Friday, October 22, 2010

Becoming a breast milk donor

This is not a picture of my milk. 
When I was struggling with exclusive pumping with my first daughter, I didn't know there were milk banks. I didn't know that women donated their milk for other babies. But even if I had, I couldn't have afforded it. While I had a premature baby, insurance probably wouldn't have covered it just because I didn't produce enough milk because she wasn't SO premature that her body couldn't handle formula. Milk banks charge, from what I've seen, $2-3 (or more) per ounce. If a newborn baby eats 2-3 ounces per feeding and eats about 9-12 times a day, that adds up REALLY quickly. Unless insurance is covering the cost, most people couldn't afford to give their babies donated breast milk from a milk bank. 

Now, I'm not saying that milk banks aren't a great idea or shouldn't exist. With my current baby, Ella, who as many of you know was born at 29 weeks, if I hadn't produced enough milk or if my preeclampsia had caused me any problems with my milk, insurance would have covered the cost of milk from a milk bank. Is it absolute choice? No, because they do pasteurize it which does affect the nutritional value of breast milk but it is definitely better then formula! In our file somewhere, there is a signed form authorizing the hospital to give Ella donated breast milk if it was necessary. 

Fortunately, for me, it wasn't necessary. I pump 40+ oz a day and have milk stored both in my freezer and Meg's freezer. I'm a milk machine. I have more milk then Ella would ever go through unless I decided to stop breastfeeding and as we all know, that is not going to be happening. In fact, since this is my last nursling, I intend on breastfeeding her until she's in college because I wasn't prepared for only two nurslings so I'll be producing breast milk forever. ha ha 

Once I filled up my freezer and literally couldn't fit a single more bottle in, I turned to my friend Meg to let me store milk at her house. The day after I did that, I started seriously considering donating milk. I was pumping 40+ ounces a day and my baby was eating 1 ml every hour. It was adding up. Even by the time she got to full feedings for her gestational age, she would be no where near eating what I was producing. Even though I was only 2 weeks in to pumping exclusively, and I knew there was a chance that my supply would decrease, I decided to look into private donation. I did this because I wanted to ensure that a baby who wouldn't get it otherwise, but needed it, would get breast milk. A friend of mine told me about Milk Share, which is an  is a parent-to-parent connection tool for those seeking milk and donating milk ( I went on there and immediately found a posting from an adoptive mom of a preemie baby girl who wanted to provide milk for her baby. I was ecstatic! I contacted her immediately and we set it up. Within a week, she had somewhere around 100 oz of my perfect-for-a-preemie breast milk. I am so thrilled to be able to provide milk for her baby girl! Disclaimer: If you do private milk donation (whether giving or receiving) it's important to ensure that the mother is screened for diseases and dangerous medications. 

If you're interested in milk donation, whether private or through a milk bank, here are a few resources: Human Milk Banking Association of North America Specifically for low birth weight and premature babies.

Do you know of any other resources? Do you or anyone you know have any experience with milk banks or private donations? Had you ever heard of donating breast milk? What are your thoughts on this?

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