Are you able and should to Donate Breast Milk?Tracey R
Who coined the term “Do not cry for spilled milk” never threw a bottle of precious breast milk that has been thoroughly extracted from tired and swollen breasts at 3 am.
Any mother who has had problems with her milk supply knows how much work and love there is in each bottle of breast milk. With the perfect combination of calories and nutrition, human milk is perhaps the most magical liquid in the world. It is full of antibodies, fats and proteins to fight infections and help with the brain development of babies.
Unfortunately, not all mothers can produce the milk that their babies need at birth. In most cases, the formula can serve as an acceptable substitute, but for babies at risk, the specific benefits of breast milk are especially necessary. Fortunately, many hospitals and communities now collect donated breast milk to feed these especially vulnerable babies.
The idea of feeding your baby with what are technically other women’s body fluids may seem a bit odd, but the milk is carefully pasteurized and analyzed for disease.
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Babies who benefit most from donated breast milk:
- Premature babies: our most vulnerable babies are those born prematurely, before all their systems are fully developed. These small premature babies run the risk of infection and need the immunostimulant properties of breast milk.
- Babies of diabetic mothers: Babies born to diabetic mothers often have trouble controlling their own blood supplemented with formula, if their mother cannot produce milk as fast as she needs it.
- Babies who fight infections: all babies who receive neonatal intensive care, but especially those who fight against life-threatening diseases, can benefit from the additional benefits of human milk.
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- Adopted babies: While some adoptive mothers can produce breast milk by taking special hormones, most do not. Adoptive parents are extremely grateful when they can use donated breast milk so that their babies can get the many benefits of human milk.
Women who might consider donating breast milk:
- Women with excess supply: while some women struggle with their milk supply, others have to buy a second freezer to store their excess. For women blessed with breastfeeding, donating their extra milk to a milk bank is a fantastic way to help babies who need it.
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- Women whose babies cannot drink their milk due to an allergy: some women are in the frustrating situation of having a baby with a newly diagnosed food allergy and a breast milk stash that their baby cannot use now.
- Women who have lost their baby: there may not be more pain for a mother than the loss of her child. Over the years, I have had some patients who chose to give a beautifully selfless gift. After losing a baby, they continued to breastfeed and donate to the local milk bank. This is not the way for everyone, but the women I know that have done this found a sense of purpose in being able to help others through their loss.
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If you wish to donate your breast milk, you can search for the milk bank or the nearest donation site on the Human Milk Banking of North America website. So, unfortunately, many states do not have their own milk banks. If your state does not have a milk bank, you can donate to banks in other states. And if you want to support the milk banks but do not have excess breast milk, you can make a monetary donation.
Keep in mind that milk is generally not accepted by donors who:
- Drink alcohol daily
- Take certain medications or herbal therapies.
- Use illegal drugs
- Have HIV positive sexual partners.
Milk banks really make a difference in the lives of our smallest and most vulnerable babies. If you encounter additional breast milk, consider contacting a milk bank and making a donation.
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