1. Why did you decide to start donating breastmilk to the NBMB/why are you passionate about this cause?
My husband encouraged me to donate initially, when we ran out of freezer space for the excess milk. I didn’t know at the time how important breast milk (as opposed to formula) is for preemie babies. When I donated my first batch, Sr. Birgit Mayer explained how breast milk limits the chances of premature babies developing gut-related health problems, which are often life threatening. For these babies, receiving breast milk can be the factor that determines whether or not they thrive, or even survive. I now look forward to the potential that every liter of milk that I can contribute will be put to good use for a baby in need.
2. Approximately how much milk do you donate per month?
At the moment, I try to donate between 5 and 7 liters a month, but it depends on how much excess milk I produce, and how much my own baby drinks. I think a common misconception is that one needs to donate tens of liters at a time to make it worthwhile. Premature babies consume so little at each feed, that even a little milk goes a long way to helping them, so any amount helps!
3. As a mom, what advice will you give to other/aspiring moms about the importance of breastfeeding?
Although I personally believe fed is best, and have no problem with the idea of formula feeding, any mother who chooses to breastfeed can be assured that she is providing her baby with the best possible food source. Breast milk is specifically formulated for the baby, not only in terms of the nutrients it contains, but also in terms of its immunological properties. It contains antibodies, which help protect babies while their immune systems are still developing. There are so many benefits to breastfeeding for moms as well. I feel like my postpartum recovery has been so much faster thanks to breastfeeding. I do think that it is worthwhile to do your research while pregnant and find a good lactation consultant to contact, if you should have any trouble establishing a breastfeeding relationship. Before trying to breastfeed my son, I have always assumed that breastfeeding will come naturally, but it absolutely was not the case for us.
4. What would you tell other moms in the position to donate milk to inspire them to do the same?
The success stories from moms who have had preemie babies that received donor milk speak for themselves. Many of these babies would not have survived, had donor milk not have been available to them. It is an unbelievably fulfilling feeling when you hear that there are babies who have thrived off donor milk, and to know that you have had a part to play in their success. Donating breast milk is one of the most selfless acts that a mother can perform for another baby.
5. Is it possible to collect milk for donation even if you don’t own a breast pump or find pumping uncomfortable?
Yes, hand expression is always an option for moms who would like to collect excess milk without investing in a pump. It takes a while to get a handle on the technique, but there are many online resources showing one how to do this.
6. Why donate to the milk bank, rather than directly to a mom in need?
I have done this myself, and if a mom feels moved to help another mother who is struggling to breastfeed in this way, it is an amazing gift. However, one has to remember that for the babies that receive milk from the milk bank, this milk is about so much more than just filling their bellies. This breast milk provides the tiniest of tiny babies with the best chance of survival, since their systems are so delicate, and formula simply doesn’t provide the same gut-protecting properties that breast milk does. For these babies, proper preparation of the milk is essential, since their immune systems are so delicate, which is why it is important that the milk goes through the screening and pasteurization processes performed by the milk bank.