Breastfeeding your baby may be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Did you know you can also help nurture other babies by donating your breast milk? This selfless donation is often a life-saving measure for babies who would not otherwise receive the wholesome and healing nourishment of breast milk. Today we’re exploring how to donate breast milk.
Babies across the globe are in desperate need of breast milk. What seems so natural and simple to you – breastfeeding your baby – is not possible in many cases. Some mothers are unable to produce milk or enough milk to sustain their babies, especially if their babies were born prematurely or with severe complications. Other than extreme illness or due to the medical circumstances of the mother, babies who were adopted or born via surrogacy are in need of breast milk too. As you probably already know, breast milk is one of the best preventative healthcare measures a baby can receive, especially those who begin their lives with critical health conditions. When you donate breast milk, you can give these babies a chance at the best start to life, just like you are giving your own baby.
Becoming a breast milk donor is fairly simple if you are committed to the process. Essentially you will pump excess milk and store it in your freezer until you have enough to ship to a breast milk bank where it can be distributed to babies in need. Breast milk banks are all adamant that the needs of your own baby should come first, and any excess milk your baby will not use can be donated.
There are some basic medical background requests of mothers that most breast milk banks require before approving moms as breast milk donors. The expenses for these procedures are usually covered by the breast milk bank. Mothers will need to:
- Retrieve written consent from her own physician confirming that she is in good health.
- Retrieve written consent from her pediatrician that she is meeting the nutritional needs of her baby before donating breast milk.
- Take a blood test to check for diseases.
- Offer a cheek cell sample to check for disease and record DNA.
Most breast milk banks also have requirements for collecting and storing milk:
- Breast milk should be pumped using a sanitized breast pump.
- Milk should be collected and immediately placed into human milk storage containers only housing milk from one single pumping session.
- Milk should be frozen immediately after collection.
- Milk cannot be thawed and refrozen.
- All milk should be labeled with the date/time of collection.
- Freezers must be kept at an appropriate temperature as gauged by a thermometer.
- Breast milk should be sent to milk banks within a set period of time after collection (usually not older than 10 months).
Breast milk banks offer sanitation guidelines similar to those you would use with milk you serve to your own baby. These include:
- Always washing your hands before handling your pump or breast milk containers.
- Frequently washing the parts of your pump that touch your body or your breast milk.
- Using sponges and brushes only designed and designated to clean bottles and breast milk storage containers. Run them through the dishwasher if appropriate.
- Allow your cleaning supplies to fully dry and replace them often.
- Keep your breasts clean by showering daily.
There are many online resources to help you find a local or national breast milk bank. Typically, mothers will select a breast milk bank and qualify as an exclusive donor for that facility. Once approved, breast milk banks often offer free storage containers and shipping supplies and reimbursement to transport donated breast milk. Local breast milk banks likely supply your breast milk to babies at hospitals around your community, whereas national breast milk banks may ship milk to wherever it is needed most.
Giving the gift of breast milk is an act of kindness that can save the lives of countless innocent babies. Many mothers feel extremely rewarded by offering this anonymous gift to babies in need. After meeting the nutritional needs of your own baby, consider becoming a breast milk donor.