I know I'm not the only mom out there with more milk than my baby can use. Any mom whose spent hours of her life pumping it out of her knows how emotionally painful it is to think of dumping it down the drain. Still, the freezer is getting a bit full, and room for things like frozen pizzas is running low and ever shrinking. The good news is, I don't have to let any of it go to waste.
The National Milk Bank is an organization that collects your spare, unwanted milk and shares it with premature and critically ill babies in need. While you won't be paid for your donation, NMB provides a donor mom with absolutely everything she will need to get that milk where it's needed - including an electric breast pump, collection bottles, instructions for collecting, storing and mailing collected milk, and pre-labeled shipping packages paid for by NMB. The organization does what it can to make the process as simple as possible, and is very accessible by email and phone if you have questions.
The International Breast Milk Project is another breast milk donation organization, specializing in donations to treat infants orphaned by HIV/AIDS. The breast milk provided to this organization isn't just good for these babies, it's life-saving. HIV/AIDS has ravaged sub-Saharan Africa. Mothers who have it often die, leaving their infected babies with little hope of survival. Breastmilk can make it up to six times more likely that these babies will survive. Currently, IBMP is teamed up with Prolacta Bioscience (working with the National Milk Bank) to process donated milk and make shipments to South Africa.
MilkBanking.net offers a list of all participating National Milk Banks in the United States. If you have a local milk bank, contact it directly for donation information. National Milk Bank also accepts donations from those not near a milk bank (see info above).
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America is a non-profit milk bank organization. The website offers up some pretty interesting information on human breast milk and its uses for both the donor community and the medical community. HMBANA also claims to serve parts of Canada and Mexico, though at the time of this update the only non-US bank seems to be in Vancouver B.C.
The United States is hardly the only country in which you can donate milk. In the United Kingdom, you'll want to contact the United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking. In Canada, contact the BC Women's Milk Bank (C & W Lactation Services, 4500 Oak Street, IU 30, Vancouver, BC V6H 3N1 - Phone (604) 875-2282, FAX 604-875-2871 firstname.lastname@example.org).
It should be noted that not everyone who wants to can donate milk. This shouldn't stop you from helping if you want to! Breast milk collection and processing is an expensive business. Each of these organizations will gladly take any contribution you can afford to give them and put it to good use, getting the milk where it needs to go. Even if you're on a budget you can help out. Donate your time - volunteer. If you can't do that, you can still help by simply spreading the word. Put a link on your website. Talk about it in your blog. Start a discussion about it on Live Journal. Just say something.
Want to know an easy way to spread the word about donation? Tell Oprah that you want to see a show on breast milk donation. If enough people write in wanting to see a show about it, she'll do one! I have it on good authority that she's interested in the subject. She's already given brief airtime to the IBMP (on October 23, 2006). What she needs now is to know that people are willing to watch an entire episode about it. If that link isn't working, you can also send mail by going to Oprah.com, click on the "Share your story" link in the "Be on the show" box, then click on "We want your show ideas" in the "Regular features" column. If they write you back and you *don't* want to be on the show, just send them to me. I don't mind being a ham and talking about this wonderful cause.
Another simple way to get the news out about breast milk donation is to take advantage of those friends and family members of yours who are having babies. Just stuff a little "business card" into the envelope with your baby shower gift card, or your congratulatory note. It can say something like "Want to give something back after your baby is born? Why not give the gift of life?" and then feature the web address or phone number of your favourite milk bank or the IBMP.
San Francisco's ABC News did a piece on the IBMP. For those of you who don't have Adobe Flash Player 9, this version is available... without any ads.
Time Magazine (at least the online edition) did a wonderful write-up on the IBMP and the importance of breast milk donation in general.
When I looked for a way to donate my milk, my online search was painful. There were lots of sites that mentioned breast milk donation, and several articles about how good the idea of donation is, but it took forever to find a place where I could actually go through the steps of donating milk myself. Clearly there isn't enough awareness about the need for and importance of such a service. Talk about it. Tell your friends - especially if they're nursing or expecting. If they're interested, maybe they'll pass the word along or become donors themselves. IBMP has a goal of sending out 10,000 ounces of milk 4 times a year. According to their website "10,000 ounces will provide one bottle per day to 10 babies for 6 months..." Even if they meet their goal, that's either 2 bottles a day for 10 babies, or one bottle a day for 20. This is a huge, life altering help - but I bet those numbers could be even higher, and help babies all over the world, if enough people knew how easy it is to donate.