Every 60 seconds, a premature baby is born in the United States. Of these, many are so tiny or so sick that they must have breastmilk to survive. If their mothers cannot provide the milk, donor milk is used.
Until my daughter was 8 months old, I pumped once a day to provide my daughter with expressed breastmilk. I did this from the time she was 2 weeks old. Thankfully, I always had plenty of milk and pumped more than we would ever need. By the time my daughter was 4 months old, I had a whopping 300 ounces in the freezer! I heard about human milk banking from an online bulletin board and looked into it. I was approved as a donor and sent my whole frozen milk stash. Afterward, whenever I would get 100 extra ounces in the freezer, I shipped it off to the milk bank.
Here's where to start: Human Milk Banking Association of America. They have a map to locate the nearest milk bank. I live almost 1000 miles from my nearest bank, but it's not a problem. They pay all the shipping fees and send me a cooler when I'm ready to ship.
Once you contact the nearest milk bank, there's a lengthy, but easy, process to go through. First is a telephone interview (about 2 minutes) to find out if you're eligible. Then a paper questionnaire about medical history. There are two forms, one for your pediatrician and one for your OB. They verify that you and your baby are healthy enough to spare some milk. Finally, there's blood work, which the bank pays for. I did most of this through fax, so it's not as hard as it sounds.
Donors don't get paid. The only cost to me has been for the storage bags. But, I figure, I've used them already just by storing my milk. And with so much stored up, something catastrophic would have to occur for us to possibly use it before its 6 month expiration date.
It's a good feeling to help someone else's baby to survive.
Comments from an online bulletin board:
My girls received donor milk for two feedings while in the NICU (I went home for the night and they ran out of my milk). I loved having that available. The news in our area did a piece about donor milk and my girls were in the newscast. Celebrities at two weeks. ~Mama of Twins
Our adopted son drank donated milk from a bank in Denver. Ironically, he was born in the same hospital that operated the milk bank. My guess is he drank about 2,000 dollars worth of milk in his first 10 months. We changed it up with a mix of formula and breast milk along with what I produced. He had a very hard pregnancy with a lot of bleeding and [birth mother] doing crack. Today he is a very healthy large happy almost 2 years old. ~lauramitchell