A mum's call for donated breast milk has received an overwhelming amount of support from across the Bay of Plenty at a time when milk banks are low.
Pāpāmoa mum Amy Bidois put a call on a Rotorua Mothers Group Facebook page asking for any donations of breast milk for her 5-week-old daughter.
"From what I can see there are not as many donors out there at the moment or people are requesting it, so there isn't much."
Bidois always wanted her children to have the benefits of being breastfed, however, after having a preventive double mastectomy, she's now unable to offer that nourishment herself.
In 2016 Bidois' sister Emily was diagnosed with breast cancer and while she grappled with chemotherapy, the sisters learned they carried the BRAC2 gene – an inherited gene that increases the risk of a woman developing ovarian and breast cancers.
Despite knowing she wanted more children, Bidois made the tough decision to have a double preventive mastectomy.
In 2019 her second son was born and Bidois had success with donor milk, feeding him on it for six months. This time around banks are low and Bidois is not sure how long she can feed her newborn.
"I'll manage the first three months and take it from there, I think.
"It's such a lovely opportunity to care for other mums in the community and I have met a lot of other mums through donations."
After putting the call out on milk-sharing pages, Bidois tried her luck in Rotorua as her husband would be able to pick it up while driving back from work, she said.
The support was overwhelming.
"There was a big response ... because mine is a new baby so I have got a lot from a mum whose baby is in special care. She is pumping a lot of milk but the baby isn't ready for it."
Milk bank charity Mothers Milk New Zealand founder and director Emma Ryburn-Phengsavath said up until three months ago supplies had been good.
However, a "technical financial hitch" has meant funding for blood tests is gone, leaving donors to pick up the $100 cost.
"This means we are losing donors who can't meet the minimum criteria of five litres of milk before we offer her milk to a recipient family or we need to wait till she is able to reach this amount."
Ryburn-Phengsavath said mothers with babies in special or intensive care units were keeping the bank thriving as they could accumulate larger amounts.
"The requests come in weekly for assistance, some are for a short spell in the first two weeks until the mother's own supply is established, through to others who have been diagnosed with low glandular breast tissue or unknown reduced milk supply issues."
There were other mothers like Bidois or those who were fostering or adopting who also needed milk, she said.
Most women are able to produce more than their baby's needs in the first month, which is how mothers could donate, Ryburn-Phengsavath said.
"Their body begins to adjust as it realises there is only one baby to feed. It is a supply-and-demand effect, if you ask your body to produce more milk, be that a baby going through a growth spurt or adding an extra 'feed' session in by using a breast pump, your body adjusts accordingly."
Rotorua mother Tash Graham said there was no question when she saw the post from Bidois.
"I switched over to formula feeding when my daughter was 6 weeks old and to be honest I actually forgot I had some frozen expressed milk until I saw her post."
Similarly, Emma Wilkinson said when a mother put the call out, she wouldn't hesitate to help.
"When I needed help a community gathered around and provided us with the bare essentials in child-rearing. I am paying forward this generosity in any way I can.
"Sharing breastmilk should be more normalised, many don't even know it's an option."
Another Rotorua mother, Talia Debelak, who put her hand up to help said Bidois' story was inspiring and to help was an honour.
How milk donation works:
On average a donor produces 1-1.5 litres of milk extra per week and these women can donate their milk for an average of two to three months.
Then the women with an oversupply can continue past the first three months, up to nine months.
Each baby drinks a litre of milk per day, so someone requiring partial support needs about 4-6 donors to allow donors and their babies to have off-days.
A baby on full donor milk support would need eight to 13 donors.