When I had Hudson, I was only allowed to take six weeks unpaid leave. From the day my milk came in, I began pumping 1-2 times a day. I knew from other mother's experiences that if I was going to continue breastfeeding when I returned to work, I was going to need a reserve in my freezer. I returned to work May 9th. I was pumping twice a day at work to supplement what Hudson needed while I was away from him. To make a long story short, for a handful of reasons, James and I decided I would quit my job.
I have spent the last three months stockpiling "liquid gold" in our freezer. Since I am now able to be with Hudson almost 24/7, I don't have such a dire need for the previously expressed milk. During our Bradley Method classes, we met a woman who was not able to produce breast milk for her newborn. The couple located a milk bank and was able to provide their newborn with breast milk from a donor. This was my first time hearing about "donor milk banks".
I began researching donor milk banks to see if I wanted to donate. I have to admit, initially I was a bit apprehensive about some other infant drinking my breast milk. It seemed a little strange to me. I read about why these babies desperately need the human milk and as I stared down at my little guy, I couldn't imagine doing anything else with the milk. After reading more about the process, I decided to donate to OhioHealth Mothers' Milk Bank.
It's an interesting process. When the milk is donated it is logged in to assure tracking from donor to recipient. The milk is thawed and placed in testing flasks to check calorie and fat content. Milk from three to five donors is combined to evenly distribute protein, fat and antibodies. This is done in a laminar flow hood to prevent contamination. The milk is then pasteurized. It is heated and then cooled to eliminate bacteria while still maintaining most of the milk's beneficial components. The milk is labeled with a batch number and expiration date. Then it is placed in a freezer until it gets shipped out. With a physicians prescription, the milk is then packed on dry ice and sent to hospitals and recipients The milk is typically used by those who are pre-mature, ill, or have life-threatening illnesses. There is a constant need for milk. The OhioHealth Mothers' Milk Bank sends out between 15,000 to 25,000 ounces per month. If you know anyone who is able to donate, please spread the word.
Here are a few things you might want to know if you are considering donating. Milk that has already been expressed can be used! A minimum of 200 ounces is required for your initial donation. You can be a one time donor or a continuing donor. There is a screening processes you must go through. First there is a phone interview. You must then complete a medical and lifestyle history review and sign release forms so your Obstetrician and your child's Pediatrician can share your medical information with the donor bank. You can also sign a release so that your milk can be used for research. Once that is complete, you will be sent a blood work kit. You then go to the hospital and have your blood drawn to check for several illnesses which would exclude you from being a donor. As soon as all of this is complete, you will receive your donor number and you can begin donating. You just have to contact the milk bank when you need more milk storage containers or boxes to ship the milk in. All of this is free. You just have to take the package to FedEx and they will bill the milk bank.
If you or someone you know is interested in donating human milk and you have questions, I would be happy to answer them.