Breast Milk Donation
I recently donated 180 ounces of breast milk to the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank in honour of World Breastfeeding Week (August 1-7). I'm extremely lucky to have an oversupply of breast milk, so I hoped that other babies (as well as my son), could reap the benefits. The NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank pasteurizes donor milk in their laboratory to be given to sick and fragile babies in hospitals in the community of Calgary and across Canada. There are several steps involved in becoming a donor, so I wanted to summarize them all here for anyone that may be interested.
In order to be eligible for milk donation, you must ensure that you are healthy, have delivered a baby within the past year, and are currently breastfeeding or pumping your milk. The minimum donation is 150 ounces, which seems like a lot, but the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank will accept milk stored in the freezer for up to six months. After your initial donation of 150 ounces, the milk bank will accept donations of any volume.
The next step is to fill out the Donor Intake Form which should only take a minute of your time. The milk bank will then give you a call within three business days for a verbal screening where they ask questions about medical history, medications, travel, etc. If you pass the verbal screening, you will be emailed a donor package.
The donor package contains paperwork for you to fill out concerning your lifestyle and medical history, and your child's medical history. There are release forms and a consent form to be signed by both you and your baby's health care provider. Prior to completing the forms, my doctor stressed that it was important to only donate milk if I knew my son was getting enough for himself. He plotted my son's height and weight on the corresponding growth charts to ensure that my son was growing steadily. Your health care provider must also complete a blood requisition so you can go for a blood test. This initially scared me from donating, but then I realized that after going through natural childbirth, a blood test is nothing I couldn't handle!
Once the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank has received the paperwork and blood test results, you are free to donate. You can find a guideline on how to collect and store the milk here. For pumping, I used the Medela Pump in Style Breast Pump Slouch Bag, which I love and will review in a separate post. It is important to sterilize all pumping parts and refrigerate the milk within 30 minutes of pumping. I used the Medela Pump & Save Breast Milk Bags to freeze the milk but there are plenty of other brands to choose from. After my initial donation, the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank provided me with a package of Purity Breast Milk Storage Bags for future donations. The bags should not be completely filled because breast milk expands as it freezes, and they should be labelled with the date and your donor ID number included in your donor package.
It took me several months to accumulate the minimum donation of 150 ounces. I battled the flu and a resulting temporary drop in supply, my son's weight percentile dropped from his 2 to 4 month checkup, and some days I was just too tired to pump, but I am proud to say that I did it! I am so grateful for the NorthernStar Mothers Milk Bank and hope to make another donation in the near future!