Donating expressed breastmilk is becoming a more common practice in Canada. The benefits of breastmilk are so valuable that physicians give this to premature and sick babies and they often have less complications associated with being born early.
“all babies have the right to the life-saving nutrients of pasteurized donor human milk”
To say I had an oversupply of milk when I had my babies was an understatement.
I remember having a 3 week follow up visit with my little guy, and he was gaining enough for four babies. The doctor told me to slow down as I am feeding quadruplets, but I didn’t mind pumping and I wanted to have extra for my freezer.
But what about when your baby doesn’t take a bottle and you have a freezer full of breastmilk? I ended up tossing more than 2 liters of liquid gold in the garbage because it was expired and there was only so many purees I could mix it in.
After I threw out what took me hours to pump, I felt like it could have gone to better use. I felt guilty and disappointed that I had so much milk that I couldn’t do anything with. I wanted to find ways to help others.
Why mothers choose to donate
This is when I started researching milk donation. I learned that milk donation is made for a many different reasons. Some moms donate because they have a large amount of unused breastmilk, some donate because of personal reasons—- they had a baby who received donor milk and they want to give back. Other moms donate to help heal after they have suffered a loss of an infant. They continue to pump milk and donate as a way to help other moms and babies. Incredible.
Northern Star Mother’s Milk Bank is a non profit organization that accepts milk donations, pasteurizes it and then gives the milk to the babies who are in highest need of expressed donor milk, such as babies in NICU’s across Canada. This particular milk bank is located in Calgary, Alberta. However you can look up any milk bank in your area that is accredited by The Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
The process for milk donation involves a phone call, a health history form, and your doctor’s approval. The facility will also complete a few blood tests to ensure that the milk you are giving is healthy for babies at risk of infection. Easy peasy right?!
You’ve been cleared to donate, congratulations! Here is what you can expect—
Your initial donation needs to be 4.5L of milk in frozen storage bags. This is about 150 ounces of milk and takes a few months to build up. You can start by pumping an extra 3-4 ounces a day and storing it in your freezer. It will build up fast!
There is criteria about medication and other health concerns that may make you ineligible to donate for a short period of time. Northern Star Milk Bank will inform you of these criteria so you can place that milk in a separate area for home use.
Cleanliness is essential when donating. Wash your hands before you pump, ensure your pumping equipment is sterilized and kept in a Ziploc bag when not in use. Northern Star Milk Bank will provide a mom with sterilized containers or bags so you don’t have to worry about whether you are collecting in the correct container.
Label the milk with your name and donor number, as well as the time/date that it was expressed. This can be stored in a deep freezer for up to 6 months.
As a Registered Nurse, I have seen babies who require donor milk. The immunity that donor milk provides is invaluable to premature babies or ones who are sick.
If you have a moment, perhaps when you’re wondering when you became an all-you-can-eat buffet for your baby (I remember those days well), check out a milk donation bank in your area and see how easy it is to give to other moms!