A mother-of-two who was diagnosed with hyper-lactation in February, is donating her extra breast milk to babies in need - amassing a whopping 2,600 litres thus far.
Elisabeth Anderson-Sierra, of Beaverton, Oregon, pumps around six litres of milk per day, in addition to nursing her six-month-old baby, Sophia. In a post to the Facebook community, Breastfeeding Mama Talk, Ms Anderson-Sierra shared that while half of her milk is sent to a milk bank, the other half goes to local mothers in need.
"This is my way of being active in my community and giving back to humanity," she told People, adding that it's her "labor of love".
Describing herself as a "mass milk producer", Ms Anderson-Sierra says she first donated some of her breast milk while feeding her eldest daughter Sophia, born in 2014, but didn't pursue it as a "full-time" project until she welcomed baby Isabella in December last year.
Her motivation for donating is a deeply personal one. After 30 hours of labour, Ms Anderson-Sierra was too exhausted to breastfeed for the first 24 hours after her daughter's birth."[Isabella] had to have donor milk for the first couple of feedings," Ms Anderson-Sierra said, adding that the experience helped fuel her "passion and desire" to donate her own breast milk.
The 29-year-old explained that the milk bank she donates to provides bags for donations - and pays her $1 per 30 millilitres, as a measure of her time. "These funds are taxed," she writes, adding that she loses around 50 per cent. "Donating to a milk bank has helped offset costs of donating locally, and pumping in general," Ms Anderson-Sierra writes.
And while it's certainly a labour of love, she explains that pumping is also expensive. Thus far, the Oregon mum has "burned through" eight Medela pumps and purchased two Symphony pumps. She also purchases milk bags for all breast milk donated locally - using around 20 -40 per day.
But the costs don't end there. "I need pumping bras for good support and compression, one at each pumping station and I wash them every day or every other day to maintain cleanliness," Ms Anderson-Sierra says. "Breast pads, changed out at every pump, that also adds up quick." In addition there's nipple creams and pump parts - and the cost of running three freezers.
"I spend a lot of time washing and sterilising my pump parts (water, distilled water, de-scaling powder, soap, bottle brushes, pump part brushes, sterilisers and vinegar are some of the costs there) in order to donate to micro-preemies," she says. "Their tiny systems cannot have any bad bacteria strains introduced to them. I keep 3 sterilisers and 10 sets of pump parts in rotation."
And that's not to mention the grocery bill "for all those extra calories", needed for marathon nursing.
But monetary costs aside, Ms Anderson-Sierra says the most expensive aspect of the process is her time. "My time spent washing and sterilising, setup and breakdown to pump, actual pumping, bagging milk, weighing the milk, labelling, laying out to freeze, organising, and storing the milk," she writes. "Time spent keeping up with my milk bank qualification, and organising local donations."
It's time, she says, away from her husband, 52-year-old David Sierra, and her kids. "I also can't just take a day off... I can't even take a pump off!"
Despite the sacrifices, however, Ms Anderson-Sierra says she truly loves what she does. "I'm not complaining," she says, "this is my choice. But I feel the donor's side is rarely talked about. Many mothers want me to just give my milk freely to them when they cannot provide enough simply because I have so much. Yes I do have a lot to give, but I can't freely feed all the babies."
Pediatrician Dr Lori Feldman-Winter told TODAY that while there's no agreed upon amount defining what constitutes hyper-lactation, even for those who do have the condition, Ms Anderson-Sierra is producing a lot of extra milk.
"That definitely is out of the range of the garden variety of hyper-lactation we would see," Dr Feldman-Winter said, explaining that most mums only have a little extra milk (for example, producing 1100mls rather than 800mls).
Dr Feldman-Winter recommends women see their doctor to rule out any underlying medical problems, such as thyroid issues, related to excessive oversupply.
For more information on oversupply, visit the Australian Breastfeeding Association.