I’ve written a lot on the site recently about problems associated with low milk supply but there are moms out there who have so much milk they don’t know what to do with it. Donating breast milk is a loving and selfless act which can save lives and bring breast milk to babies that would otherwise never receive it. Renee Waters initially had problems breastfeeding her son, Rowan, who had a bad latch after being bottle fed in the Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) following jaundice. She went to see a lactation consultant who introduced her to breast shields which helped correct the issues Rowan had and led them onto a successful nursing relationship. Unfortunately, babies get 50% less milk through the shield so you have to pump to get your milk supply up and supplement with bottles. Renee had done such a fabulous job pumping that she ended up with more pumped milk than Rowan would ever need. She had a surplus of 200 ounces of breast milk in her freezer and her doctor suggested she donate it. He put her in touch with the Mother’s Milk Bank of San Jose who asked her some questions and paid for her blood tests to ensure she was a safe donor.
A safe donor is someone who is a non-smoker, in good health, taking no medication and has more breast milk than her baby requires. The mother needs negative blood tests for syphilis, hepatitis B and C, HIV 1 and 2, and HTLV 1 and 2 and they need their physician’s authorization to donate. Donors are also required to prove they have immunity to rubella with no history of TB or herpes. Once accepted as a donor, you pump and freeze your breast milk and it is collected once a month from your home.
The Mother’s Milk Bank of California states that donated milk goes to “infants in neo-natal intensive care units (NICUs) throughout California and the West. Other infants receiving donor milk include:
- babies who are failing to thrive on formula
- babies and toddlers with life-threatening diseases or conditions
- children with failing immune systems or catastrophic diseases
- multiple birth babies, often with lactating mothers who can’t keep up with the milk required to nourish two or three infants
- adopted infants, whose moms believe in the value of breast milk but can’t produce their own
- babies of mothers whose breast milk isn’t suitable for consumption, either because of disease or prescription medications that pass through the milk”
Renee says, “Its such an easy gift to give. If you are thinking about donating milk just do it! They need the milk. They showed me their freezer where they store the breast milk and it was almost empty. It was so sad to think that so many babies won’t receive breast milk.” Read here for more on Renee’s story.
There are eleven states in North America with milk banks including British Columbia, California, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Texas. To find a milk bank in your state go to http://home.earthlink.net/~milkbank/mothersmilkresources.htm. If you don’t have one nearby, some milk banks will ship a cooler to you. You can also contact the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
The World Health Organization and UNICEF issued a joint statement saying “The best food for a baby who cannot be breastfed is milk expressed from the mother’s breast or from another healthy mother. The best food for any baby whose own mother’s milk is not available is the breast milk of another healthy mother.”
Milk banks are taking off around the world and are having a huge impact. Mothers in both the US and South Africa are donating their breast milk to iThemba Lethu, an orphanage in Durban, South Africa. iThemba Lethu means “I have destiny”. The children living there were orphaned because their mothers died of AIDS-related illnesses. There are babies who arrive at the orphanage malnourished and diseased and the donated breast milk helps to nurse them back to health and is literally saving their lives. For a more indepth look at at this story go to http://www.king5.com/health/children/stories//NW_120108WAB_aids_breast_milk_TP.1f0e6301.html. The International Breast Milk Project assists mothers in the US to donate breast milk to babies in South Africa, a country with one of the highest HIV rates in the world.
For breast milk banks in other parts of the world see:
Mexico: Banco de Leche Veracruz + 52 55 14 45 51
India: Lokmanya Tilak Muncipal General Hospital, Sion, Mumbai (Bombay) – 400022, India.
Tel: (+91 22) 4076381
Fax: (+91 22) 4076100
I also could tell that there were milk banks operating across Latin America from news articles I read online but wasn’t able to track down any specific contact information. If you have any further information to share about breast milk banks around the world, please post you comments here. It saddens me that although this resource is available, it is difficult to find information online about how to reach them.
I hope this encourages those with excess breast milk to consider donating and helping to save lives. For those out there who’s babies need breast milk, I hope the resources found here will give you in information you need to get the best for your baby. Remember, milk can be shipped to you if you don’t live close to a milk bank.
Written by Renee Waters and Karen Carrington