Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I'm donating breast milk...and you should too!

“Formula for babies has become such a pervasive part of our culture that many people assume it must be as good for babies as human milk. After all, formula is designed to contain many of the nutrients provided in breastmilk--and babies who are fed formula clearly grow and develop adequately. Yet the fact remains that human milk and infant formula differ in a number of fundamental ways. Breastmilk is such a rich, nourishing mixture that scientists have yet to identify all of its elements; no formula manufacturer has managed or will ever be able to fully replicate it.” American Academy of Pediatrics

Addendum: Before I get started with today’s post, I want to add something to my post last week regarding breastfeeding. My intention was not to judge working mothers or make working mothers feel badly. I, of all people, understand how difficult it is to work and continue breastfeeding. I am extremely blessed to have a job that allows me time to pump and to return home for lunch- giving me an extra opportunity to breastfeed during the day. So far, my supply has not diminished and I am able to actually bank much of what I pump (see new post below). However, not all women are as lucky. I do understand that some women find it impossible to keep up their supply when pumping during the day. My intention was not to criticize those women- in fact, I commend you for doing your best to provide the best possible food for your baby. I do want to point out that even if you aren’t able to provide enough breast milk to breastfeed exclusively, you can still breastfeed when able (sort of like supplementing formula with breast milk). This way, if your baby has to take formula during the day, he/she can still get the benefits of breastfeeding, even if he/she is only able to get an ounce or two of milk. Even an ounce of breast milk can make a difference. From women I’ve talked to (my mother, who nursed 7 children, included), your body will adjust, and nursing only once or twice a day is possible.

To summarize: my real beef is with women who don’t breastfeed at all because they intend to go back to work (and somehow think starting a baby on formula from the beginning is better than starting on breast milk and switching later, if necessary), mothers that don’t even give pumping a try, or those who switch to formula for their own selfish reasons (and yes, I am counting the “I’m tired” and “If I use formula my husband can help me” excuses).

..................................New Post starts here…………….......

So from my last post you can probably tell that I take breastfeeding very, very seriously. When I returned to work, I did so with the intention to breastfeed until Lucy was at least 1 year old. In an ideal world (i.e. I could stay at home) I would nurse Lucy until she self-weaned. Anyways, achieving this goal requires me to pump at work twice each day- once in the morning, once in the afternoon. I had figured that this would provide me with roughly 12 ounces of breastmilk per day- more than enough for the two feedings I would miss. Lucy, however, threw me for a loop when she decided to drop her feedings while I am at work and sleep instead, preferring to breastfeed when I’m at home. Thus, she nurses at 7 am as I get ready to walk out the door, 11:30-ish at my lunch break, and 4:30-ish when I get home for work. According to my lactation consultant and a friendly LLL expert, this is fine. Lucy is gaining weight normally, and makes up for it at night, when she is pretty much attached to me from the time I get home until we go to sleep. She also nurses at least once at night, usually twice.

The point is, I was ending up with tons of pumped milk. I began pumping into Medela freeze-and-pump bags and freezing it. My stash began to grow and grow. But a problem arose: breast milk only stays good in a freezer like ours for roughly 3 months. I began to get concerned about the milk expiring. Then I heard about breast milk banking.

According to the World Health Organization/UNICEF:

"Where it is not possible for the biological mother to breastfeed, the first alternative, if available, should be the use of human breast milk from other sources. Human milk banks should be made available in appropriate situations."

There are currently 9 breast milk banks in the United States. They provide milk to babies who need it- mainly babies in the NICU who especially need the benefits breast milk provides. Insurance helps families pay for the milk, which can cost up to $8/ounce, mainly because it costs so much to process. Donors must be tested, and the milk must be shipped same-day, pasteurized, stored, and distributed.

I have signed up to donate milk, and I urge other mamas to do the same. There are three basic steps for donation:

1. Preliminary Screening/Interview: Once you have 200 ounces available for donation (assuming you’re having it shipped- you can give 150 ounces if you’re actually going to the bank), you are eligible to be interviewed.

