Breast milk donation is a wonderful thing. When deciding to donate breastmilk, a donor usually has two options; to directly donate her milk to someone in need, or to donate her milk to a milk bank. It is important for the donor to make a decision that she is comfortable with, and works out with her lifestyle.
Donating To Milk Banks
In the United States, as well as many other countries, there are facilities called milk banks. These banks acquire donated breast milk, put it through a pasteurization and sterilization process and then sell this milk to hospitals, and private individuals for use in infants, as well as sickly adults and children. This milk can become very expensive, ranging from $3 an ounce to as high as $7 an ounce.
There has been some controversy surrounding milk banks, especially concerning milk banks that are for-profit. Some people consider it unethical that the owners of the milk bank make a profit off of milk that is donated to them from kind-hearted women looking to help a babies in need. To others, it’s just part of living in a money driven society. There are non-profit milk banks as well, for those who do not wish to donate to a for-profit milk bank.
When you become a milk bank donor, you are generally required to give a medical background, as well as have a physical exam, blood work, STD screening, and the go-ahead from your doctor to donate milk. Most milk banks provide their donors with a pump, bags, supplies and labels for the milk, some milk banks do not. It all depends on which milk bank the donor goes through.
Milk donated to milk banks is for a good cause, however, many women opt not to donate to milk banks because they have a very emotional connection to their milk and when dealing with a milk bank, the woman never finds out who recieved her milk. She will never know if her milk went to a premature baby, a sick child, or an adult fighting cancer. Many donors feel uncomfortable with this lack of knowledge.
Donating milk is a very personal decision, and only the donor can decide what is right for her and what she feels comfortable doing. Every donor is different, and although one choice may be right for one woman, it may not be for another.
Direct Milk Donation
Direct milk donation, also known as milk sharing, is done on a more personal basis than donating to a milk bank is. In a direct donation situation, the donor meets her potential recipients, whether it’s in person, online or over the phone, and both she and the recipients discuss what kind of arrangement they are looking for. Many times, donors opt for direct donation because they have an emotional connection with their milk and they have a hard time just giving it away, not knowing where it will go. In a direct donor and recipient relationship, the donor may requests to see photos of their “milk baby” (the baby receiving the milk) and can keep in contact with the recipient family.
Unlike milk banks, direct donation milk is generally not put through the pasteurization and sterilization process. This can be a good and bad thing. Usually, direct donation milk is frozen and delivered or shipped to the recipients. Direct donation milk still has the antibodies from the mother’s body still in the milk, antibodies that would have been killed in the pasteurization and sterilization process at a milk bank. These antibodies are important and very good for the babies, however, due to the lack of sterilization, there’s the chance of passing infection, viruses and bacteria to the baby through the milk.
When considering a direct donor, it’s always a wise idea to request copies of recent blood work, STD screenings, and a written note from a doctor stating that he or she believes the patient is healthy enough to be a milk donor. Not all recipients ask, however, it’s a good idea for not only your peace of mind, but for the donors as well. Most donors doing this do so out of the goodness of their heart and would feel terrible if they unknowingly got a baby sick.