Thursday, July 19, 2012

Donating Breast Milk

When I gave birth to Luke, just like anyone who gives birth to a live baby, I was told my breast milk would come in three days later. The hospital sent me home with an ace bandage to wrap around myself as a compression in hopes it would make my milk go away faster once it came in. I was even given suggestions by a friend or two of natural remedies to help my milk go away.

Initially, I did as I was told and had my mom wrap the ace bandage around me. Well let me tell you, that was not comfortable! I wondered why I had even taken the hospital's suggestion in the first place and removed the constraint as promptly as I could! I knew that if I was not breastfeeding (which I obviously wasn't) that my milk supply would go away. That's just the way it works. So I wasn't sure why I needed to urgently make it go away (especially when it was so painful to have the compression wrapped around me) when it was going to go away on its own.

It may have been the very night of my painful compression episode that I started researching donating breast milk. Perhaps I didn't have a child that needed it, but maybe someone did. So with a little help from my friend, Google, I came across this website and it caught my eye because it read, "Thinking of donating your breast milk? Read this first," on the page of search results.

From this article I read some interesting things, which I presume are true. Not all  "milk banks" are the same. Some pasteurize the raw milk so that it is suitable for preemies in the NICU and is made avaiblable at a reasonable cost ($3.50/ounce). While other banks are owned by Prolacta Bioscience, the worlds only for-profit milk processing company. Prolacta processes the milk (which was donated) and then charges $184.83/once. This seems like a scam and a terrible way to make money off of mom's donations! Perhaps there are costs involved than meets the eye which I don't understand, nevertheless it's not the option that seemed like a good fit and that I even wanted to avoid.

What I felt like was the best option was something this article lead me to discover -- MilkShare. It's an organization that allows milk donation from mother to mother by helping match up donors and recipients.

I know it might seem weird to some people to give your baby someone else's milk, but I think it's a great way for a child to have the added benefits of being breastfed when the mom can't provide that on her own (perhaps because of medical issues, adoption, mastectomy, low supply, or any other number of reasons).  

Unfortunately, I did not have a breast pump on hand and amid all of the preparation for Luke's burial and funeral, I did not make it a priority to get a pump. My milk supply began to dwindle before I could really conclude if donating milk was something I really wanted to do. I kind of regret that I missed my window of opportunity to make that decision, but perhaps it is a blessing because I didn't have to deal with any complications of breastfeeding and conception. Who knows how it might have affected my fertility and ability to conceive.

I wanted to share this to both let people know that mom's of stillborn babies have to deal with their milk coming in. Which, for some moms, is probably a really painful reminder of what they wish they were doing. As well as to let people know about the option of donating. It's something I sure didn't know anything about until that day and I am thankful to know about it now.

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