By Ali Weatherford

If you’re about to have a baby, have one that you are currently breastfeeding, or know someone who is, you have the opportunity to help others through breast milk donation.

Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin is the largest non-profit milk bank in the world. And it’s been right here helping babies since 1999.

What is a Milk Bank?

A milk bank is like a blood bank. Prospective milk donors go through a screening process and, when approved, supply the bank with their surplus breast milk.

We are very fortunate to have the Mother’s Milk Bank in Austin, TX, but they also work with donors nationwide who don’t have milk collection sites nearby. This organization works hard to provide preterm and sick babies in the NICU with human breast milk.

For a variety of reasons, mothers are sometimes not available or not able to provide their babies with their own milk. It is an undisputed fact that these babies do much better on human milk, so the milk bank steps in with a supply of donor milk.

Mother’s Milk Bank gets human milk through donations. First, donors are screened. Next, donors send their surplus milk to the milk bank where it is pasteurized and processed for food safety. From there it’s sent to partner hospital NICUs.

Why Donate to the Milk Bank?

Most of this milk is given to fragile or sick babies because it makes a big difference in their rates of survival and recovery. This milk SAVES LIVES. An interesting fact is that this location gets only a small percentage of its donor milk from donors in Austin. They need more donors! New donors are always needed since people only lactate for a certain amount of time before the supply is gone. Then they can no longer help.

When there is plenty of donor milk and the hospitals are fully stocked, milk banks can then offer any surplus milk to the community at a cost. People who are unable to provide breast milk to their babies can pick some up at the milk bank!

How to Make a Breast Milk Donation

You may decide to commit, in advance, to collect your milk with the purpose of donating it. More often, however, milk is donated after donors realize they have more in their freezers than they’ll be able to use. Rather than throw it out, donate it! It will be accepted even if it’s been in the freezer for up to 8 months.

The minimum donation amount is 100 oz. That’s just 16.5 6-oz. bags of milk! By saving just one 6oz container per week, you could have a donation ready in 4 months. Just one of those little 6 oz bags can be enough to nourish a baby in the NICU for a whole day.

There are many ways to make this work for you! If you have plenty of milk to share:

  • You can pump specifically to put milk aside for donation.
  • You can donate your freezer leftovers.
  • You can also use a product like the Haakaa or a Milkies Milk Saver to capture your leaks. These devices catch the leaking milk from your other breast while you feed your baby, making it sometimes unnecessary to do any extra pumping.

If just 1 in 10 breastfeeding people donated milk, all at-risk babies could get the nourishment they need to overcome their circumstances.

To learn more or to donate, visit the Mother’s Milk Bank website.

Our articles are not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

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