Breastfeeding mothers, have you ever thought about becoming a human milk donor? Maybe you are producing more milk than your baby can eat and you feel responsible for what you have. Maybe you want to help vulnerable infants around the country. Either way, being a human milk donor is a deeply rewarding experience.
When thinking about milk donation, many mothers first consider finding someone in their area who need milk for their babies and casually sharing it with them. But there are safety issues. Last year, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement against informal milk sharing because of the risk of bacterial and viral contamination. A 2013 study found that 74 percent of breast milk bought on the Internet had high levels of bacterial growth, particularly strep and staph.
So instead of casual sharing, you may choose to look into human milk banks. There are currently 18 human milk banks in the United States and Canada that are affiliated with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, which sets guidelines for ensuring donor breast milk safety. Milk banks pasteurize donor milk to kill bacteria, combine it with other donor’s milk to make sure the milk components are well balanced, and test the milk for contamination. They then provide the milk to premature babies and other infants whose mothers may not be able to breastfeed.
Last year, 9.6 percent of U.S. infants were born prematurely, which can cause a host of health issues, including necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a serious disease in which babies’ intestines are damaged or die, causing waste to leak into their bloodstream. In 2013, preterm-birth complications were responsible for one third of U.S. infants death, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The World Health Organization says preemies should drink their own mother’s milk when possible. While donor milk is good for babies, it’s not as powerful as their own mother’s milk, because a mother’s milk composition rapidly changes to meet her baby’s needs. However, WHO does recommend donor milk as the best back-up.
As you prepare to donate, you have to pass a month-long screening process, which included a phone interview, blood test for infectious disease, and releasing your baby’s and your medical records so the milk bank staff could ensure donating wouldn’t be detrimental to either of you.
Your milk can help prevent infections in premature babies and encourage there mothers’ own breastfeeding efforts.
Upcoming milk drive in San Diego area:
Date: Saturday, August 5, 2017
Time: 3pm – 5pm
Location: UC San Diego Health East Campus Office Building
For more information, please visit https://health.ucsd.edu/specialties/obgyn/maternity/newborn/lactation/Pages/Mothers-Milk.aspx
Date: Monday, August 7, 2017
Time: 7:30 am – 2pm
Location: Sharp Mary Birch Hospital
For more information, please visit https://www.sharp.com/hospitals/mary-birch/mothers-milk-bank.cfm