For reasons that would fall almost entirely in the TMI category, I have exclusively pumped in order to give Noah breast milk. Citing TMI yet again, I have also had to pump what seems like an excessive amount of times during the day – leading to an excessive amount of breast milk – hence today’s post.
I could not bring myself to pump and dump so I turned to donation with the National Milk Bank, and I like what I’ve found. According to the Changing Lives Together pamphelet from Prolacta Bioscience, 1 in 8 babies in the US will be born prematurely. That is a staggering 1,367 babies a day. Preemies that need donated milk can be born as early as 24 weeks gestation and weigh less than 3.3 lbs. Their biggest obstacle to health and sometimes survival is the ability to gain weight, but their own mother’s breast milk is not sufficient. Human Milk Fortifier is a necessary addition to their regular feedings and is made a medical possibility by labs like Prolacta Bioscience and breast milk donors.
This is a complete no-brainer for me. My personal struggles in nursing led to an over-abundance of breast milk, and there are babies who desperately, desperately need it. I see this situation as a unique opportunity for me to make a small difference in someone else’s life. I am so fortunate to have been blessed with two healthy boys – something I can only thank God for. I feel so proud that I can play a small part in another mom having what every mom wants – a healthy baby.
The application process with the National Milk Bank progresses simply:
- Complete the online application.
- NMB will send you two doctor release forms (one for your primary care physician and one for your baby’s) to verify your eligibility as a donor.
- NMB will connect you with a phlebotomist who will draw your blood (in your home!) and return it to them for tests.
- Based on freezer space in lab facilities, NMB will connect you as a donor with a breast milk lab (for me, Prolacta Bioscience).
- The contracted lab will connect with you to determine any additional testing. (Prolacta additionally required I submit to a DNA test and a temperature check for both of the freezers I was using to collect stored milk.)
- After you have been completely green-lighted through the above steps you need 220 ounces (a little less than 2 gallons) of stored frozen breast milk to set up shipment for your donation.
I am so excited to have been able to ship my first donation of almost 4.5 gallons on Monday!
A word about cost:
- Donors are not compensated for their breast milk, but they are also not expected to pay out through the process either. All of the appropriate forms, blood and DNA tests, and shipment of breast milk was at no charge to me.
- The only cost I have incurred personally has been my time (any mom who’s pumped knows what a commitment it is) and the cost of storage bags. Because I recently shipped my first donation, the National Milk Bank has begun sending me storage bags free of charge for future donations.
- After labs work their magic on donated breast milk, they do charge hospitals a fee for Human Milk Fortifier. My understanding is that this goes to offset costs incurred by labs to create Human Milk Fortifier and is a necessary evil to produce it.
- Freezer Space.
Depending on your milk supply it may take awhile before you have the minimum 220 ounces ready for donation. Or as in my case, you may have that and a whole lot more in no time at all. My first inquiry with the National Milk Bank was somewhere around the end of April/beginning of May. We are now over half-way through August. The only way I’ve been able to keep all the breast milk is because I have a deep freezer that’s pretty empty.
- Each contracted lab has different rules about breast milk donation.
When I initially applied to be a donor I was green-lighted by a lab that ran out of freezer space before I could send my first donation. When I was referred to Prolacta, they were unable to take my first 6 gallons of breast milk because I had received a necessary rhogam shot at the hospital after Noah’s birth. They were able to take the following 4.5 gallons, but I’m still waiting for freezer space at the first lab to unload the rest.
- Remember your time is worth the investment.
If you have the milk supply and the time, it is totally worth your investment. It’s such a small price to pay when you look at what benefit it will have for someone else.