Friday, August 28, 2009

Donating Breast Milk


This will be my final post for National Breastfeeding Month in 2009. I purposefully saved the best for last. ::GRIN::

If you know me, or if you've been reading my blog for very long, you know I strive to take the most natural approach to daily living. I only came to this approach after first attempting all else and finally discovering what it was doing to me (and many others I loved). But now, I firmly believe that the ways our bodies work are miraculous whether that be in how we digest and process natural foods, how we grow and develop, how we give birth without interventions, or how we heal or recover from disease and infection. It's amazing what can happen when we allow our bodies the space and time they need to work. The creator really has an amazing thing going here.

I also believe that what we feed our bodies is best when left in its most natural form. For example, the vegetables in my garden...the more human interventions (insecticides, fertilizers, etc.) and processing (cooking, canning, freezing, preservatives, shipping, or lengthy storage time), the less nutrient-rich they are when digested. Consider what we now know about raw vegetables versus cooked vegetables, whole grains versus fully processed grains, complex carbohydrates versus simple carbohydrates, and in recent years raw cow's milk versus processed cow's milk. It's astounding to see how little we accomplish (or what damage we can do) by messing with the perfection inherent in nature.

So how is this related to donating breastmilk?
(You mean besides the obvious, right?)

Through the ages, there have been certain unexpected situations where a newborn could not get nature's perfect milk from his or her own mother. Sometimes the mother was severely ill or injured or sometimes even deceased. However, no one feared for the child because other mothers in the community pulled together and fed the newborn baby, adding exponentially to the nutritional benefits and immunities he/she would have received from their own mother. These were the days before breast pumps, the days before nipple shields, and most certainly the days before processed animal milks (or other bean-ish products) were reconstituted into what we now refer to as formula. These women simply made nature work around those unfortunate situations.

Today, thousands still continue this tradition of nurturing the community by breastfeeding babies that are born to other mothers. They do this either by cross-nursing, donating breastmilk through a trusted mother-to-mother program, or by donating their milk through corporate human milk banks. While I have cross-nursed another baby in my own community, my more lengthy experience of breastfeeding another baby was through a mother-to-mother program called MilkShare. At first I considered donating my excess milk to a milk bank, but after learning that mothers were required to pay $4.00 to $5.00 for EVERY OUNCE of milk they purchased from the milk bank (at 30 oz per day, that's a bit pricey), I decided the mother-to-mother option had greater benefits for the non-wealthy recipient family. And I just knew some family out there was waiting for me to volunteer.

Rather than re-invent the wheel here by explaining how and why MilkShare works, I'll point you to my first two posts on milk sharing from last year. First, I learned about the many reasons moms end up needing other mom's milk and how they go about requesting donated breast milk. And finally, I learned far more about the whole process after experiencing, for myself, donating breast milk to a mom with breast cancer (incidentally, she lived over 2,000 miles away from me).

I'm still amazed at the lengths that families go just to provide their babies with the best nourishment nature has to offer. I'm overwhelmed with admiration for the moms who have donated non-stop for years and years without any financial incentive to keep giving. And finally, I'm easily moved to tears over the moms who birthed stillborn babies and yet chose to use the milk their bodies created to serve another newborn baby in need.

Friends, there's not nearly enough donated human milk to go around for these babies. Families in need usually end up having to gather milk from over two DOZEN other donors just to feed their babies for the first 6-12 months. If you can commit to pumping an extra few ounces a day, you can help change another life starting TODAY. For those who are wondering, there's NO exchange of money for the actual milk. A recipient family still usually requests (and pays for) medical blood tests to be sent to them before accepting your milk (the same tests a milk bank would require) and they also pay for your milk storage bags and the shipping of your milk (or travel costs if you deliver it to their home or hospital). If you choose to donate, you can hand select the family you want to receive your milk and if you wish to know your recipient family, you can specifically request a family living within such-and-such miles of where you live. I really hope you'll consider this if you haven't already.

BE WARNED: Once you put your message out on the MilkShare list, be prepared for loads of replies from families in great need. If nothing else, by the end, you'll only wish you started donating sooner.

If you've recently had a baby and want your milk to go primarily to a premature baby in NICU (NICU babies especially need newborn milk), a list of corporate milk banks can be found at the bottom of THIS POST (from last year).

Go forth and serve!!

