Donating Breast Milk

Max is very pleased another baby is benefitting from the milk he couldn’t use.

I’ve mentioned briefly before that I donated some of my milk but I wanted to use today’s post to talk a little more about that process.

When I had my first, Alexandra, I wasn’t really aware about donating milk or even using donor milk so when I stopped breastfeeding we just switched straight to formula. Because I was so unwell I didn’t even express and so our journey with my milk was over – I went cold turkey and my milk dried up eventually.

With Max, I started expressing the day he was born despite the fact he was nil by mouth. I’m still expressing now so he’s having four bottles of boob milk a day and one of formula. Because he hardly drank anything in the early days when he was poorly, we ended up stocking up the freezers in both hospitals he was an inpatient at and when we fetched both batches we had around four litres of milk in our freezer.

My plan was to gradually use the freezer stock (as there’s obviously a time frame when you need to use it by) and replace it with ‘newer’ milk. This meant I could potentially stop expressing at some point but still give him boob milk from the stockpile. However at six weeks he was diagnosed with a severe dairy allergy which meant I had to cut out dairy and soya to carry on feeding him. It also meant we couldn’t use anything from the freezer as that had been expressed before I cut dairy from my diet.

The thought of throwing away my milk which had taken so long to get made me feel a little bit ill! So I began researching how I could donate it. The milk bank nearest us said they normally only took milk as an ongoing thing from moms who were breastfeeding but had an over supply but when I explained the situation they were willing to take the stash. However once they started filling in the paperwork they said it wasn’t possible for me to donate because I have had blood transfusions in the past. This for the same reason that I can’t now give blood – there’s no test they can do to rule out that you haven’t been given CJD (mad cows disease) from the blood so they ban you from donating in case you pass it on. Annoying but I can see why! Donated milk is extremely heavily screened before being sold to neonatal units.

So I turned to Facebook. I joined a couple of sites including one called Human Milk for Human Babies. I posted on there explaining how much I had to donate and some details (they ask you to include things like any medical conditions you have/medications you’re on, whether you drink etc). I got one really weird message but then within hours I got a comment from a lady who was pregnant and had supply issues with her previous two babies so was stockpiling donor milk so her new baby wouldn’t struggle with weight loss in the way they had.

The lady came to pick the milk up from us, which felt a bit weird at first giving someone what is essentially your bodily fluids! But once I met her and chatted to her for a bit I felt so glad it was going to be used and not thrown away! She’s now had her baby and keeps everyone (there’s quite a few people who’ve donated milk to them) informed on a Facebook page which is lovely. Because all the milk is labelled, she was even able to tell me they were using my milk the other day!

It’s lovely to know I’ve been able to help another family and it’s really changed my viewpoint on donor milk – in fact I feel a bit gutted I don’t have enough of a supply to regularly donate but I’m already having to supplement with formula.

To anyone out there with an oversupply – or anyone who knows they can’t breastfeed due to a medical issue but desperately wants to use breast milk, milk donation is definitely something worth looking into!

Harriet, Alexandra and Max x

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