It is one of the most precious gifts that can be given to premature and sick babies whose mothers who are unable to provide them with sufficient breastmilk of their own. Read this personal account of what it’s like to donate breastmilk from Claire, a fabulous mama to two gorgeous boys:
When my first son was 6 months old there was an article in the Standard about a kiosk in Covent Garden selling breast milk ice cream! This caused a great deal of controversy but what caught my attention was the writer commenting that if people had spare breast milk they should give it to the milk bank which uses it in hospital neonatal units for premature or unwell babies whose mothers aren’t able to produce milk.
It seemed an amazing idea to do something to help a precious little newborn bundle of joy that hadn’t had the best start in life, and their family, simply by donating something my body was producing anyway. Friends thought it seemed difficult to get started but when I was pregnant with second son I was determined to give it a try.
You have to complete some forms and do a blood test, but nothing too difficult to arrange. At some hospitals you go in for the tests, but my hospital sent me a blood sample kit in the post that I took to the nurse at my local GPs. The nurse took the sample and I posted it back in the box they had supplied. It worked really well. You express as much as you want – there’s no minimum or maximum. I think most people who donate express for their own baby and then keep anything left over for donation. You store up it in your freeze in little plastic bottles they provide until you can’t fit the peas in any more then you arrange a collection or drop it off yourself depending on your local hospital. You have to monitor the temperature of the freezer and keep a log of each time you express.
You can find out everything you need from the Association for Milk Banking website www.ukamb.org including which hospitals near you accept donor milk.
I donated to Queen Charlottes. It isn’t my local hospital but it is the hospital where my Mum gave birth to my brother so it felt personal (as in fact I hadn’t had either of my children at our local hospital – my first son was born on the living room floor due to a bit of misunderstanding between the midwife on the phone and I, and my second was born at St Helier because we liked the birthing suite).
You just need a breast pump. I have to admit that I hired a hospital grade double breast pump from Medela for the period that I was donating. It isn’t necessary – a standard pump from Mothercare will also do the trick which is what I used with my first baby (though I would recommend electric over manual as it’s quicker). This time, though, as I had a toddler poking around as well as a baby whilst trying to express speed seemed more important! The double pump felt a bit industrial and quite frankly a little undignified, particularly whilst my parents-in-law were visiting, but it certainly did the job. Double the milk in half the time – any doubts about the £40 per month it cost me went straight out of the window the second I started using it!
I got into the routine of expressing in the morning for my son’s 11pm bottle (that my partner did whilst I got some much needed kip!) and in the evening for donation.
I donated for about 9 months, though it doesn’t need to be for this long. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has comfortably established breastfeeding (at least 6 weeks post birth). It’s a great way to make a difference to babies and families, and all the extra calories you burn producing the milk mean you can enjoy a bit more cake as a reward! For more information, contact the Association for Milk Banking website www.ukamb.org
Please get in touch with Mama Knows Best if you would like to know more or if you have any questions for Claire regarding her experience as a breastmilk donor on email@example.com