The Donating and Sharing of Breast Milk

The Donating and Sharing of Breast Milk
Pumping supplies.

During my son’s 7-week stay in the NICU, I was pumping more than he was feeding. I was pumping about 6 times a day. I would make about 3oz per pump while he would only be eating about 1oz per feeding. The hospital couldn’t store much. Needless to say, my freezer started to fill up with breast milk. After a few weeks, we purchased a deep freezer. That thing was ¾ full by the time baby came home.

Since I was mostly home with my son and was exclusively breastfeeding him, we didn’t need much of the stash. Of course, when I would go into the office for meetings or when we had date night, we would use the stored milk.

When my baby was about 9 months old and so was the breast milk, I knew that we wouldn’t use all of the milk.  In a deep freezer, breast milk can be good up until 12 months. So, my window to use or donate the milk was getting smaller.

I hit the good ole’ internet to find a worthy milk bank to donate to.  I found the International Breast Milk Project. A percentage of their donations go to children in Africa. The rest go to babies in need in local NICUs. Their goals are:

  • Provide donor milk to infants in urgent need around the world.
  • Provide funds to help milk banks grow and sustain.
  • Raise awareness about the importance of donor milk.

From the time I filled out the application online, answered more questions over email, sent in my DNA, referred them to my physician, had a blood test, and sent them my donation 74oz of breast milk, it was about a month. (NOTE: the process, including blood test & shipping costs, were funded by the milk bank).

If the process was a little shorter, they could have gotten a lot more milk from me. The milk bank does not take milk older than 10 months. After their donation, I still had over 300oz of milk that was going to expire soon.

I moseyed back over to the internet to search for another place to donate to. Another preemie mama friend on Facebook recommended Human Milk 4 Human Babies.  This is so cool. They host community pages all around the world. If you live in Pittsburgh, you just click on their Pennsylvania link. It takes you to a Facebook page where you can post your need for breast milk or your willingness to share your stash of milk. There is another site called Eats On Feets. It works the same way.

I posted that I had over 300 oz to give away. I immediately had emails from moms looking for milk for their babies. I did have a preference to give to a sick or preemie baby. Then I was blessed by meeting the most phenomenal woman (I want to hug her every time I talk to her because she is so amazing and inspiring). Judy Wright raised and breastfeed four children of her own, whom are now grown. She has fostered over 50 children and needed milk for one special little girl. Jayden was diagnosed with Pancreatic Agenisis. She was born without a pancreas. Only 17 people have ever survived this. Breast milk is one of the only things she can digest.

After learning about Jayden, I arranged a time for Judy to pick up the milk.  How could I say no?

I saved a handful of bottles of breast milk just in case Mr. C needed it. But the expiration dates were getting close on the last of my bottles.  I went back to Eats On Feets to find another baby/mom in need. Hollie replied to my post.

Hollie had surgery many years ago that removed all of the ducts on one of her breasts. She struggles with her milk supply on the other breast.  Her baby was 3 months old. Her goal was to feed him breast milk until he was 6 months of age. Besides, my small donation, Hollie has a mom who regularly supplies her with milk. The donor mom makes too much milk and gives what she doesn’t use to Hollie. They meet about every month for Hollie to receive the milk.

If you haven’t noticed, never once did I mention that money is being exchanged. None of the moms on these sites have given or received money for breast milk. And that’s not what these sites are about.

Human Milk 4 Human Babies Mission:

“The mission of Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network is to promote the nourishment of babies and children around the world with human milk. We are dedicated to fostering community between local families who have chosen to share breast milk.”

It’s easy, it affordable and it’s a great way to meet other parents. The women within these communities are very knowledgeable and know what they want for their babies. Hollie says, “I have done a lot of research on formula and breast is BEST!”

If you need breast milk or have some to donate, please check out these sites. If you have any reservations about sharing milk, each site explains their goals and best practices.

Shell Walker, a Phoenix, Arizona midwife and founder of Eats On Feets says, "I started this page after receiving a phone call from a mom who was desperate to find breast milk for her newborn. I posted her needs on Facebook and the response was immediate and fantastic. I thought it would be awesome if there were a page dedicated to milk sharing and tribe nursing. So, this is a networking page for moms to share and receive milk when needed. I am not responsible for milk sharing results or content shared by other posters. And a note of caution; KNOW THY SOURCE. While it is true that tribe feeding offers MANY benefits, there is ALWAYS the risk of disease/contamination. I support many causes and movements but in the spirit of keeping the site as focused as possible status updates are specific to milk sharing."

If you have any more questions, Our Muddy Boots is having a live web chat with Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network on Monday, August 6th from 9-10 pm EST to answer all of your questions. Like Human Milk 4 Human Babies Global Network’s Facebook page for more information!

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