Becoming a breast milk donor was one of the best things I have done since having Grace. Of course I wish I could have used all that milk for my own child, but donating it is something I am extremely proud of. You can read all about my personal experience and application process here.
When I first thought about all the milk I had stored in my freezer that was affected by excess lipase, I was mortified at the thought of having to throw it all away. Thankfully I read about donating milk on this Le Leche League forum, which addresses issues of having excess lipase in breast milk. Instantly I had tons of questions!
I spent quite a bit of time on the phone with Diane from the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Ohio. She coordinated my application process and answered all of my questions. I really felt like Diane understands what a gift and sacrifice it is to donate breast milk. Below is a list of questions that you may have about donating. The answers are either based on my own experience and understanding of the process or directly from Diane.
Do milk banks even want milk affected by excess lipase? Yes! When a the milk bank receives a donation of milk it gets mixed in with many other women’s milk, which would help dilute any bad taste. However, the taste of the milk isn’t really an issue in most cases since the milk is usually given to preemies via a feeding tube.
Is the milk bank going to sell my breast milk or are they a non-profit? According to Diane, “All members of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America are nonprofit. Although NonProfit there is a fee for the milk when it is dispensed. This fee varies from Bank to Bank. The fee helps to cover the cost of salaries, equipment, Lab Test, Shipping etc.”
Who exactly gets the milk? According to Diane, “The milk that is dispensed from the Milk Bank serves families in a variety of ways. Most of the babies who receive our milk have been born prematurely. Many only get Donor Milk until their own mother has milk to provide. Some get the Donor Milk longer if mom is ill or chooses not to pump. Some babies will get the milk until discharge others only according to hospital protocol. This may mean receiving the milk until they reach a predetermined weight or age. We also send milk to families who have adopted babies or had a baby with the help of a surrogate. Occasionally we send milk to families who need the milk because the mom is to ill to provide milk for the baby. We have some school age children that receive our milk. They are all immuno-compromised. They get 4-6 oz a day for the benefits of the Immune Globulins in Milk. In 5 1/2 years we have had 8 adults. All but one of them has had cancer. Their Dr. orders the milk to keep their guts healthy while they have chemo and radiation. This allows the recipient to have less nausea, vomiting, diarrhea etc. If they aren’t feeling ill then they also have more appetite.”
Is there anyway for me to find out where my milk goes after I donate it? Your milk will be mixed together with many other women’s milk. All of that milk will be given a lot number. The milk bank tracks where all the milk from each lot number is sent, but I wouldn’t count on being able to find out that information. When I asked this question I was given the impression that it isn’t information that is regularly given out.
Can I request that my milk be sent to a specific hospital/country? I really don’t think so. Unless a milk bank is advertising that they are gathering milk for a specific purpose (such as the earthquake in Haiti), you really don’t have any “control” over where your milk is sent. You can check with your milk bank to see where the majority of their milk is sent if you would like a general idea of how your milk will be used.
Is there a minimum amount of milk needed for a donation? If you are choosing to be a one time milk donor, then you will need to have a minimum amount. Each milk bank sets their own minimum amount. I spoke to one bank that required 150 ounces. Diane reported, “The minimum amount for the Ohio Milk Bank is 200 ounces. The exception is a bereaved Mother. For a bereaved Mother there is no minimum amount. I am unsure as to what other Milk Banks’ have as minimum donations.”
Is this going to cost me anything? Do I need to drive to the milk bank? No. Diane sent me everything I needed to apply to be a donor and to ship her my milk. The shipping supplies were provided along with the shipping labels.
If I am going to ship my milk, then how does it stay frozen? I sent my frozen milk inside a styrofoam cooler that was inside a regular cardboard box. I filled in any extra space inside the cooler with newspaper to help insulate the milk. Diane reassured me that the milk would help itself stay cold enough during its priority overnight voyage. It is recommended that you schedule a FedEx pick up time for as late in the day as possible so you can keep your milk in your freezer as long as possible. I read one woman’s blog where she showed pictures of her milk being sent along with dry ice. That was not a requirement of my milk bank so it may vary from place to place.
My frozen milk is a couple of months old. How old is too old for the milk bank? My milk bank requested that my milk be no older than 5 months. This may vary from bank to bank. It also varies depending on if you have a separate deep freezer or if you are using a regular freezer on top of your fridge.
How long does the milk donor application process take? There are several steps in the application process, which you can read about here. I started my application in March and sent my milk in the beginning of May. It certainly doesn’t happen overnight! Expect it to take a month or two for you to be approved.
Is it really worth it to donate my milk? Oh yeah. Yeah, it is. Having all this milk that my daughter wouldn’t drink broke my heart and donating it really helped me heal from that. But if you still have doubts, watch this:
(If you are reading this post in your email or blog reader you may need to click over to the site directly to see the video above.)
Lastly, Diane has this message for anyone considering milk donation, “I would like for your readers to know that every drop of milk is seen as “Liquid Gold”. The milk that a woman shares is Life Saving. We at the Ohio Milk Bank are grateful for every woman who has made the choice to donate milk.”
Are you interested in donating breast milk? Check out the Human Milk Banking Association of North America to find the milk bank closest to you!