All moms know that when it comes to giving their little one the best start in life, breast milk is generally considered preferable to formula. However, despite the fact it is branded as one of the most natural things in the world, unfortunately not all moms have the option to breastfeed their baby.
Whether it is down to an issue with baby latching on, or they simply aren’t producing enough milk, not being able to breastfeed can be devastating. It can also be worrying if baby is born premature. Did you know that premature babies need breast milk even more than babies who made it to full term? Without it, the risk of illness and disease increases dramatically. That’s where donated breast milk proves invaluable.
By donating your breast milk, you could end up saving a baby’s life. So, how exactly can you donate your breast milk to those in need? Here, you’ll discover everything you need to know.
Are You A Good Candidate?
Not everyone is a good candidate to donate breast milk. The most basic criteria is you need to currently be lactating and have extra milk. Or, you may have recently lactated and have extra milk left over. However, there are other factors you’ll need to meet if you want to donate that extra milk.
Firstly, you’ll need to be in good health and willing to have a blood test. The cost of the test will typically be paid for by the organization you’re planning on donating to. It’s also required that you aren’t taking any regular medications. This includes supplements, though exceptions may apply.
If you plan on donating milk in person, there is a minimum amount of 100 ounces required for the first donation. Then, you can donate as and when you can. If you’re planning on shipping the milk, there may be different minimum donation requirements you need to meet.
Another criterion is that the infant you are nursing must be younger than one year old. Mothers who have lost a baby and surrogate mothers are also able to apply. Finally, you’ll need to arrange the delivery of the milk yourself, whether that is delivering it in person or shipping it.
These guidelines exist to ensure the milk received is safe and suitable for babies. If you’re taking regular medications, these could obviously be passed down to the baby. Similarly, if you’re unwell, you won’t be able to donate your milk.
Where Can You Donate?
There is a total of 27 non-profit milk banks you can donate to across America. New locations are frequently being added and they are a part of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA). You can find out where your nearest bank is through the HMBANA website.
The Application Process
You can call any of the non-profit milk banks to apply to donate your extra breast milk. They will usually conduct a phone interview, then advise you of what you’ll need from your doctor. They will also ask you to carry out a blood test at one of their chosen labs.
Once your blood test results and paperwork have been received by the milk bank, you will be called again to find out if you’ve been accepted.
How Does The Donation Process Work?
If you are accepted as a donor, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the process for collecting, storing and delivering the milk.
When it comes to collecting the milk, you’ll need to make sure you wash your hands, along with your nipples and breasts with a mild soap. You can then pump the milk into a sterilized container. Most milk banks prefer it if you freeze the milk as this helps to reduce waste and it also reduces the amount of fat lost too. You’ll need to write your donor number, name and pump date onto the container.
You can store the milk in food-grade hard plastic storage boxes or sterile milk bags. If you’re using a glass or plastic container, the milk will need to be boiled for five minutes. If you want to freeze the milk, it’s important to leave ½ an inch at the top as it will expand once it freezes. The milk can be stored within the refrigerator for 24 hours before freezing and it must be placed in the refrigerator within 30 minutes of pumping.
If you are delivering the milk in person, you can simply take the container and drop it in to reception. If you plan on shipping the milk, you’ll need to let the milk ban know as they will supply a cooler and also reimburse you for the cost of dry ice which will be needed to keep the milk cold. You’ll typically need to ship the milk with Federal Express.
Once you’ve donated the milk, you can rest in the knowledge that it’s going to go to babies who need it most. When you have excess breast milk left over, donating it rather than throwing it away is definitely recommended. As you can see, the process is fairly straightforward and your local milk bank will be able to provide advice and support throughout each step of the process.