2. Completing the Donor Packet: Your OB and pediatrician must certify that you and your baby are in good health.

3. Lab Work: You’ll have to go and have a blood draw you ensure you are disease-free.

4. Donation: You’ll be sent a cooler with a pre-paid label. You’ll pack the cooler and ship it back.

Another option is to donate to the International Breast Milk Project. This group sends breast milk all over the world- from AIDS orphans in Africa to countries suffering from national disasters. Some of the donated milk is also used to make the only human-milk-only fortifier available. They are currently not taking donors, but I’ve signed up for the waiting list, which is available from their web site. Some interesting facts about IBMP:

  • Over 1250 moms from across the US have donated milk to IBMP
  • Average donor sends around 200-300 ounces- Largest donor sent nearly 7000 ounces (54 gallons!)
  • By the end of 2009, IBMP will have provided over 262,679 ounces of donor milk to infants suffering from malnourishment, poverty and disease in Africa.
  • 262,679 ounces = enough milk to feed 2,188 babies 1 bottle a day for 30 days

Why let your extra breast milk go to waste? Share it with a baby who desperately needs it. And even if you can’t donate, you can get involved. Join the IBMP facebook group, hold a milk drive, donate funds, or just talk about it with friends. The more people know about milk banks, the more babies will thrive.


Jules said...

It is so awesome that you're donating! My new little one has had 9 "milk mamas" due to my low supply (breast reduction).

Another resource is the yahoo group milkshare. It hooks up donors with recipients. The milk is not pasteurized nor are most donors screened. It is "goodness of heart" free donations. We've built a wonderful relationship with Cedar's main donor in NC.

I'm so very thankful for milk donors!!

Beth said...

200 ounces! Wow. I left Eleanor for about 8 hours one day and I had to get up early to pump every day for a week beforehand so that I could get enough milk stocked up. (I had more than enough from doing that, but I wanted to be on the safe side.) The most I've ever had in my freezer was 30 ounces, and right now I think there's about 8 in there. I just have a little manual pump though - I would probably have more success if I had an electric one.

How awesome that you are able to do this! I wish I had lots of extra milk lying around that I could donate!

JenJen said...

I found your blog through a blog that I read and I just wanted to tell you that I think its great that you are able to and willing to donate breastmilk...My son is currently in a NICU due to being born at 31 weeks (he is now 36 weeks). Unfornately, I don't have many opportunities to "breast"feed him but I am pumping every 3 hours and taking them to the NICU. I'm not able to keep up with his demands though :( I will have no other option than to supplement with formula when he comes home...

Jo said...

I loved your original post and actually find it sad that you felt you had to defend your opinion. Because... Breast IS best! We're almost exclusively formula today, which just breaks my heart. And it's 100% my fault, albeit a few hiccups along the way, but I could have, should have...

Two weeks ago we were awesome at 50/50. And then he got terribly sick and couldn't breathe - boob or bottle. We had to resort to finger feeding for a few days, which was NOT fun for an almost 3month old (and I didn't have enough stash to not supplement). It was awful. I didn't stick on the pump enough during all those supplements, and my boobs quit on me. I'm now doing everything I can to try to get it back... but. I miss our nights. That's what we had... beautiful co-sleeping booby happy nights. We still snuggle, but it's just not the same. SO sad.

Enyhoo... it's awesome that you're donating. Hopefully someone who has TRUE issues will be able to take advantage. I wish I'd been stronger. I'm working on my own guilt. I'm still a believer that BF takes work. Do the work, ya'll! Don't be the one who regrets it later!!

Denise said...

Somehow I thought I'd commented on here before....

Thank you so much for pointing out these sites!!! I have been researching this some, and found that it's so cool some insurance companies will pay for a baby to get milk from a milk bank like this!!!

I would add that every woman should try to pump a few times a month, to at least have a few ounces in the freezer at all times for unexpected events.

I pumped once a month when Elyana was newborn and that alone was 8 ounces each time. By the time she was 6 months old, ready to start solids, I got into a habit of daily pumping so she'd always have my milk with her cereals. Then I got very sick over Thanksgiving & lost 5 lbs and didn't drink for ~8 hours or so. My milk that next day suffered. So I took a "nursing vacation" that next day: I stayed home all day, offered the breast each hour, and drank a gallon of water. My supply went right back up in 2-3 days. Everyone should know what a nursing vacation is, in case they have to take it. I was so grateful to have read about it.

Thanks for setting the example of an unselfish and giving person, Emily!