Milk Donation: Helping Babies in Need
Numerous respected health organizations agree that breast milk is the best option for a growing baby. However, there are times when a mother’s own breast milk needs to be supplemented. Instead of turning to formula, a viable option is to use donated breast milk.
Andrea Klotz, Registered Nurse and Lactation Consultant at Deaconess the Women's Hospital, shares that the bulk of the need for donated milk is in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). “Those babies are the most fragile, the most vulnerable; the ones we want to delay introducing formula and foreign proteins to if at all possible, but at least for a while.”
Additionally, newborns who are strong enough to avoid the NICU—but who might be struggling with feedings—are also recipients of donated milk. “Reasons would be if their blood sugar is a bit low or they're having trouble eating and latching. We just want to make sure they're getting enough,” adds Klotz.
Steps to Becoming a Donor
The hospital’s “milk depot” is one of about 65 across four states. The main milk bank is located in Indianapolis, which manages the approval process for donation. “They're actually pretty strict with it, because they want this milk to be the best it can for newborns,” states Klotz.
Approval involves a four-step process:
- Brief interview with the milk bank to identify any “disqualifiers” (e.g. certain medications).
- Follow-up questionnaire to explore one’s lifestyle preferences, as well as to give permission for the bank to contact both mother and baby’s healthcare providers (to ensure they’re healthy).
- Simple blood draw to check for blood-borne diseases.
- If clear on the blood labs, a donor number is provided for donation scheduling.
“That donor number is kind of the magic thing she needs to have in order to contact the Women's Hospital. Then she can arrange a time to bring in the milk. We store it in our freezers and usually ship about 2,000 ounces a month back up to the milk bank,” explains Klotz.
Would You Make a Good Donor?
Many of the women donating to the depot are working moms who are pumping anyway, and find they’re producing more milk than their baby needs. Also, moms whose babies were in the NICU often respond well to a pump, because they do so much of it early on.
“It’s a small amount of our donors, but we do sometimes get bereaved moms who have lost a baby… whether it was intrauterine demise, a very premature baby, or just lost unexpectedly, unfortunately, at some point in the breastfeeding journey,” shares Klotz. “The milk bank has a special program for those moms, and none of them are turned away if they don't meet the criteria. Those moms are very special.”
An Integral, Yet Rewarding Cause
As a professional—and a personal advocate, having been a donor herself—Klotz appreciates the women who donate to this integral cause.
“It is incredibly rewarding, and I'm fortunate that I'm surrounded by this every time I'm at work. I have the knowledge as a lactation consultant about how important breast milk is early on, especially with these fragile, vulnerable babies. It helps keep me motivated. It is a lot of dedication and hard work. But, we have a lot of babies that are in the NICU. This really helps them to thrive and helps their outcomes to be better.”
For more information, women interested in donating can call 812-842-4525 or visit www.deaconess.com/lactation
**To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Andrea Klotz, Registered Nurse and Lactation Consultant at Deaconess the Women's Hospital, follow this link: https://radiomd.com/deaconess/item/45286