Milk Bank and One Year of Breastfeeding
While Otis turned 1-year-old a few weeks ago, it also marked one whole year of breastfeeding (a feat in which I wasn't always confident I would achieve) and my retirement from being a milk donor! Coincidentally, that same week I completed my dietetic internship rotation at the Mother's Milk Bank of Austin where I was also a donor. It was an absolute privelege and eye-opening experience to be able to see the milk donor process full circle - from dropping off bottles of milk, to the pasteurization and mixing of milk in the lab, to the final delivery of that liquid gold to preemie babies in the NICU. The care and dedication taken at each step in the process was astonishing and made me so grateful to be a part of the team, if only for a little bit.
Human donor milk is an invaluable lifeline for prematurely born babies, high-risk infants (low-birth weight, health conditions, etc), as well as older babies who can only tolerate human milk or who have malabsorption issues. The baby's mother's own milk is definitely the most desirable option for these infants but in many cases due to low supply and other circumstances that involve being in the hospital, mom can't always keep up with the demand of their newborn. The next best option is donor human milk, not only because of its nutritional profile but also its antibodies and enzymes (that can't be replicated by formula), and this is where a milk bank comes in!
Human milk banks receive milk from mom's who have an over supply or excess supply of milk and pass a screening process. From there milk is thawed and poured into flasks where samples are taken to determine nutritional profile of the milk. This assures that doctor's are able to prescribe donor milk and are assured of the calorie and protein content (this is very important for at-risk infants). After milk is pasteurized, bacteriological cultures are taken to assure the absence of bacteria. Finally, after much dedication and hard work, the final milk is dispensed to hospitals and outpatients babies. There it helps babies grow to their best ability, fight illness due to milk's immune supporting properties, and prevent specific diseases (NEC) where human milk feedings are the best preventative measure!
The largest milk bank in the country is Mother's Milk Bank of Austin (that support many other milk-banks across the country), who are a non-profit, and rely on financial donations and of course mother milk donors! To learn more or become a donor visit their website or search for a milk bank in your area. It was an honor to be a part of this organization, something I will definitely be telling Otis about when he is a bit older!