This morning, Ava and I went to the Indiana Mother's Milk Bank to drop off our extra milk. I donate extra milk about every month when our freezer fills up, starting back in June. Today, I donated 283 ounces! In total, I've donated over 1,900 oz (almost 15 gallons)!
It's such a gift to share this milk with babies and their families. The Indiana Mother's Milk Bank takes donor milk from health screened moms who agree to store milk safely. They combine the donated milk and pasteurize it, then repackage in bottles to distribute to hospitals and families in the Midwest region. Ava and I spent a day volunteering at the Indiana State Fair last August, staffing the milk bank's "Lactation Station" that offered an air conditioned trailer so moms can nurse their babies out of the sticky heat, recharge with cold water, and then head back out to enjoy the fair.
Most of the milk has been donated to the milk bank and I've donated some to three mom friends and their babies. There are different reasons that moms ask for shared milk, but the best is for temporary reasons otherwise supplementing with milk or formula can reduce the mom's supply because the body is getting the message that the baby needs less milk. In our case, I've shared Ava's milk with a mom of an adopted baby and a friend who works two days a week and has trouble pumping enough for her baby while she's at work. The other mom that I just donated 80 oz to last week ran out of her freezer stash and lost her supply from a bad case of food poisoning. She was really committed to giving her son breastmilk to 1 year and as she's weaning him to cow's milk now that she's out and he's 11 months. But, she found that breastmilk in his last bottle before bed holds him over much longer. I'm not surprised since breastmilk is specifically designed for human babies so it's more absorbed and used in the baby's body.
Why donated milk? Mother's milk is easily digestible to a baby's immature digestive system and provides antibodies to stave off illnesses. Also, breastmilk adds sugars to attract good bacteria to protect the baby's digestive tract. Here's a great summary of the reasons to use donor milk from the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA).
To learn more about milk banks and their charge, check out this amazing effort for a documentary film "Perscription Milk" about families who need mothers milk for their premature and sick infants. There are only about 11 non-profit milk banks in the United States. They provide mother's milk to NICUs and directly to families in need. If you have any extra milk to spare, please join me in the awareness and pleasure of helping these families.