Elisabeth Anderson-Sierra calls herself “a mom with a gift,” but we call her a hero.
Since 2015, the 29-year-old mother-of-two has helped what has to be hundreds of babies by donating more than 78,000 ounces (about 609 gallons) of breast milk. Oh, and she's still had enough to feed her two girls, too.
“I think that everybody should, in order to have that sense of community, be active in their community,” Anderson-Sierra, 29, told TODAY. “This is what I do. This is the gift I’ve been given. This is the gift that I can share.”
Anderson-Sierra, a former member of the Coast Guard, has always had a passion for saving lives. Before she got pregnant with her first child, she donated blood instead of breast milk.
“I had the mindset that I wanted to do it. Even if I just had one ounce extra a day, I was going to donate it,” she said.
Isabella, Anderson-Sierra's older daughter, was born in December 2014. Anderson-Sierra tried pumping to increase her breast milk production so she could donate, and, fortunately, her breast milk, “seemed to be almost doubling every other day.”
After giving birth to her daughter Sophia in 2017, Anderson-Sierra's breast milk production has gone from 168 ounces per day with just Isabella, to 225 ounces per day. To put that in perspective, according to pediatrician and breastfeeding expert Dr. Lori Feldman-Winter, an average breastfeeding mom of a six-month-old would produce anywhere between 25 to 30 ounces per day. Crazy!
With an oversupply of breast milk, Anderson-Sierra started freezing the excess. Soon, she had a two freezers full of milk. Seriously!
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She would donate the milk directly to needy families in her local Beaverton, OR, area. According to TODAY, Anderson-Sierra's milk was not screened because she had bi-monthly blood tests done.
But soon, Anderson-Sierra realized the cost of running hospital-grade breast pumps in addition to four large freezers. “I was paying to feed other people’s babies, which I didn’t mind, but it was starting to add up,” she said.
So today, she splits her breast milk two ways. She continues to give away her breast milk — for free — to people in her area, but Anderson-Sierra now works with Tiny Treasures Milk Bank, an organization that pays her $1 per ounce of qualified milk. That said, according to TODAY, Anderson-Sierra still only breaks even or, sometimes, runs at a deficit.
“I do what I do to give back to my community and to save the lives of babies that would have a higher mortality rate without breast milk,” she said.
Because she produces so much milk, Anderson-Sierra spends 4 to 5 hours every day pumping, sterilizing her equipment, and packaging the milk.
“What I do now is very hard, that’s why I definitely classify it as a labor of love,” she said. “There are no slow days. I can never take a day off.”
But still, she shows no signs of stopping. Anderson-Sierra says she is particularly moved by stories of preemies who survive thanks to breast milk.
“I would imagine it feels the same for somebody that donates a kidney, that same feeling that you have just given somebody else a second chance at life,” Anderson-Sierra said. “But I only have one kidney and I have lots of breast milk to give.”