A Milk Donor's Story
From NEW BEGINNINGS, Vol. 25 No. 4, 2008, pp. 13-14
I always dreamed of becoming a mother. In March 2007 I gave birth to my daughter, Mya, who was full term and weighed six pounds, seven ounces. I knew right away that I was going to breastfeed her so that we could develop that special bond mothers talk about. Once out of the hospital I decided that I was going to pump as well. Mya never took to the bottle though, but we were told to continue trying and that eventually she would take it. It wasn't until we had a freezer full of milk that we came to the realization that she wasn't going to take the bottle so I decided to toss all the extra milk out.
The next month a friend of mine had a baby and was devastated that she was unable to breastfeed. It was at that point that I started to research the idea of donating milk. I had never heard of milk bank donations before, I just assumed donors were out there somewhere. Sure enough, after a few minutes of Internet research, I found many articles saying that human milk was not only good for new babies, but some cancer patients also thrived on it after going through radiation treatments. I decided I was going to become a donor. I started pumping again immediately and I was able to produce enough milk to satisfy Mya and have plenty to send to the milk bank. I modified my pumping techniques in order to get the most milk possible. I found that pumping was so much easier this time because I knew that the milk was going to help families and hopefully save lives of many babies.
I contacted a few of the hospitals here in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and was told that in the 1980s there had been a milk bank, but it was shut down due to the AIDS scare. They were in the process of collecting money to start it up again. I tried to locate a milk bank nearby and that is when I found British Columbia's Women's Hospital. I got in contact with a fantastic nurse named Madeline, who sent all the required forms to my doctor so that I could be screened and get the process under way. There were a few problems getting my blood work done but, finally, after about a month of waiting and re-doing tests, I was an official milk donor. Madeline regretfully told me that due to lack of funding, I was responsible for getting the milk from my house in St. Albert, Alberta to Vancouver, British Colombia.
I spoke with many courier companies and was told that shipping human fluids was not allowed. I decided that I was going to risk it and tell them it was baby food, which was allowed. I was told it would be around $60 to $100 per shipment of about 100 ounces. Luckily I have a sister who lives in Vancouver, so I waited until she visited and sent the milk with her when she left. I contacted the airline to see what sort of rules they had for shipping milk with passengers and was told that as long as the milk was stored properly and was put in the cargo of the plane, it was not a problem. I set a goal of sending a thousand ounces of my milk. I have not only reached my goal, but have surpassed it and am still donating today.
Breastfeeding is an amazing feeling, knowing my baby is getting everything she needs, but knowing that someone else's baby is also thriving just puts it on a different level. I love the milk bank and I now know that when my next baby is born, I will be starting the process all over again.
Editor's note: Mothers breastfeeding babies under six months should be cautious of the priority of their own baby's needs if they intend to donate milk and may want to speak to an LLL Leader about balancing those needs. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) pays for the shipping of donors' milk. The Canadian bank in Vancouver, British Columbia does not have adequate funding to cover donors' shipping. Adapted with permission from HMBANA Matters, Volume 5, January 2008.