I have been blessed to share about 800 ounces of milk (so far) through the Mother’s Milk Bank of Alabama and by donating to Moms I connected with online. I wanted to compare and contrast the two options so that I could help other Moms find the best fit for them.
Donating to the Mother’s Milk Bank of Alabama
I was excited to donate to the milk bank because I am NICU nurse and I have fed donor milk to babies at work countless times. I can attest that donor milk is making a difference in the NICU and it felt so special to give to my work babies in that way even if it was indirectly. However, I must admit that the process was far more time consuming and complex that I had originally anticipated. I am going to outline the process of becoming a donor and leave a link to their website here. First, you fill out a brief form on their website and then wait to be contacted for a phone screening. The phone screening is to prevent you from filling out the application if there is an obvious reason they wouldn’t accept your milk. Then they sent me a lengthy application (19 pages) that I needed to complete and return. They have extremely strict instructions and restrictions on the milk they accept. Here is a sample of what I am referring to: “wait 6 hours after any alcohol intake to pump and donate” and “vegans should take a multivitamin, including vitamin B.” They also contacted my OBGYN and my son’s pediatrician for more information. In addition, I had to get blood work drawn. They did pay for the lab work, but I had to use a specific facility that was a 40 minute drive from my home. After all of this, I had to label my milk a certain way, schedule an appointment, and drive 45 minutes to drop it off (they did replace my milk bags). Something to keep in mind is that this process will take several weeks and if you are rapidly running out of freezer space (I was) that might be an issue. When you consider how much time I had already spent pumping the milk (which I was giving them for free) it consumed a tremendous amount of my time and effort when I was already an exhausted new Mom. Being in the healthcare industry, I understand that a lot of that headache was unavoidable because they need to know that my milk was safe. However, I wish they would offer to send someone to your home for the blood draw and offer to pick up milk if you had a certain amount. I think it’s a wonderful idea, but I did not feel like they made the process very easy or fulfilling for a new Mom.
Donating to an Individual
There are a couple of different ways you might find a Mom who needs milk. The first is that you might know someone personally that needs milk for their little one. I feel like this would have been my number one choice if it was possible. Second, you might find someone through a breastfeeding support group. Some groups meet in person and some groups are online. Although a Mom might be breastfeeding, she may need to supplement with donor milk. Lastly, there is a Facebook group called Human Milk for Human Babies that connects Moms and donors. I am sure there are probably other ways too, but these are the ones I am aware of. I put a message on a breastfeeding group and within minutes a Mom responded that she would like to receive my milk. My milk was nearing the one-year recommended guideline for a deep freezer and the milk bank won’t accept any milk that is within a few months of the “expiration.” The Mother was able to meet me the next day minutes from my home and it was SO EASY. You can find donors who won’t mind if you have had a glass of wine before you pumped, etc., so it is also much less rigorous. I would always disclose any medications I was taking or other pertinent information so that people can make an informed decision. However, you aren’t guaranteed that the milk you donate is going to good use and might run into a sketchy situation if you aren’t careful.
In both experiences, I was thankful for the opportunity to help other Moms and babies and pray that all my hard work payed off. I hope this was helpful and would love to know if you have donated milk or are considering doing so.