My Experience with Milk Donation

How easy it is to qualify to be a milk donor?

You can read more about how to qualify to become a milk donor in my breast milk donation Q&A that I did with a board member of the Northwest Mother’s Milk Bank. For me it was pretty easy to donate… I don’t drink, don’t smoke, I have no diseases, Xander is healthy, and I had an abundance to give.

I also easily met my milk bank’s donor minimum. It was 200 ounces, but minimums vary by milk bank.

Did you get paid to be a milk donor?

You do not get paid to be a milk donor, but the milk bank covers all your expenses: your blood work and shipping costs. They pay for it up front so it wasn’t a reimbursement type situation either.

How much milk did you donate?

I donated 1070 ounces of breast milk during this donation (two coolers full). I received a call from the milk bank the next morning and was told 1019 of those ounces would be accepted.

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How long did it take you to pump that much?

It took me two months to pump that much. They were my first two months, so I was constantly engorged with a huge oversupply. I don’t think I could pump that much now if I wanted to. Xander eats a lot more and I pump maybe once a day.

Why weren’t the other 51 ounces accepted?

The other 51 ounces weren’t accepted because John and I accidentally gave them a few of the frozen bags that fell within the date range that I took medicine for mastitis. That milk is still good (I breastfed Xander while taking it), but the milk bank likes to be extra careful since the milk will be feeding premies.

How was the milk transported?

The milk was transported in these two blue coolers via Fed Ex. The lids were taped shut and we had perishable human milk stickers on top. The milk bank shipped the coolers to me on a Wednesday. On Thursday, I called Fed Ex and scheduled the very last pick up available for overnight delivery. The coolers were picked up around 6 pm, shipped overnight, and made it to the milk bank by 10:30 am the next morning (Friday). No dry ice was used. When coolers are packed tightly with frozen goods, the goods will stay frozen. It’s just like your food in your freezer staying good for 24-48 hours during a power outage if you don’t open the door.

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Which milk bank did you send your milk to?

I donated my milk to the WakeMed Mother’s Milk bank in Raleigh, NC. To see a full listing of milk banks available, visit the HMBANA website.

Did you donate all your frozen milk?

No, we did not, but are willing to do so if necessary, in the future. I probably have another 800-1000 ounces in the freezer in our garage. That’s just an estimate though. If that milk is approaching it’s expiatory date and we aren’t utilizing it, I will certainly send it off for donation as well.

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Why did you choose to donate your milk?

  • I had extra.
  • My March and April stash was reaching 6 months of being frozen.
  • My milk is high in lipase, therefore, when we thaw it the taste is less than desirable and we would have to mix with freshly pumped milk for Xander to accept it. Since Xander maybe gets one bottle a week this would take a long time to go through. Plus, that means I would always have to have fresh milk on hand. Don’t worry, my milk will be mixed with other mother’s milk and the high lipase will not be an issue!
  • I’m helping little babies!

How did it feel to donate your milk?

Donating your breast milk gives you feelings of both selflessness and selfishness. I feel like this might be hard to explain, but let me try…

The selfless feelings come from knowing I’m helping premies and it just makes sense to give my extra. The selfish feelings come from having a close relationship with breast feeding Xander. The main thought that kept flooding through my mind was what if Xander needs the milk. I desperately want to breast feed Xander for a year and beyond, if he wants to, and having a stash of milk available for post weaning makes me feel secure. I know I still have a milk stash, but the lingering thoughts of what if… kept running through my mind.

Like I said, it’s hard to describe the juxtaposition of feelings. If you’ve breastfed before maybe you can understand a little bit of what I’m trying to describe.

How did John feel about the milk donation process?

