When I realized that I had a problem with excess lipase in my breast milk, I was devastated. I had a ton of milk in my freezer that had a bad taste and my little girl wouldn’t drink it. I was tremendously upset that I had all this milk that she wouldn’t be able to take advantage of in the future. However, what really brought me to my knees was the thought of having to throw it all away. I just couldn’t. Thankfully, someone in this wonderful LeLeche League forum suggested donating to a milk bank. Once I realized that becoming a milk donor was an option, I knew it was exactly what I wanted to do. I just had to figure out how to do it!
I started out by visiting the website for the Human Milk Banking Association of North America to find a milk bank close to me. I ended up donating to the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Ohio. I called their number listed online and started the application process. (Please Note that this blog post is about my experience donating to the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Ohio. If you choose to donate your breast milk, the details of your experience, application process and milk bank may be different. )
Becoming a milk donor was a 6 step process.
Step 1 – The first time I called the milk bank to ask about being a donor they conducted a 5 minute interview. They covered basic health questions as well as things that might be a red flag for being approved (medications, illnesses, traveling to certain countries, etc).
Step 2 – After passing the initial interview, I was sent an extended health interview in the mail. It was a several pages long and I mailed it back. Included was a form that the milk bank would send to my OBGYN and my daughter’s pediatrician to get their stamp of approval for me to donate my breast milk. I remember that I felt very nervous when I received my packet in the mail. I went over and over and over the pages to be sure everything was filled out correctly and I didn’t miss anything.
Step 3 – Diane from the Mothers Milk Bank of Ohio called me to let me know that I had passed the extended health questionnaire. She was calling to explain the next step of the process and to let me know that she would be shipping me some things. What was the next step? A blood test.
Diane said that this part of the process is often the hardest. She was sending me the vials and return shipping supplies that I needed, but I would need to find someone to donate a needle, tourniquet and their time to draw my blood. My first thought was to call one of my nurse friends, but you can’t just take a needle home from work without your employer getting a little upset. :) I ended up having one of my lactation consultants at the local hospital help me. By that point they all knew exactly what I was dealing with and was more than happy to help me out. My blood was drawn; I shipped it off to Texas for testing and then waited to here the final verdict.
I was approved. I clearly remember driving home and listening to the voicemail from Diane telling me that I was officially approved as a breastmilk donor. I cried. I called a breastfeeding girlfriend who would understand and I cried some more.
A couple days later Nate and I went through the process of figuring out how many ounces of milk I actual had to donate. I was confident that I had the minimum 200 ounces that I would need as a onetime donor, but I needed to know exactly how much I was sending to figure out how many boxes I would need to ship my milk. Also, I needed to know for myself. I was doing really well at holding it all together until I came to the bag from January 6th. I had written “Happy Birthday, Mommy!” on the bag. That just broke my heart.
For the record, I needed 2 boxes to ship my milk. I donated 574.5 ounces of breast milk. It is amazing that I was able to have that much milk to begin with and it is a miracle that I was able to give it to babies in need when my own baby wouldn’t drink it.
Step 4 – The milk bank sent me everything I needed to ship my milk. All I had to do was package it up, call FedEx to arrange for pick up and have the courage to actually follow through. The milk was sent priority overnight in a styrofoam cooler inside of a cardboard box. The milk stays frozen simply by being packaged well and shipped quickly!
Step 5 – These last two steps are purely optional, but for me they were just as important as steps 1-4. I took a lot of pictures. I knew that I would someday write this blog post and I would want some pictures for that, but I really took the pictures for me.
Step 6 – After everything was packaged, FedEx was called and the milk was ready to go… I got down on my knees, placed my hands on the boxes and prayed. I prayed for all those little babies who would receive my milk. I prayed for the families who struggled alongside the babies fighting for their lives. Most of all, I thanked God for blessing me with enough milk to feed my baby and the opportunity to feed others also.
Donating my breast milk that was affected by excess lipase was so healing for me. It has become one of the proudest accomplishments of my life.
Please feel free to leave any questions you may have in the comments section. In the near future I will be writing a post about the frequently asked questions of becoming a milk donor. I’ll answer questions like: Do milk banks sell the breast milk? And do milk banks really want excess lipase milk? You can also read my other posts about excess lipase: An Introduction, An Emotional Struggle & How to Scald Breast Milk