Breastfeeding Week: Donating Breast Milk
It’s Breastfeeding Awareness Week! Breast milk, which is also referred to as “liquid gold,” is amazing. It provides complete nutrition for most infants.
My daughter was born with an intestinal blockage called meconium ileus, a complication of Cystic Fibrosis, and in the beginning was only allowed to eat 1 ml of breast milk per hour through a tube that went through her nose and into her stomach. She was getting a total of 24 ml of breast milk a day. To put that into perspective, there are 30 ml in 1 ounce; she was getting less than 1 ounce of food per day. Since she was only allowed a small amount of food, I pumped and stored my milk for her. I ended up producing and pumping so much milk that I ran out of room in my deep freezer as well as the hospital’s freezer.
The lactation consultant in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Cincinnati Children’s suggested that I consider breast milk donation. I went through a screening process, had blood work done, and had to watch the amount of caffeine I could drink and the medications I could take. Of course, there is no smoking and no drinking alcoholic beverages. I was doing all of these things already for my own daughter and passed the screening process.
I ended up donating over 1,000 ounces of breast milk to the Mother’s Milk Bank of Ohio. They have a strict process that includes testing the milk and mixing three to five portions of different donors’ milk to distribute fat, protein and antibodies evenly. This is then pasteurized to kill bacteria while retaining the majority of the beneficial components of breast milk. Once pasteurized, the milk is labeled with batch numbers and expiration dates and can be stored in a freezer for up to a year. The milk is then obtained by physician prescription only and then sent to the facility in which it’s needed. It usually goes to premature or ill babies.
It amazes me that we can donate our blood, bone marrow, organs and breast milk to those in need, starting with our youngest and most fragile members of society.