Elisabeth Anderson-Sierra is a mom of three who has nourished thousands of children - even helping to save the lives of premature babies.
The Aloha, Oregon, USA, native set the record for the largest donation of breastmilk by an individual by donating 1,599.68 litres (56,301.20 UK fl oz) to a milk bank between 20 February 2015 and 20 June 2018.
That’s the equivalent to 2,253 Venti lattes at Starbucks or 800 2-litre bottles of Coke!
“This only accounts for milk that I donated to a milk bank between the years of 2015 and 2018,” said Elisabeth.
It does not account for all of the breastmilk donated to hundreds of families all over the world.
Over the past nine years, Elisabeth - mom to two daughters and a son - has donated to local families and recipients worldwide and estimates the total amount of breastmilk donated to be over 350,000 ounces.
She donates to many recipients who have been labelled as “failure to thrive.”
“Being able to turn that around and [have] that label removed in so many different stories has just been everything to me,” she said.
“These are the things that I focus on. These are the positives and why I continue doing what I do.”
In one instance, Elisabeth was in Puerto Rico with her husband after Hurricane Maria hit in September 2017.
“My husband is Puerto Rican and we had gone to Puerto Rico right after Hurricane Maria,” she said.
Of course, I was pumping while I was down there. We were there for over a week and as you can imagine, I accumulated a lot of breast milk.
But Elisabeth soon found a baby in need.
Three-month-old Joaquin was born premature and lost his mother due to childbirth complications.
Joaquin was not thriving on formula and his father had been purchasing breastmilk from a milk bank from the States and having it shipped to Puerto Rico.
“As you can imagine, that is absolutely going to be more than $200 (£154.74) a day,” said Elisabeth.
“It was killing him inside knowing that he couldn’t financially sustain what was keeping his son alive.”
Joaquin immediately took to Elisabeth’s breastmilk, and she knew she needed to do more to help.
“I got home, and I was able to touch base with the father,” she said.
For the next year, I shipped breastmilk to Puerto Rico for baby Joaquin.
But what’s the dedicated mother’s secret to producing so much breastmilk?
Elisabeth has hyperlactation syndrome, a condition where breastmilk overflow occurs because of increased milk production.
“My body creates a lot of the hormone called prolactin and that is what drives milk production,” said Elisabeth.
However, that’s not the only reason she is able to yield so much breastmilk.
“Your equipment is the most important part of honing in on if you’re a pumping mom,” said Elisabeth.
Equipment that you use as a pumping mom can really make a difference in your breastfeeding journey.
Elisabeth says the type of breast pump used makes all the difference in her output.
“When it comes to pumping, I call it ‘the dynamic duo’ - so have the correct flange size and have a powerhouse pump,” she said.
“Pairing the right flange size and flange type or cup type with a powerhouse pump is going to do amazing things for your output and your journey.”
In fact, Elisabeth has been working with a breast pump company to help make the breastfeeding journey easier for nursing moms.
“I have been able to take my experience as a pumping mom and work with a breast pump company to further the technology to support moms on their breastfeeding journey,” she said.
The BabyBuddha pump changed my life and now in turn it’s saving the lives of hundreds of moms worldwide.
The toll of hyperlactation has been devastating for Elisabeth, who finds it difficult to be plugged into a wall or to remain stationary while pumping.
Using a mobile pump has changed her life and her entire outlook on what she does and how she’s able to do it and has made a huge difference in her journey.
Despite the inconvenience of having to pump regularly, Elisabeth is proud of what she is able to do for others.
Elisabeth says she does not let any breastmilk go to waste - it’s all either used or donated.
However, she would eventually like to stop pumping.
“There are a couple of ways to go about trying to tone down this production of prolactin. There are medical interventions that I would need to look into and move forward with in order to have it stop,” said Elisabeth.
One of the options available to me is using medication to combat the prolactin hormone that my body is overproducing.
Another option that Elisabeth has explored with healthcare professionals is the possibility of a double mastectomy to remove all of the glandular tissue that is producing the breastmilk.
“By removing all of that tissue, my body would not be producing any more breastmilk,” she said.
“There will be no more milk ducts but there is the risk of additional breast tissue being developed because of the hormones that would still be going through my body.”
However, that time has not arrived quite yet.
In the meantime, Elisabeth intends to continue pumping and says she never thought she would have a Guinness World Records title and is humbled to be a record holder.
I am really hopeful that breaking this record and sharing my story will normalize milk sharing.
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