Today I am officially a milk donor. After one phone interview, two paperwork packets, a visit to the rural health clinic, a blood test, 100+ oz. of milk, and several calls to FedEx Peri Ship, my donation arrived and was accepted today.
I first started to consider becoming a milk donor during my breastfeeding educator certification when I did a handout on milk banking. I found out that the demand that milk banks receive far outstrips the supply. I’ve had a baby in the NICU and it’s hard. You want to do whatever it takes to get your baby well and take him home.
I was able to breastfeed my son exclusively, but I know that a lot of moms have trouble breastfeeding- especially after a difficult birth or emergency c-section. Donor breastmilk reduces the risk of a premature baby developing necrotizing enterocolitis, a potentially fatal disease of the intestinal tissue that affects formula fed premature babies, so while it’s still second best when compared to a mother’s own milk it can be life-saving.
I’m one of those moms that has plenty of milk. I can give another mom’s baby a fighting chance. So I called the milk bank and got started.
It’s not easy becoming a milk donor for a reputable milk bank because they are so careful to make sure that there is no risk that the receiving baby will receive milk that could be contaminated by a blood borne illness and that the donor mother and her baby are healthy enough to donate. But it was so worth it.
If you’re interested in becoming a donor, please think about it. I donated to the Mother’s Milk Bank in San Jose, California. Just call up your closest milk bank to get started. You do not need to live right by the milk bank. (I live in the rural forest 7,000 feet above sea level and several hours away from San Jose. The folks at Fed Ex make it happen!!!)
I know that the demand for donor milk is not sufficient for the supply and that a lot of moms are not able to get breast milk for their babies. This has led to more casual buying and selling of extra milk through online classifieds and Facebook groups. If you’re having difficulty breastfeeding a full-term and otherwise healthy baby, I do recommend getting help to breastfeed before you resort to buying unscreened milk.
If your milk supply has dropped or you’re no longer lactating, chances are that with the right information and help you can still breastfeed. There are several ways to drive your supply up again or even get your milk supply back if it has dried up. It’s far safer to partially breastfeed and supplement with formula for a time than use “black market” milk.
If your baby is in the NICU and you are struggling to breastfeed, come take my class. I have tons of info on how to breastfeed in the NICU, build your supply after a planned or emergency c-section and even induce lactation. Even if you need to supplement for a time, your milk is still best for your baby because your body will customize the immune enhancing factors and nutrition to meet your baby’s needs. And your freshly pumped milk can be fed to your baby straight up without pasteurization, so it is superior to donated milk.
To those moms of the babies who will get my milk, my heart goes out to you. I’ve been there. My daughter and I are happy to share with you. =)