question and to be honest, I do not really know. I am just going to keep doing it until I feel like it is time for me to stop,” she said. “I have a lot of motivation to keep doing this. Lactation is not something you can start and stop or take breaks. I either need to keep going or stop completely. That is why I say it’s all or nothing, so I am giving it my all.”
One might wonder if there are any potential health conflicts or if the milk is sterilized during the lengthy donating process.
“One of the great things about donating through a milk bank is that they have a very thorough production process,” she said. “Through Prolacta, I am screened every few months for diseases that can pass through breast milk. They also have my DNA sample so when my milk is delivered to them, it goes through rigorous testing.”
The testing includes matching her DNA with the milk. The testing also checks for drugs, bacteria, dilution and authenticity. Donor milk is then pooled together and pasteurized.
“It is a really cool process,” she said.
She added that Prolacta also enforces strict cleaning, sanitation and storage guidelines.
“I clean and sterilize my pump parts after every use,” she said. “I take their guidelines very seriously, as I know the infants they serve are very fragile. Because I am used to this routine, I follow the same guidelines when I donate elsewhere. Breastmilk recipients can most definitely pasteurize the milk at home if they chose. Other than that, I believe it is mostly an honor system when you are trusting a stranger with their breastmilk. I always point out to my recipients that I am screened through a milk bank and strictly follow their guidelines. I think that helps give people peace of mind.”
The entire breastmilk donating process from start to finish can be exhaustive, as well as costly, Frost said. Her compensation is $1 per ounce; she typically gives 60 ounces per day.
“As you can imagine, for as often as I pump, I have a lot of equipment, parts and accessories needed for pumping and donating,” she said. “This includes breast pumps, pump parts and accessories, pumping bras, sterilizers, cleaning supplies, freezers, storage bags, and the electricity and water costs for cleaning parts and storing milk. Thankfully, Prolacta provides me with breast milk storage bags and shipping supplies.”
Not only that, but with producing so much milk means she is burning a lot of calories throughout the day.
“I have to drink two to three times as much water as I normally would, and I also consume two to three times as many calories as I did before breastfeeding,” she said. “I spend a lot of money on groceries for myself alone. With that said, I feel the $1/ounce compensation through Prolacta is justified.”
Frost said she is also taxed on the income she generates from the donations, and the rest is used as overhead for the entire donation process of replacing parts, purchasing equipment, paying for grocery bills and medical bills (in the event she gets a breast infection) and to keep her equipment running all day and night.
When she isn’t pumping Frost is busy taking care of the kids, and writing her blog, All Natural & Good (www.allnaturalandgood.com) a health and wellness website.
“Since becoming a mom, I have become really into health and wellness and I am always looking for the healthier alternatives out there,” she said. “Once I realized how many chemicals we put in, and on, our bodies, I wanted to be as healthy as I can be for my kids and throughout my pregnancies.” Frost has a degree in child and family development.
“That is really where my drive came from to blog about these topics,” she said. “After quitting my job to be a stay at home mom, the hardest part was coping with losing my sense of self and independence. I love the flexibility of being able to work on my blog while staying at home with my kids.”