Today, May 19, is World Day of Human Milk Donation. Originating in Brazil in 2004 as a national event, the day was created to promote the importance of human milk donation to non-profit human milk banks. It’s a day to honor all mothers who donate milk to nonprofit milk banks, everywhere in the world.
Milk banking is saving lives and promoting the importance of human milk and breastfeeding in countries and cultures all over the world. Donated milk is given to sick and premature babies whose own mother, for whatever reason, is unable to breastfeed or produce enough milk to meet the need of their baby.
Three milk donors share their stories
To celebrate World Day of Human Milk Donation, we’re highlighting three amazing milk donor stories. Three different women, three different reasons for donating their precious breast milk. Their contributions have made a very significant difference to the health and future of vulnerable babies throughout the world.
Cee’s story – “My daughter was born early but there was a shortage of donor milk…I vowed there and then to be a donor”
When Cee gave birth to her daughter at 38 weeks by an urgent c-section, she looked to donor milk but it was in short supply. Whilst she pumped to encourage her milk to come in, she had to resort to giving her daughter formula in the mean-time, something she really didn’t want to have to do. She vowed there and then she would be a milk donor.
“It was only when I got home from the hospital that I began to process everything. Not being able to access donor milk for my baby just wasn’t right. Of course, I understood that there were more vulnerable babies more deserving get the milk, but why isn’t there enough for everyone? By then my breasts had turned into beach balls and I was a human milk sprinkler system. I had plenty to spare and I know other mothers I did antenatal classes did too. There was no need for a shortage. I wanted to know why is there a shortage and how can we change that? I vowed to be part of the solution that no other mother in need would be denied.”
Alayna’s story – “I ended up with an over-supply due to pumping so I looked into donating”
When Alayna gave birth to her second son, she was worried about not having a good enough milk supply – something she struggled with first-time around. When her midwife suggested she use a breast milk suction device, she had no idea it would help her establish such a strong milk supply. By the end end of her maternity leave, she’d saved and stored about 600 oz. breast milk!
“Once I went back to work, I continued to pump and then breastfeed directly at home. Eventually, I realized that I had a huge oversupply of milk and so I started looking into donating milk. I became an official donor with the Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida. What I love about this organization is that donated milk is sent to hospitals around the state for NICU babies in need. The milk is thoroughly tested and safe. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to donate much, but over the course of the year, I was able to donate 1,800 oz.!”
Jade’s story – “My son refused to feed from one side so I donated the milk instead of waste it”
When Jade’s son refused to feed from her left breast or even take a bottle of expressed milk, she found herself pouring pints of perfectly good breast milk down the drain. When she told her friend what she was doing, they suggested she donate her milk. Jade jumped at the chance to help vulnerable babies and their familes.
“I didn’t really know where to start with donating and who to approach so I found myself googling all sorts of websites and forums in relation to breast milk donation. Doing this I felt like I really educated myself on not only milk donation but also all manner of breast milk-related literature and research. I emailed a few milk donation banks and they were very informative of the process and how to get started. In the end I got in touch with my closest milk bank through using The UK Association of Milk Banks (UKAMB). The milk bank sent me out the paperwork and I had to arrange a blood test at my GP practice to ensure I was healthy to donate.”
Interested in becoming a breast milk donor?
If donating milk is something you’d like to consider then Cee helpfully outlines ways to help make the process as painless as possible:
- Get in touch with your nearest milk bank – Your local milk bank will talk you through the process for donating milk and will provide all the necessary equipment you need. They will organise for your expressed breast milk to be collected and delivered to hospitals, neonatal clinics, ICU’s, and the mothers and babies in need. Find your nearest milk bank here.
- Join an online forum to learn more – There are online forums and groups of like-minded people ranging from new mothers, breastfeeding coordinators, and retired midwives all with a wealth of experience and knowledge.
- Consider renting an electric pump – There are a plethora of electric pumps on the market to buy, but you can also look into renting an electric pump short-term from a hospital or other reputable outlet.
- Get an inexpensive silicone milk collector – Silicon milk collectors can be easily bought online and are relatively inexpensive. You just pop it under your non-feeding breast while you are nourishing your wee one and it catches any drips. Very handy to have two when you’re leaking in-between feeds. Before you know it, you may have built up a stash of breast milk to donate!