Pumping and Donating Breastmilk

You’re probably wondering why the photo above is related to breastmilk, but my logic is… that photo was from her 1 year birthday, and that’s when I started to wean, and thus it has everything to do with breastmilk! :p

Anyways…

A few months ago, I wrote about how I felt like my milk supply was dropping, to the point where A was not getting enough milk from me… Starting around 6.5 months, when A decided to go from 5 nursing sessions a day to 4, I started pumping every night before bed to keep up my supply. A lactation consultant had told me how different women’s breasts have different capacities for breastmilk, and everyone has to ‘empty’ their breasts a certain “magical number” of times for their body to keep up production with the needs of the baby. My ‘number’ was 5, since for months, we had been at 5 feedings and I wasn’t getting any clogged ducts, and A seemed 100% content. Anyways, in order to ‘empty’ my breasts 5x a day, I made up for A only nursing 4x by pumping 1x. I hated pumping every night, but for about 4 months, from September until January, every night, I sat myself down in front of the pump and pumped away. Back before I started pumping, I had entertained the thought of pumping for ‘fun’ so I could donate my milk to a milk bank, but I ended up deciding not to, who pumps for fun anyways?? But when I did start, and I had a feeling A wouldn’t end up drinking all that milk since she hated bottles, I felt better about pumping because I could donate it. I contacted the Mother’s Milk Bank in San Jose and asked them what the process looked like, and it seemed simple and safe enough.

  • Phone screen
  • Application / Medical History / Doctors’ approval
  • Blood test
  • Send in the milk!

The first step was a simple phone screen. Someone from the milk bank just asked me some general questions about myself and the baby. Lasted maybe a few minutes long. The next step was filling out the paperwork, which they emailed me. This was a bit more time consuming, but easy enough. They also sent out a form to A’s pediatrician as well as my OBGYN. After that, I had to get a blood test. This was probably the most annoying part of the process, as I had to go out of my way to go to a lab, and with a baby in tow, that’s not always the easiest thing. But the milk bank pays for all the lab fees, so really, it’s not that bad!

Once everything was sorted and I was ready to donate the milk (they ask that you have at least 100 oz to donate at a time), they send you a cooler with instructions inside. When you’re ready you just call the pick-up company and arrange a time for someone to pick up the cooler, pack up the milk, and ship it off!

Milk cooler provided by the milk bank.

I had no idea before, but apparently there’s a market to sell your milk, as well as something called casual milk sharing, and then also nonprofit milk banks. Although it seems like a nice idea to be able to make money while I pumped, in the end I decided to go with a milk bank… why? Well, it sort of freaked me out to be giving my milk to random people, where they don’t know my history and I don’t really know theirs. Even though the process to donate through a milk bank took longer, it was nice to know it was going towards babies that really needed it. It also made me feel safer knowing that they tested me, and they’d handle my milk carefully and they would test my milk and pasteurize it to make sure it was safe for any baby. While I would happily donate to someone in need, the thought of something happening to another baby because of the mishandling of my milk scared me! All in all, I’m really happy I decided to go with donating through a milk bank. After all, the babies that need breastmilk the most are probably premies or babies in the NICUs. Just last week, I completely weaned A (another post on that later!) and now that my breastfeeding journey is over, despite it’s rough start, I’m so thankful that I was able to breastfeed A for as long as I did, and donate over 300 ounces of milk!

Not the best way to organize, but did the job!

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