Please click ♥ thoughtful comments ♥ (below) to let me know you stopped by. If you don't have a google or gmail account, just choose "Name/URL" or "anonymous" before submitting. THANK YOU!


19 ♥ thoughtful comments ♥:

elisa said...

Oh I am SO glad you posted about this! I really hope people look into this. I wanted to when I was still nursing Judah, but we had such issues with yeast that pumping was a real difficulty for me. And on top of that, I was on a med that, while safe for breastfeed (supposedly) probably would have disqualified me from the program. But my heart just went out to that organization and those poor mothers.

Herb of Grace said...

Oh, and kudos on the rummage sale bargains! You've got me beat for sure :)

Whimsical Creations said...

I wish I would have known about this when I had my son. I had sooooo much extra milk in my freezer and would have LOVED to donate it.

septembermom said...

What a wonderful way to share with other families. I never heard of this before. I wish I was still nursing so I could participate too. Thanks Shaye for doing so much this month to bring breastfeeding issues to everyone's attention. Great job!

Lenetta @ Nettacow said...

Thank you, dear Shay, for sharing this! I was thinking about donating milk earlier this week . . . and wishing I had started pumping earlier. I ended up *using* some "donated milk" (from my sweet cousin) when my little one had trouble with moo juice at Grandma's after she turned a year old. I would love to have the opportunity to pay that back someday! Here's hoping! :>)

Bonnie said...

Shaye,

What a gift you have been in my life, as well as all of the countless women and babies you will touch by this post. Not to mention your own gifts.

Mama Nut said...

This is unbelievably amazing! What an inspired program. It doesn't surprise me at all that you participated, being the angel that you are! :) What a great cause and I think it's terrific that you told us all about it.

♥ Boomer ♥ said...

Mama, I am experimenting.

Come see me HERE.

Fresh Mommy said...

Wow, that is amazing. I commend all that you do to help others. I was blessed to be able to breastfeed my first, and am pregnant with my second right now. I fully intend to breastfeed and my heart goes out to those that can't.

I agree that the natural approach is the best way to go!! Keep it up. We're planning our home-birth right now and I'm so excited about it. :)

~Tabitha

sujata said...

You are so committed to the cause. it amazes me. I didnt even know something like this existed. All I knew about milk sharing was when in olden days the the maids nursed the kids of the household too along with their own..

septembermom said...

I tagged you to play a meme on my blog today. Of course, only if you want to :)

FranticMommy said...

Good job shaye! Good article. I am SO glad you posted this. :)

Robin Bradford said...

Thank you for encouraging moms to share their milk! Just a point of clarification, the reason milk banks charge for milk is because we do extensive microbiology testing, pool milk from different donors to optimize nutritional value (for premature & sick babies), and provide nutritional analysis to neonatologists prescribing the milk. The ten milk banks that make up the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (www.hmbana.org) are nonprofit organizations - like your local food bank or domestic violence shelter. We accept donated milk as well as financial donations and grants!

Brittany said...

Good for you Shaye! I am lucky if I get my 3-5 readers to comment on my blog. We have to talk some time.

Michelle M. said...

Thanks for this post. Once I get past the first couple of weeks here, I want to look into that. I don't think I am ready to commit just yet, but I really love the idea. When our son was in the NICU, I saw how important breastmilk was to those little babies. I, fortunately, had a HUGE supply. The nurses in the NICU said I should have been a wet nurse. So I think I can probably work up my supply enough to do this. THanks!

Amy @ Six Flower Mom said...

Thanks for all the wonderful posts!!!! I love this.

April said...

What a wonderful thing to do. My babies were in the NICU for three weeks and I struggled to keep ahead of them in the milk supply department. Every time I would arrive in the morning and learn they had run out of my milk overnight and used formula, I felt so defeated. Seven months later, my now exclusively breastfed twins are doing great! I wish more people would give so generously - and am going to visit MilkShare to check it out.

Thanks for sharing the information!

Helene said...

What a wonderful thing you're doing! I know a few moms who have donated their breastmilk and they say it's such a good feeling to know they're helping out someone who can't provide their own br.eastmilk for their baby, for whatever reason.

Deb said...

Well, if I were a few years younger and still nursing I would have been all over this but...I will tell as many nursing moms that I can about this program. Thank you for sharing this information!

Related Posts with Thumbnails