When the Little Mister was first born, I had a rare breast milk condition known as hyperlactation. It’s just as it sounds–I hyper lactated. I was producing enough milk to feed five or six babies, not just my one. I had several lumps larger than golf balls by each of my armpits where milk had backed up, plus my breasts went beyond a size DD (I was a size C before) and were so full of milk that they felt like firm basketballs.
As a result, the Little Mister either could not latch on because my nipple was stretched flat or, when he did latch on, milk squirted violently into his mouth, causing him to bite down or pull off completely.
Since I was so clueless about my situation (I honestly just thought that was how it was supposed to be; nobody told me any differently), we went home from the hospital and returned to the emergency room the next day. My son had not eaten since he was born because of my condition and he had a mild case of jaundice.
While we were in the emergency room, I was introduced to the head of our hospital’s lactation consultants. She got a hospital grade Medela breast pump for me and I set to work relieving the incredible pressure in my breasts. Some of that nourishing milk was put into a bottle and the Little Mister was finally able to eat.
Unfortunately, because my condition prevented us from being able to breastfeed in the very beginning, the stubborn Little Mister (despite my diligent efforts thereafter, including visiting the lactation consultant nearly daily for three months) never did latch on to breastfeed the proper way. He had quickly become accustomed to the bottle and would not accept my breast.
As a result, we purchased a Medela Freestyle breast pump and, even though I was a stay-at-home mom, I began to exclusively pump to nourish my new baby.
Because I was producing SO much milk, I was able to build a huge stockpile in our large stand alone freezer. So huge, in fact that my husband, much to my chagrin, began tossing some of it to make room for meat and other frozen foods.
I began contemplating if I could sell or give away breast milk. Which led me into online research. Which landed me upon the concept of donating breast milk. After discovering how to donate breast milk, I donated over 100 bags worth of milk and was able to indirectly help out those moms with the opposite of my problem and thereby nourish their babies as well.
Based on my experience, here’s how you too can donate breast milk to your local milk bank depot.
How to Donate Breastmilk
Donating breast milk to needy babies is not only generous and kind, but also easy. Here are the steps:
- Contact your local milk bank. Go to the Human Milk Banking Association of America‘s website to find yours or ask at your local breastfeeding consultant’s chapter.
- After contacting your local milk bank, a representative will ask a series of questions similar to those you might find on a donor form prior to giving blood. If you meet the health bill, they will send you an application to fill out, sign, and return.
- After your application has been received and accepted, they will then mail you some breast milk bags to collect milk in and some test tubes to get some samples of blood taken. Simply take the tubes to your doctor’s office, hospital, or lab where they draw blood (usually, no appointment is necessary). They will draw the samples then mail the test tubes back to the milk bank for you so that you can be further tested for donor eligibility. If you never hear back from the bank, then it’s probable that you passed this test as well.
- Now it’s time to start pumping.
- Be sure to sterilize your pump parts before pumping. An easy way of doing this is using steam bags like those that Medela sells or just run them through your dishwasher (according to manufacture’s directions).
- Next, using a Sharpie, label the milk bags with your name, date, and the volume of milk added.
- Fill each bag with about 6 ounces of milk, leaving room so the milk can expand when frozen.
- Pop the filled bags into the freezer, laying them on a flat surface such as a baking sheet so they freeze flat.
- Once you have the minimum amount of milk your bank requests (for me, that was at least 25 bags), it’s time to drop them off. Put them into an empty plastic grocery bag, pack them in an ice chest with blue ice or ice cubes, and drop them off at your local milk bank.
If perchance the local milk bank is too far away for a drive (or you are on vacation), most banks will work with this by mailing you an insulated box and some blue ice (note, however, that some milk banks will not mail the ice/ice packs and you will need to buy your own; they are tax deductible). Pack your milk in this box and have the parcel delivery worker pick it up and return it to the milk bank. The cost to have the insulated box mailed to you and to mail the box back is completely covered by the milk bank.
A few things to keep in mind when pumping for donation are that there are wait periods whenever you drink alcohol or take any kind of medication (including OTC breastfeeding safe medications like Tylenol or Benadryl). Ask your milk bank representative about how long to wait after drinking or taking medications before you can pump donation milk.
If you get a cold or some other illness, you will again need to wait before pumping to donate (even though breast milk is technically safe when you are sick) or the bank might ask you to mark the bags with “sick today” or something like that so they can inspect that bag’s content for safety.
Save any pumped breast milk while you’re sick or on breastfeeding safe medications for your own baby so it does not go to waste and so your breast milk supply does not drop during these times.
Unfortunately, the breast milk that you donate cannot be written off your taxes (at least not for our area). However, other items that you purchase toward donating breast milk–such as the pump, lanolin, bags, ice chest, ice packs, ice cubes, freezer, electricity to run the freezer, mileage to drive the milk at a drop-off depot, etc.–can be written off.
After you have successfully donated your milk, the milk bank will pasteurize and distribute your milk. Sometimes, the milk bank will send you an appreciation gift for your donation. My milk bank sent me a cookbook called Milk and Cookies as a thank you.
So, there you have it! It’s really a simple, easy process and your milk bank rep will help you out along the way so it’s never overwhelming. Plus, she is always there to answer any questions you might have.