What You Need to Know About Breast Milk Donation

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Image adapted via Flickr/ alberth2

I have been breastfeeding my fourth child now for 8 months and it has been amazing. There was a time in my parenting where I wondered if I was going to be able to breastfeed more than a few weeks, as I had with my first. It was important to me to be able to do it because I felt in so many ways my body had failed to provide during pregnancy – I needed a “win” in this category.

When my third child was born, we struggled but I was determined. The first few weeks of her life, I had to rent a hospital grade breast pump to get my milk supply up, and in doing so, I was able to feed her and have some expressed milk stored away in the freezer. It was amazing to see my body work this way – that I had the ability to nourish my baby – something that was personally important. I know that not every woman has this ability (or desire) and for some that means turning to formula for help, while others choose to look into donated human breast milk.

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Donating milk was something I seriously considered after I saw how much was stored away in my freezer from all that pumping. It was an option I wish I had looked into for my first two children, and I know there are some great benefits from choosing breast milk over other options – if the option is there.

Since I began breastfeeding my fourth child, I have once again considered donating my breast milk. Though I don't have any stored right now and am not actively pumping, I am not totally ruling out the idea. If you're like me and are seriously considering it, there are some common questions that may come up when considering donating your breast milk.

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Image via Flickr/ shingleback

1. Is using donated breast milk safe?

It sounds a little odd when you first think about it – we have pasteurized cow's milk, and standards for baby formula, but what about human breast milk? According to the FDA, they acknowledge that breast milk is most ideal for babies, but warn against accepting breast milk from internet sources. They advice that you seek out the help of a well-established milk bank who have processes and methods in place to screen those donating their milk, to make sure their milk is safe.

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Image via Flickr/ Editor B

2. What are some ways to donate breast milk?

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There are a few different ways you can go about donating your breast milk including mom-to-parent sharing, using an accredited milk bank, or donating to your local hospital. Each has their own risks vs benefits, and some have more strict guidelines for who is able to donate based on specific things like how old your baby is, if you're on medication, or have been sick, etc.

International Breast Milk Project (IBMP),

This is a non-profit organization that provides both long-term and short-term help to families around the world by raising awareness and funding and supporting local milk banks.

Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA),

The HMBANA works to develop guidelines for milk banks in North America, provide information and resources, and facilitate milk donations.

Human Milk for Human Babies (HM4MB),

HM4HB is a global network of families who both donate and are looking for donated milk. This program works by connecting local families who want to milk-share, but does not promote medical advice or screening.

{ MORE: How Much Breast Milk Does Your Baby Drink? }

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Image via Flickr/ ilya

3. Why would someone need the donated breast milk?

There are many medical reasons why a child may need donated breast milk. It could be the mother is not able to lactate, got ill and is not able to feed her baby her own milk, or there is perhaps an adopted family or single father. Sometimes infants get really sick and need to have breast milk to thrive, but the challenges of the NICU don't allow for the mother to provide it. Whatever the reason, there are many benefits of breast milk over formula if the option is available.

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Image via Flickr/ Daquella manera

4. Why would someone want to donate breast milk?

Donating breast milk can be an amazing way to give back to the community. I've heard of some women who donated after their child passed away as a way to have their child's memory live on, some women just don't need all the milk they pumped and would hate to throw it away, and some just have a desire to help out. One woman set the record recently for having the “Most Breast Milk Donated” in Texas with over 11, 000 ounces!

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Image via Flickr/ Daquella manera

5. Do you get paid for your donated breast milk?

Most of the programs I've looked into do not support payment for breast milk and are considered donations. There are some milk banks, like Prolacta Bioscience, which charge to use the products made from donated milk if your ill baby needs prescription breast milk products.

{ MORE: Not Your Mother's Breast Pump: 5 New Options for Better Pumping }

Would you ever consider donating or using donated breast milk?

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What do you think?

What You Need to Know About Breast Milk Donation

Devan McGuinness is the founder of the online resource Unspoken Grief, which is dedicated to breaking the silence of perinatal grief for those directly and indirectly affected by miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal death. Using her own experience of surviving 12 miscarriages, Devan has been actively supporting and encouraging others who are wading through the challenges associated with perinatal and neonatal loss. Winner of the 2012 Bloganthropy Award and named one of Babble's “25 bloggers wh ... More

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