I was really pleased with how easy the donation process was. The milk bank covered the blood work and shipping, so all we had to do was pack the coolers. Beyond the logistics, I felt good that this milk was going to be put to good use. I know Katie has the emotional attachment to the milk she pumped, but I see the situation from a more practical standpoint. With Katie still breastfeeding Xander and with the imminent addition of solid foods, Xander won’t be able to eat the well-over 1000 ounces of milk we had frozen in two (!) freezers. Rather than the milk sitting in our freezer, and possibly going bad, it will be used to help preemie babies get healthy and gain weight. Xander is very healthy and is gaining weight like a champ, so it’s clear he won’t need a lot of supplemental milk feedings. Not to mention, our little man is picky so the high-lipase milk that Katie pumps does not please his delicate palette. So we have to cut the frozen milk with fresh pumped; normally Katie is feeding him directly from the breast anyway and the amount we freeze had significantly dropped. So in order to use all the milk we had frozen, we’ll have to pump equal amounts of fresh, which just isn’t practical. We were able to give a lot of milk to needy babies and save us a bunch of hassle at the same time. It was a great option and I really hope other new moms that have an excess of milk like we did exercise this option and help out those little babies who really need it.

Have anymore questions about the milk donation process or my experience? Ask me in the comments and I’ll answer them there or write a second post. I really appreciate all the support I’ve been shown throughout this process – it means so much to me.

Comments

  1. 1

    I’m so glad you posted this! I have some frozen milk, but no where near your amount! I’d like to contact a milk bank about donating it, but I get nervous that I’ll need it for Molly. The women in my family haven’t had good luck with breastfeeding and even though I know a low milk supply isn’t hereditary it still gets me nervous to get rid of my stash. I’d probably have to donate all of it to reach the minimum donation. At the same time, I’d hate to not use it and have to throw it away. I don’t pump at all anymore, so it would get me nervous to donate all of it. Such a hard decision!

    Good for you though to donate so much! Think of all the little babies you’ll be helping!

    • 2
      Healthy Heddleston says:

      I totally get what you are feeling! YOu have so many mixed feelings when you are donating milk because you are playing the what if game in your head. Ultimately, I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and I’m so glad I’m able to share my experiences along the way. If you do end up wanting to donate let me know if you need anymore direction!

  2. 3

    i will share this with my austin mamas
    I was SO TOUCHED by the picture of you with your millk donation on FACEBOOK, too.

  3. 5

    Katie, this is really interesting! What a great idea. I don;t know a whole heap about it, but good on you :-)

  4. 7

    That’s so interesting to learn of this!! How neat! I honestly didn’t know this was even possible to do. Very cool of you!! Thanks for sharing the experience! Spa love!

  5. 9

    so fascinating, and wow so much extra milk! what a nice thing to do.

  6. 11

    Really great piece. I thought I had read somewhere that breast milk shouldn’t be donated or used for babies other than our own. Basically there is something that matches Mom’s to their babies and when you use other breast milk it loses it’s benefits and really something like Similac would be just as good. Or maybe that was specific to donating outside of the country? Hmmm. Still I’m glad you could do something with it and help out

    • 12
      Healthy Heddleston says:

      Hi Julie! I’ve reached out to my contact for a formal answer, but I can tell you this (after tapping into my RD resources to find a few research papers): “In preterm and low birth weight infants, feeding with formula milk compared with donor breast milk results in a higher rate of short-term growth but also a higher risk of developing necrotising enterocolitis.” ~Quote from a University of Oxford Study. This is why donor milk is preferred when available.

      Also, see the second paragraph from the Mother’s Milk Bank in New England: http://www.milkbankne.org/moreinfo.shtml Specialized formulas for premature babies are milk based while are very harsh on a premature gut.

      Hope that helps! I’ll reply again (unless my contact replied directly) with more information.

  7. 13

    I think this was a beautiful thing to do! :)

  8. 15

    I think it’s fantastic that you were able to do this. And I am still amazed that you pumped so much those first months! You were a milk producing machine!

    Do the milk banks prefer donating mothers to not be taking any medicines? I’m not sure how many ounces I have but I was on lovenox the entire time I was pumping, I think.

    • 16
      Healthy Heddleston says:

      Thanks Holly! I’m certainly glad the milk producing tamed itself!

      The milk bank had me not donate the frozen milk that I had when I was taking medicine for mastitis, even though it’s still safe for Xander. I think you’d have to check with each bank to see their policy. After my initial phone questionnaire they sent me paperwork that included information about which medicines were safe to use while pumping (and donating) in the future.

  9. 17

    Very sweet of you to donate like this. Helping many baby’s be healthy and happy.

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