Browsing the internet one day I came across a story about a baby who had received donor breastmilk while in special care. I wasn’t aware such a practice existed so I researched further. Now, here I am, a few weeks down the line expressing my own breast milk into bottles and storing them in my freezer ready to be collected in a few weeks.
I’ve always had a pretty good milk supply (my record is 10 ounces expressed in 20 minutes) so I knew it was something I would be able to do.
There are a few rules to follow – hygiene of course being extremely important – but basically I sterilise my equipment (I use a manual hand pump), express milk, put the expressed milk in a bottle, write my name & date on it, pop it in a bag & store it in my freezer. I also keep a record of my freezer temperature on a daily basis.
When the time comes to collect, a volunteer courier will come from Chester to my house, collect my milk and take it back to Chester. When the courier picks up my first batch of milk I will get a form to have a blood screening test from my doctor to make sure I’m free of infectious diseases.
When the milk is received it is pasteurised and tested for its macronutrient content (its composition of fat, carbohydrate, total solids and calories per 100ml). It is then refrozen and issued to hospitals.
This is probably one of the most time-consuming RAKs for me as it is something I really have to do every day to ensure I can keep providing enough milk (the body’s production of milk works on a supply and demand basis). It’s not a chore though – bizarrely I enjoy watching it collect in the little bottle knowing it will help a sick or premature baby in the future. Also, I see it as a way of giving something back to the NHS. I’m looking forward to my first batch being collected and processed.
Recently my 20 month old scared his baby brother. I saw him look at me for a reaction, his bottom lip pouting, tears in his eyes. He didn’t cry but I could see something in his face: he didn’t like his baby brother being sad.
“It’s ok” I said, “you just got too close”.
He looked back down at his brother who was still whimpering slightly, touched his chest then laid down next to him. He calmed and he leant across and planted a noisy kiss on his lips.
This observation got me thinking about the nature of kindness. Are people born kind or do they learn kindness? We talk a lot about growing up around her kindness but are we kind because we’re part of her or because we were brought up by her? Is kindness innate or learned? I decided to look into it and my research first took me to the work of psychologist Michael Tomasello.
I read a study called Altruistic Helping in Human Infants and Young Chimpanzees and one of the first paragraphs drew my attention:
This was exactly what I had observed with my son this morning.
The research in this paper shows that although human infants help and cooperate more than other animal species (even with strangers and when they receive no benefit in return) other primates also show similar tendencies, albeit on a smaller scale. This research suggests therefore that altruism was present in some form in our common ancestor, thus demonstrating its innateness.
A later study, however, showed some flaws in Tomasello’s argument. Two professors Rodolfo Cortes Barragan and Carol S. Dweck carried out similar experiments only this time there was a control group in which the people carrying out the experiment interacted differently with the infants during the ‘warm up’ getting-to-know-you part. The experiments concluded that toddlers learn social cues very quickly and the short amount of ‘warm up’ time before the experiment in the initial study primed the toddlers into an altruistic mindset. The full study is here.
After reading both studies it is my belief that we are born with the ability to be kind but to what extent is developed by how we are nurtured. I like to think therefore, that we, LJM1 & I, are kind not only because we are part of her, but because of how she nurtured us. I’m hopeful that all the little Love Join Mes will inherit her kindness; they will certainly be nurtured with it.