At the beginning of September 2012, I first wrote about my experience becoming a milk donor. I’ve received numerous inquiries about milk donation since then, so I thought it would be best to make that post a page unto itself. This page will need updating shortly though, because we will be calling the milk bank for another cooler very soon! Exciting!!
On Being a Donor
How easy it is to qualify to be a milk donor?
You can read more about how to qualify to become a milk donor in my breast milk donation Q&A that I did with a board member of the Northwest Mother’s Milk Bank. For me it was pretty easy to donate… I don’t drink, don’t smoke, I have no diseases, Xander is healthy, and I had an abundance to give.
I also easily met my milk bank’s donor minimum. It was 200 ounces, but minimums vary by milk bank.
Did you get paid to be a milk donor?
You do not get paid to be a milk donor, but the milk bank covers all your expenses: your blood work and shipping costs. They pay for it up front so it wasn’t a reimbursement type situation either.
How much milk did you donate?
I donated 1070 ounces of breast milk during this donation (two coolers full). I received a call from the milk bank the next morning and was told 1019 of those ounces would be accepted.
How long did it take you to pump that much?
It took me two months to pump that much. They were my first two months, so I was constantly engorged with a huge oversupply. I don’t think I could pump that much now if I wanted to. Xander eats a lot more and I pump maybe once a day.
Why weren’t the other 51 ounces accepted?
The other 51 ounces weren’t accepted because John and I accidentally gave them a few of the frozen bags that fell within the date range that I took medicine for mastitis. That milk is still good (I breastfed Xander while taking it), but the milk bank likes to be extra careful since the milk will be feeding premies.
Have you made another donation since September?
In the beginning of December, I made my second milk donation. 609 ounces were donated this time and I was able to have some left over for a few local moms in my area.
How was the milk transported?
The milk was transported in these two blue coolers via Fed Ex. The lids were taped shut and we had perishable human milk stickers on top. The milk bank shipped the coolers to me on a Wednesday. On Thursday, I called Fed Ex and scheduled the very last pick up available for overnight delivery. The coolers were picked up around 6 pm, shipped overnight, and made it to the milk bank by 10:30 am the next morning (Friday). No dry ice was used. When coolers are packed tightly with frozen goods, the goods will stay frozen. It’s just like your food in your freezer staying good for 24-48 hours during a power outage if you don’t open the door.
Which milk bank did you send your milk to?
Did you donate all your frozen milk?
No, we did not, but are willing to do so if necessary, in the future. I probably have another 800-1000 ounces in the freezer in our garage. That’s just an estimate though. If that milk is approaching it’s expiatory date and we aren’t utilizing it, I will certainly send it off for donation as well. Update: my second donation took care of most of my stash. However, I hope to be able to make a third donation before Xander has his one year old birthday.
Why did you choose to donate your milk?
- I had extra.
- My March and April stash was reaching 6 months of being frozen.
- My milk is high in lipase, therefore, when we thaw it the taste is less than desirable and we would have to mix with freshly pumped milk for Xander to accept it. Since Xander maybe gets one bottle a week this would take a long time to go through. Plus, that means I would always have to have fresh milk on hand. Don’t worry, my milk will be mixed with other mother’s milk and the high lipase will not be an issue!
- I’m helping little babies!
How did it feel to donate your milk?
Donating your breast milk gives you feelings of both selflessness and selfishness. I feel like this might be hard to explain, but let me try…
The selfless feelings come from knowing I’m helping premies and it just makes sense to give my extra. The selfish feelings come from having a close relationship with breast feeding Xander. The main thought that kept flooding through my mind was what if Xander needs the milk. I desperately want to breast feed Xander for a year and beyond, if he wants to, and having a stash of milk available for post weaning makes me feel secure. I know I still have a milk stash, but the lingering thoughts of what if… kept running through my mind.
Like I said, it’s hard to describe the juxtaposition of feelings. If you’ve breastfed before maybe you can understand a little bit of what I’m trying to describe.
How did John feel about the milk donation process?
I was really pleased with how easy the donation process was. The milk bank covered the blood work and shipping, so all we had to do was pack the coolers. Beyond the logistics, I felt good that this milk was going to be put to good use. I know Katie has the emotional attachment to the milk she pumped, but I see the situation from a more practical standpoint. With Katie still breastfeeding Xander and with the imminent addition of solid foods, Xander won’t be able to eat the well-over 1000 ounces of milk we had frozen in two (!) freezers. Rather than the milk sitting in our freezer, and possibly going bad, it will be used to help preemie babies get healthy and gain weight. Xander is very healthy and is gaining weight like a champ, so it’s clear he won’t need a lot of supplemental milk feedings. Not to mention, our little man is picky so the high-lipase milk that Katie pumps does not please his delicate palette. So we have to cut the frozen milk with fresh pumped; normally Katie is feeding him directly from the breast anyway and the amount we freeze had significantly dropped. So in order to use all the milk we had frozen, we’ll have to pump equal amounts of fresh, which just isn’t practical. We were able to give a lot of milk to needy babies and save us a bunch of hassle at the same time. It was a great option and I really hope other new moms that have an excess of milk like we did exercise this option and help out those little babies who really need it.
Read my post on pumping to learn all about my pumping schedule then and now, how I came to have such a great supply, and more!
On Being a Recipient
What babies/families qualify for milk donation. Is it generally a case of the mother is unable to produce breast milk on her own? Or babies that need more breast milk than the mother can provide?
I reached out to my contact, Sue, from Wake Med Mother’s Milk Bank to answer this question. She is a nurse and lactation consult. She says: “A couple years ago I would dispense milk to any baby who needed it, even adopted babies. Unfortunately, our milk supply has dropped and the hospital demand for the preemies has skyrocketed. Because of those factors, I am only dispensing milk to hospitals. Quite often I am unable to meet the demands of the hospitals. Some milk banks are able to dispense to out patients. Mostly, there must be a medical need for the milk. If someone is looking for milk, http://www.hmbana.org will give a list of all the banks in the country. They should just call around and see who has milk.”
Have anymore questions about the milk donation process or my experience? Feel free to ask!