I used to think everyone struggled to make enough milk. Because, come on, breastfeeding is just plain hard.
So when my second-born daughter’s feeding issues catapulted us into a rare disease diagnosis and subsequent feeding tube surgery, I would soon learn another truth.
Exclusive pumping is even harder.
I loathed that tiny piece of modern machinery, but I wasn’t going to let my daughter down. Breastmilk was a cornerstone in her complex diet. So I pumped. I pumped through tears and breast infections, exhaustion, and pain. And after 11 months of what can only be described as breast abuse, I was done. The milk stopped flowing and panic set in.
What was I going to do? I couldn’t make it. I couldn’t buy it. And my daughter no longer fit the medical requirements to receive it from a donor bank. And yet, she still needed it in every way.
So I did what any desperate mother would do: I turned to Facebook.
Looking back, I now see this as one of the best decisions I ever made for my daughter – and myself. Before I knew it, my post had gone viral. I had moms from across the state pumping, freezing, storing, and selflessly transporting milk to me in one of the greatest events of self-sacrificing goodness I have ever experienced.
Talk about manna from heaven. It was liquid love.
Milk to Share
My eyes have been opened through our experience, and I now know there are amazing moms in the world who also happen to be over-producers. These moms not only make enough milk for their little ones, but typically have dozens of bags of frozen milk stashed away, too. If you happen to be this mom, please know you can save a lot of lives with this priceless gift. And it’s actually pretty easy to do.
- Contact the milk bank. Mothers Milk Bank of North Texas is the primary source for donor milk to DFW-area NICUs and children’s hospitals. They have a network of approved drop-off locations around the state and ask for donors to participate in a phone interview and blood draw before they are approved. Each donor receives an identification number and is asked to give a minimum of 100 ounces. All milk is pasteurized and tested before being given to a baby in need. Learn more about becoming a milk donor here.
- Online milk sharing groups: Think of it like Craigslist for breastmilk, but no money is exchanged. Two reputable groups are Human Milk 4 Human Babies Texas and Eats on Feets Texas. You can post in these groups the amount of milk you have to share and coordinate directly with other moms on the delivery. If you are an over-supplier, or just happen to have a stash of frozen milk you don’t know what to do with, these pages may be a great way for you to give. Every ounce matters.
Give Me All the Milk.
Below are a few suggestions on the best ways to find breastmilk for your baby.
- Talk to your pediatrician. If your child has a medical diagnosis that requires breastmilk, you can ask your pediatrician for a prescription to give to the local milk bank. Mothers Milk Bank of North Texas supplies milk to area hospitals and even some outpatient babies, giving first preference to hospital preemies and infants who have documented unsuccessful trials of other formulas. You can find all the details and requirements to receive milk here.
- Make your needs known. At first, I felt awkward advertising my need for breastmilk, but was quickly reminded that it wasn’t my need – it was my child’s. A friend of a friend gave us our first donation. I asked her all the important questions. (Do you drink? Do you smoke? Do you use any medications or drugs?) My daughter thrived on this mother’s milk for almost five months before I had to turn to other sources.
- Online milk sharing groups: I posted a short story about my daughter on the Human Milk 4 Human Babies Facebook page, and within 24 hours moms from across the state were contacting me to donate. Many were close by, some were friends, and all were open to answering my questions. My now 18-month-old daughter continues to reap the benefit of breastmilk donated to us from these incredible women.
Tips for Accepting Donor Milk
Getting breastmilk from individual moms does come with its warnings.
You should NEVER pay someone for breastmilk online. Sites and individuals who are trying to sell breastmilk to you often dilute it with cow’s milk or formula.
Also, if you are accepting breastmilk from an unknown individual, you are assuming some risks when it comes to the other mom’s diet and habits. Use your best judgment and ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable.
Store each mother’s milk in separate large Ziploc bags, and write her name and any medications she was taking on the outside. That way you will be able to identify the source if your child shows any intolerance.
Have you ever donated or received milk? Do you have any tips or advice?