Tomorrow morning when I go into town to run errands with the boys, we’ll be stopping at the local hospital to drop of 17 bags of breast milk that I’m donating. It will be pasteurized and combined with milk from other donors, and then distributed to sick infants in NICUs across the country. I’m going through an HMBANA Milk Bank – even though there isn’t an HMBANA location very close to us, they have a drop-off depot in the town where I normally go to shop, so it’s very convenient.
I started thinking about donating milk a few months ago. I read about the process and where the milk goes, and I found this article to be particularly helpful when I was figuring it all out (if you’re thinking about donating, definitely read that article – lots of good info). I knew that I didn’t want my milk to be sold to a pharmaceutical company that would turn around and make a profit from it, so I double checked that the local milk collection depot was part of the HMBANA Milk Bank program. I had several good conversations by email and phone with the lady who runs the Milk Bank, and felt very comfortable with her and with the program.
I never pump for our son, since I’m with him all the time – he just nurses. But I had a little mini-electric pump that my sister-in-law gave me before our first son was born. So I tried it out, and it worked just fine. The milk bank sent me paperwork to complete, release forms that needed to be signed by my midwife and our baby’s doctor, and milk storage bags. They also sent a bag that I can use to sterilize the pump parts in the microwave after each use so that I don’t have to boil them every time I use them. In addition to the paperwork, I had to stop by the lab at the local hospital and have some blood drawn, just to make sure that I don’t have any illnesses that would prevent me from donating.
Once all that was finished, I was cleared to start donating. I’ve been pumping a 4 – 5 ounce bag of milk approximately every other day, and tomorrow I’ll be dropping off the milk I’ve collected and frozen over the past month.
It feels great. It only takes me 10 – 15 minutes to fill a bag and stick it in the freezer. It’s a unique and special way to “give back”. I’m providing something very valuable, but it’s very easy and convenient for me. I don’t have to go anywhere, and I can pump anytime I want. I’m planning to drop off milk once a month, and the hospital isn’t really that far from where I normally go in town when we’re running errands. I didn’t get involved with this program until our son was 9 months old, and they only accept milk until the donor’s baby turns one. So I only have a couple more months of pumping and donating. But at my current pace, I’ll be able to donate somewhere around 220 – 250 ounces of milk. That feels good.
Obviously this isn’t something a mom should do if she’s overwhelmed with other stuff, or if she’s having difficulty nursing her own baby or producing enough milk for her own baby. But for those of us with a plentiful supply and well-established nursing relationships with our babies, donating milk is a pretty cool volunteer opportunity for new moms. And it’s a very frugal way to “give back” too. You might not have money to donate to causes that are close to your heart. And you might not be able to fit volunteering into your schedule (especially with a new baby!). But you can donate milk. It doesn’t cost anything except a little bit of time for pumping and a few extra snacks here and there to keep up with the additional milk-production demand. All in all, it’s a pretty great volunteer opportunity for new moms.
I’m sharing this to spread the word about milk donation. If you’re a nursing mom (or will be someday), it might be something you’d like to try. After going through the enrollment process and pumping for a month, I definitely give it two thumbs up.