Alysia Reiner Says Sharing Milk Was an ‘Unexpected Gift’

04/14/2010 at 03:00 PM ET
Courtesy Alysia Reiner

Since welcoming daughter Livia Charles in Dec. 2008, Alysia Reiner has learned to expect the unexpected — especially when it comes to breastfeeding.

“I didn’t even know if I would make enough [milk] for one baby, as a small-breasted woman I was actually very concerned about that,” she admits in a new interview with Best for Babes.

However, when her fears were put to rest — Reiner, 39, eventually discovered her concerns are a common myth — the Sideways actress began storing her extra supply for emergencies, only to find she’d build up a stock she had no need for.

“So I started looking into donating it to a milk bank,” she explains. But a simple twist of fate led Reiner to coordinate with a friend in need instead.

“I spoke to a friend who was having a very hard time with breastfeeding and suggested she look into milk banks,” Reiner shares. “Then it dawned on us … to just do a direct donation. So I am happy to be able to share my milk with another mom’s baby.”

And while nursing Liv “is heaven and such a gift,” Reiner admits sharing her milk “was the most incredibly unexpected gift of all.”

(Best for Babes cautions moms about potential health risks of milksharing, and recommends that moms wishing to donate or access human milk go through the Human Milk Bank Association of North America.)

As for her initial breastfeeding timeline, Reiner, having already surpassed her goal, is still going strong 16 months later!

“I didn’t expect to love it so much. To feel so miraculous. To do it for so long,” she raves, adding that it has become “so easy” over time.

“I thought I would stop when she could ask for it, but then she started talking really early — oops.”

To read the full interview, visit Best For Babes.

— Anya Leon

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

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Crystal on

What a wonderful story. I most likely won’t be able to breastfed and will probably look into a bank. Hearing this story gives me hope that there are fantastic people out there willing to help others.

lily on

I admit my first thought is “oh, okay, that is different”, however we drink cows milk, and goats milk, because that is what is acceptable in society. It is great that she is able to help her friends baby get the nutrition from breast milk. It is the healthiest overall. Nice story.

mmlove on

I so encourage Breastfeeding! I was so upset when i, myself couldn’t but i sure encourage others to at least try. God created it for that purpose!

Jen on

I was planning on donating any extra milk to a milkbank after I was done pumping and/or breastfeeding. But when my daughter hit 11 months, my supply went down drastically, and I ended up going through the stored up supply. I stopped nursing when she was 14 months old (I had hoped to go longer).

This is really a wonderful story.

Jackie on

I was nursing and weaning my son to a bottle so I could return to work. He had terrible stomach pain and couldn’t handle any formula, but my milk was gone by this point. A neighbor who delivered around the same time donated me milk until we could get his stomach adjusted to formula. It was a wonderful blessing. You never know what you will accept until your child is crying at 2 in the morning and your neighbor is standing there with her breast milk frozen in a bag for you.

Allison on

wouldn’t it be unwise to take milk from your neighbor and use it? breast milk is a body fluid and can transmit diseases. i would personally use formula if i didn’t have enough breast milk, but for those that want breastmilk, please go through a bank where the milk is tested and treated first. there are risks to your baby.

Jen on

That is awesome!!!

Sarah on

How great! I have always had the perception that U.S women weren’t encouraged enough to breast feed by their doctors. It’s not taboo, it’s the most natural thing in the world. And milk by donation? Great and why not? Diseases, I am sure they are screened, and anyone who is pregnant gets the full blood/urine test anyway.

Henri on

What I’m confused about is that I thought breastmilk was really only beneficial to the mother’s own child as it’s “perfectly fit” to that child. How could her milk be beneficial to another baby?

