For many women, breastfeeding is a sacrifice of love; it is hard, worrisome work, filled with wakeful nights pumping, running to and from the fridge at work, and wearing unflattering, easy access clothing. For others, the milk and the latch come easy. They don’t often worry about production levels, their babies always seem satisfied, and their freezers can end up full to over flowing in no time. Coupled with the major calorie-burning side effects of breastfeeding, these women might end up feeling like they could nurse forever – if only they had a reason.
I have that reason: Milk Banking!
There are 22 milk banks in the US right now, and 159 in Europe. These banks provide life giving support for infants in intensive care who’s mothers are unable or unavailable. If you, mama dearest, are able and available – I want to send out a massive encouragement to donate, donate, donate! My experience was easy and rewarding. If you are reading this post, hopefully there is a piece of you that is curious and might be persuaded toward generosity with your supply. With any luck, I can answer some questions because your milk CAN SAVE LIVES.
Human milk is an incredible, custom made, life-giving meal for infants. A mother’s milk provides all of the essential’s a baby needs to thrive, plus immune building antibodies that actively fight disease and allergies. Human milk is especially important for premature infants or sick babies, who are who are “at 10 times the risk for devastating intestinal infections if they are fed formula instead of human milk (mmbal.com).” When human milk isn’t available, milk banks provide your hospital’s NICU with clean breastmilk generously given by screened donors so that that baby can continue to live.
I am one such donor. It has been my privilege and my honor to give 187 ounces so far.
Milk Banks are usually non-profits that screen, collect, process, and distribute excess human breastmilk to at-risk, or very very ill newborn infants. These infants are suffering to survive: serious premature birth, renal failure, intestinal disease, errors of metabolism, serious allergies, formula intolerance, immunologic deficiencies, and failure to thrive.
Milk Banks are certified and regulated entities through the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) and they take screening very seriously.
If you would like to donate and you live in Alabama –
Contact Katherine Wood at 205-942-8911 x 117 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I contacted Katherine when I was about 3 months postpartum. My supply was ample, my freezer was getting full, and Frank had dropped a feeding in the middle of the night. I heard of the Milk Bank through my precious pediatrician and created the tentative plan to continue waking to pump at the 3 am feed Frank dropped, along with any other feedings he missed. I usually could get 5-10 ounces at a time. If I kept at it, I would have enough to make a decent donation in a couple of months!
Ms. Wood called me back promptly. She was kind, excited, grateful, but very thorough. She asked me 20-30 questions, felt confident that I could donate, and sent me a information packet, consent forms, forms to sign, and an order for blood work. I completed the packet and the blood draw – which was just a vial or two – no problem. When I was confident and ready to donate, Ms. Wood sent me a prepaid box in which I would put my donation, along with some dry-ice, and send back at my convenience. She even had it arranged so that Fed-Ex came and picked up the box at my beckoning!
The whole process was easy peasy and if my supply had remained ample, I would have continued to donate much much longer. Unfortunately, I had some complications with Frank’s health, my work, and yadda yadda, so continued donation wasn’t possible. This was actually a point of heart break for me because well, the Milk Bank is a great cause and a real opportunity for you to really save some lives and make a huge difference in a premies life. I hope I have convinced you!