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.
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!!
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I’m a joyful woman who wears many hats, including: wife, mom, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, granddaughter, cousin, friend, teacher, librarian, and follower of Christ. I’m also an ex-public school teacher turned SAHM turned unschooling mom. Our little midwestern family is tremendously grateful for the liberties we have to home school, homebirth, breastfeed, co-sleep, baby wear, non-circ, delay or not vaccinate, and utilize non-punitive, grace-based discipline. We work hard to keep up with the ins and outs of healthy living. It was painful, but we took the red pill and still continue to find new truths daily. I teach just a few short-courses for the local college each year, read and write book reviews and blog on the side. And if you must know, I have an undergrad in music (BA), a masters in library science (MLS), and a masters in educational technology (MEd).