Leena on

Henri, although there are specific antibodies that a mother passes to their own child, breast milk is pretty much all the same – just like cow’s milk.
On a side note: I find it sort of funny that 100 years ago “wet nurses” were the norm and so many people are squeamish about it now. Ideally, we’d all be able to nurse our children for as long and as frequently as they need, but it doesn’t always work out that way.
I am all for it, as long as the necessary precautions and screenings are taken.

essence on

Breast milk is beneficial for babies, not just the one you give birth to. I’ve seen cases of adoptive mothers being taught to stimulate milk supply to nurse babies that they adopt. Also years ago there were “wet nurses”which were women that nursed other people’s children.

hayley on

i could not breastfeed either of my son * not for want of trying* lucky for me he was a healthy munchkin who just did amazing on bottle milk but if he had been a premi then that sounds a wonderful idea, i really love the idea of knowing the person who is helping you out , what a wonderful bond you would have with that person.

the banks sound a wonderful idea x

Jenny on

I recently made a donation of my surplus milk to the only milk bank in Canada. I’ve been told screened, pasteurized breast milk is far better in some cases than formula. I love the idea that I gave someone else’s child something that has made my own baby girl thrive. As for being a bodily fluid, it’s just like blood, life-giving, and I willingly gave from both sides of my heart!

dd on

Okay. I have insufficient glandular tissue (not enough milk glands) and I have received over 2,000 ounces of breastmilk through the wonderful Milkshare organization
I would have never been able to gain access to a milk bank, because my child has no medical problems. And even if I had been able to get milk from a bank, it costs $3/oz and I would have been bankrupted. (I do not qualify for any assistance because we make too much money).

I believe milk from a bank is appropriate for preemies, but not for healthy term infants. Why? Because milk banks mix the milk of several women and pasteurize it, and freeze it again. Pasteurizing breastmilk kills so much of the beneficial properties and antibodies. And we are all told NOT to re-freeze breastmilk, so why is it OK for the milk banks?

Disease transmission through human milk is actually very rare. Why would a nursing mother breastfeed her OWN child much less donate her milk if she had a transmissible disease (Hepatitis B, HIV)? Also, the donating mothers are willing to be screened for these diseases if you ask. Milk donation within the community is much more human, healthier, and easier. If I had not made those human connections with the actual mothers who were donating to me, I would have been unable to accept my situation. I was extremely depressed that I could not breastfeed, and only receiving donated milk helped me heal.

dd on

Also, HMBANA milk banks turn away most mothers because of the age of frozen milk, certain drugs they take that are PROVEN safe by Dr. Hale, certain vacations or places you have lived (the UK, for example), or even certain herbal supplements. Please consider Milkshare if you get turned away by a milk bank.

Sarah on

how long can someone nurse? I thought it just stoped coming out after 6 months….

Kat on

that’s so amazing… and obviously, since she is friends with the other woman, they must know each other well enough to know that there is no risk of disease or other ill effects.

So amazing that she can share the liquid gold.

M on

Sarah, a woman can nurse for YEARS if she keeps her supply up (which can be done with frequent nursing or pumping, and getting enough fluids…many women forget how much they need to drink!). I breastfed my son till 8 months, then had to stop for medical reasons. Many of my friends breastfed their children till they were 2 or so. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding till at least 12 months, and I believe medical benefits to BOTH child and mother have been proven through age 3. 🙂

CelebBabyLover on

Jenny- I agree! People donate blood all the time, and you rarely hear people getting all squeamish about that! 🙂

Alicia on


Alicia on

I guess this is a good idea but seems sort of strange at the same time.

Paige on

Bravo to her. I’ve donated about 400 oz. of breastmilk via Milkshare, and am about to donate another couple hundred ounces. I just make more milk than my baby can drink, so I’m happy to give it to a mommy in need.
FYI – all of the women donating on Milkshare are more than happy to provide medical records to prove their overall good health. Also, someone made a good point above – why would a mother who had an infectious disease nurse her own child, let alone donate to someone else’s?
I am very proud to be a milk donor, and it’s inspiring to see a celebrity donating as well. Hooray!

Grace on

Sarah, I nursed my older daughter until she was 3 years old, 2 months. That time included through a pregnancy with my 2nd daughter. When my 2nd baby was born, I tandem nursed for 4 months before my older daughter weaned. Milk production stops when the stimulation (ie, nursing or pumping) stops.

Also, here in Central Florida, we have a program called GetPUMPed (Providing Urgent Milk to Parents) that supplies milk to families in urgent need of breastmilk. It was inspired when a woman died unexpectedly six weeks after giving birth. My friend was able to donate her milk to the family and then started this wonderful program.

Kudos to Alysia for doing something so wonderful!

Nan on

Any man who takes estrogen or prolactin long enough will produce milk. This gift is probably a happy by-product of the hormone therapy of her beautiful transformation.