Elisabeth Anderson-Sierra makes much, much more breast milk than your average mother. So the Beaverton, Oregon, resident has become a major donor to milk banks, giving her milk away to babies in need all over the country, according to Portland ABC affiliate KATU.
Anderson-Sierra has what’s called Hyper Lactation Syndrome, meaning that her body produces far more than her 6-month-old baby can use. Most nursing mothers produce in the range of 15 to 30 ounces of breast milk a day, but she produces around 225 ounces (1.7 gallons). That's a lot of extra milk.
For many mothers, Hyper Lactation Syndrome is a major problem, not an opportunity for charity. It makes most women’s breasts feel overfull all the time, and can lead to plugged ducts and leaking between feedings. It can also cause issues for nursing babies, who can develop colic. Pumping more isn’t usually the answer—that tells the body that the milk is being used, and to produce more—but Anderson-Sierra seems to see her overproduction as the solution to a problem, rather than a problem in itself.
“Breast milk is liquid gold,” she told KATU. “It should never be thrown away.” (It is, in fact, a miraculously versatile fluid, and the recommended food source for babies under 6 months old.) Anderson-Sierra has two full-sized freezers stacked with bags and bags of breast milk in her Oregon home. She donates them to a milk bank that tests her milk and sends it out nationwide, including for use in feeding premature babies in hospitals. The bank reimburses her a dollar an ounce, which she uses to pay for her freezers and to buy more bags and sanitation kits.
Anderson-Sierra spends hours out of her day pumping breast milk, which sounds utterly exhausting. Those preemies in the NICU are grateful for her time, surely. It's a lot more generous than most of us would be with our bodies.