Breast milk donation banks have existed since the 1980s. Today they are used for providing lifesaving mother’s milk to newborn babies, who are in desperate need….
Human milk banks were set up in order to provide breast milk to deprived newborns. When we mention deprived, it includes children from underdeveloped and famine struck nations of the world where mothers themselves are so impoverished that they do not have any or very little breast milk to feed their newborns. Secondly, the human milk banks were also set up for babies who were born prematurely and could not breast feed yet.
Thirdly, the milk is meant for babies whose mothers haven’t yet begun lactating because of premature delivery and need a few more weeks. Fourthly, this milk is also used for feeding babies whose mothers are ill, and are at the risk of transferring their illness to their baby, through their own breast milk. Finally, it is also meant for those mothers who have lost their babies at the time of delivery, due to illness or other unfortunate reasons and wish to donate their milk in order to help other babies in need.
Importance of Breast Milk
Breast milk consists of white blood cells and leukocytes, which helps create resistance against infections in babies. This milk is also rich in whey and casein proteins which make it easier for the baby to digest this milk. Mother’s milk contains other proteins such as lactoferrin, secretory IgA, lysozyme and bifidus factor, all of which play vital roles in protecting the infant from infections and diseases.
Babies must be breastfed for 6 months to a year at least. However, many women due to changes in lifestyle do not prefer to continue with breastfeeding beyond the first 4-5 months, after which they go in for artificially manufactured baby food alternatives. Health experts advice against it, and insist that babies be fed until they are a year old. Nonetheless their advice is going in vain.
Breast Milk Banks
Human milk banks have been set up all over the world, and there are many banks spread all over America. These milk banks are extremely particular and require that the donating mother go through certain mandatory tests and follow certain instructions before donating milk. Here are some being mentioned below:
- The milk can be donated once 6 months of natural breastfeeding has been completed.
- The donor mother should not smoke cigarettes, or have alcohol traces in her milk. Alcohol stays in breast milk for many hours after consumption and takes even longer to leave the system. Which is why women who wish to donate their milk must not drink for a week before donation.
- The donor will be tested for diseases, and only then will her milk be accepted.
- Mothers willing to donate their milk can either deliver the milk to the banks or have the milk frozen and send through FedEx etc.
- This milk is then thawed and mingled so as to extract samples for bacteria culture.
- After which it undergoes pasteurization, at 145º for 30 minutes. This helps kill all the germs and bacteria which may have developed in the milk. This is a safety measure taken in order to check the quality of the milk, and ensure the health of the baby who will be consuming it.
- Thereafter the milk is placed into ice baths and a second culture is taken.
- The bottles are sealed and securely held in a freezer till the time the results of the culture return.
- If the milk is free of contamination, it will be sold to whoever needs it within a week.
- The bank will also pay the cost of shipping if the milk has to be transferred to far off places.
- These banks charge the milk purchaser $4.50 per ounce.
How to Donate Breast Milk
- Remember that mothers can apply for donating their milk only after they have completed 6 months of breastfeeding.
- If for some unfortunate reason, they wish to donate milk sooner, they must state their reasons for the generous gesture.
- If they wish to donate milk, to a milk bank. They can apply to any online milk bank website. There they will need to fill an application.
- They will need to fill a questionnaire containing 49 parts which will contain all the necessary health related questions.
- After which, if their form is accepted, they will be called for certain blood tests.
- A thorough health check up will be conducted by the milk bank itself, at their own expense. The donor will not be required to pay for these tests. They will check the donor’s blood for diseases. The check tests for HIV 1 and HIV 2, syphilis, hepatitis B and C and human T-lymphotropic virus.
- The milk can either be expressed within the bank or it can be submitted in bottles.
If you wish to participate in the breast milk donation campaign, you will need to follow the instructions mentioned by the bank and follow it to the point. Even tiny errors can damage the milk and make it unfit for a baby, which is why you’ll need to be extra cautious.