Christina Nichter understood how it felt to be a mom who wanted to breastfeed but couldn't. Not being able to feed your baby enough or pump enough can fill you with self-doubt and guilt. Even though others tell you it's not your fault, you can't help but feel like a breastfeeding failure.
That's why the Montana mom has made it her mission for the last year to donate as much breast milk as she could to moms who needed it.
When Nichter's breast milk dried up with her first child, Cooper, and she gave him formula for the first time, she cried. The Montana mom told Great Falls Tribune that she had to remind herself that what was important was that her baby was fed and there was nothing to feel guilty about.
With her second baby, Jayden, Nichter realized she had stocked 250 ounces of breast milk in the freezer from two weeks postpartum, and the surplus kept increasing daily.
She started looking into donating by reaching out to multiple milk banks and lactation consultants. She finally got in touch with Mother's Milk Bank of Montana and completed an interview and blood-draw process before she made her first donation.
"It was exhilarating and horrifying at the same time. I worried about if my supply was to tank, would I have enough to keep feeding Jayden?" Nichter wrote on Facebook. "Then I realized that the amazing feeling of giving outweighed the fear of not producing enough. This was an unwarranted fear."
A friend then introduced her to a mom who was struggling, and she began donating to her directly. Soon, she was reaching out to other moms and giving milk to moms in several cities. Nichter was donating every other week, sometimes multiple times a week. Her goal increased from donating 5,000 ounces to 10,000 ounces to 100 gallons.
By the end of her journey (she started weaning 10 months in), she had donated 128 gallons (16,385 ounces) of breast milk. That's 1,072 pounds of milk—or about two-thirds of an actual cow.
"During my donating adventure, it never really hit me how much my donating affected people. I knew that the moms I was donating to were beyond appreciative. Some mommas would leave with their coolers full, and in tears," Nichter wrote on Love What Matters. "To me, it was just doing what was supposed to be done—giving to families that needed a little boost to relieve the stress of feeding their little one."
Nichter told Mom.me she was nervous at first to put her story out there because she thought she might receive negative comments.
"But it has been a positive experience so far," she said. "It's a lot to take in with how big it got."
Nichter first shared her story with a pumping group on Facebook and was inspired to share her story with Love What Matters, where it went viral. Her story was shared on "Ellen Nation" and "Today." She was known as "Milk Mom" or the "Dairy Godmother." People everywhere were praising her for her selfless act.
"I read the comments and held back tears, realizing what I did actually made a difference," she wrote. "I look in my now-empty freezer that has held so much liquid gold and can only smile and be proud of myself."