Moms have a variety of reasons for choosing to become milk donors. Oftentimes, a mom produces more milk than her own baby needs and decides to help others with her oversupply. However, there are many moms who donate after the loss of their own baby.
Faced with tremendous grief, these mothers often have to address the process of lactation as well. Childbirth stimulates hormones that tell your body to make milk, even after a loss. Donating this milk in memory of a child can become part of the healing process.
“It helps them cope with their loss,” Samantha Suarez, MMBNT donor coordinator, said. “They are helping other moms who are not able to provide breastmilk to their own babies.”
At Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, these babies are honored on Carmen’s Tree. Located in the lobby, Carmen’s Tree is named after the baby of MMBNT’s first bereaved donor, Angela Mendoza. Each leaf on the tree bears the name and birth date of a baby whose mother donated in their memory. Additionally, each family receives a matching leaf.
“Carmen’s Tree gives donors something to look back on and honor what they’ve done by donating through their loss,” Samantha said.
Each person who passes through the doors at MMBNT sees this special memorial and is reminded of the selfless gift these mothers have given. It is a constant reminder of the strength of these donors and their ability to help others even after a tragic loss of their own. The MMBNT family is thankful for these donors and all that they do to help babies in need.
For more information about becoming a donor, click here.
Angela knows firsthand how important donor milk can be. After a “normal and healthy” pregnancy, her water broke six weeks early and her son Oliver was born at 34 weeks. His premature arrival had him whisked away to the NICU shortly after birth.
Oliver received donor milk while in the NICU as his first source of nourishment while Angela worked to establish her own milk production. He was able to go home after 11 days, and she was able establish a supply. In fact, Angela began to produce more breastmilk than Oliver needed. The NICU nurses informed her that she could donate her excess breastmilk to Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas.
“A donor fed my preemie when I couldn’t,” Angela said. “I wanted to be that person for a baby in need.”
Angela started the process to become a donor in November, and has already dropped off one donation. As she sets aside more for her next donation, she’s also perfecting her breastfeeding and pumping technique. She began with a very strict routine, feeding and pumping every three hours, but has become more baby-led as Oliver has gotten older.
“With preemies, you have to follow a 2.5 to 3 hour feeding schedule as you don’t have that flexibility at first, but as your baby grows to full term, they instinctively adapt their own eating habits,” she said.
For preemie parents who are breastfeeding like her, Angela encourages them to stay strong. “It does get easier and it’s totally worthwhile,” she said.
Today, Oliver is a happy, healthy 7 month old who is thriving after his premature start. Angela is thankful for the moms who made it possible for Oliver to receive donor milk, and is happy to do the same for others in need.
For more information about becoming a milk donor, click here.
Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas experienced another great year of helping babies in need in 2016. Once again, the number of ounces dispensed increased from the previous year, meaning infants received more MMBNT donor milk than ever before.
In 2016, donor coordinators approved 757 milk donors. These moms learned about milk donation on social media, at hospitals, from their friends and in many other ways. Outreach to potential donors is important, as mothers are only breastfeeding for a limited time and new donors are always needed. MMBNT has a strong online presence, including the website and Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, to connect with donors and potential donors in ways that are convenient for them. Additionally, hospitals, doctors’ offices, clinics and depots distribute new mom packets to inform potential donors of milk donation.
We dispensed 564,055 ounces of donor human milk in 2016. That’s more than 11,000 more ounces than in 2015, continuing the trend of increasing dispensation every year. Eighty percent of our donor milk was dispensed by physician prescription in 131 hospital NICUs, while 20 percent was prescribed to medically fragile babies at home. For the babies we serve, donor milk can be lifesaving. It is the standard of care for premature infants with severe feeding problems, intestinal malformations and life-threatening complications such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC).
Additionally, we added 6 new depots in 2016. These include several added in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and even one in Georgia. These locations make milk donation convenient for donor moms who don’t live near the MMBNT office. Moms can drop off their donations to their local depots, which safely store the milk in a designated freezer until it is picked up or sent to MMBNT.
We’re thankful for a successful 2016, and are looking forward to helping even more babies in 2017!
For more information about Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.
For Natalie, working with breastfeeding mothers and babies runs in the family. Her mother is a lactation consultant, so she knew of the benefits of breastmilk long before joining the staff at Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. Now, she uses that knowledge and her own expertise to help others.
MMBNT’s recent growth has allowed Natalie to work in various facets of milk bank operations, but she now holds the title of Recipient Coordinator. In this role, she serves as a primary liaison between MMBNT and all outpatient donor milk recipients.
She spends much of her day updating outpatient files, which includes calling recipients’ parents and talking to them about their children’s progress and answering any questions they may have. When onboarding a new recipient, she will spend time gathering paperwork, recording medical information and introducing the recipient’s parents to the world of using donor milk.
This position has become increasingly important as the recipient program has expanded. “Since I started working, the number of outpatient recipients we have has tripled,” Natalie said.
While most of her day focuses on recipients, Natalie does help when things get busy in the logging and packing rooms. She is always willing to log in recently received milk donations, or assist with packing orders to be sent to hospitals and outpatients. That is one thing she enjoys about working at MMBNT – there is never a dull moment, and there is always something to work on or help with.
The close-knit and supportive community of employees is something Natalie finds special to MMBNT. “Although we all have very different areas of expertise, we all work together for one important mission,” she said.
For more information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.
For many families, the holiday season means travel season. And if you’re a breastfeeding mom, those holiday trips can get a little more complicated. Whether you’re hitting the road or catching a flight, here are some great reminders and tips for traveling with breastmilk.
Pumped breastmilk stored in a small, insulated cooler with frozen ice packs will stay fresh for 24 hours. Keep these storage guidelines in mind: freshly expressed milk is safe at room temperature (60-85 degrees Fahrenheit) for 4 to 6 hours. Refrigerated milk should be used or frozen within 24 hours. Breastmilk can be frozen for up to 3 months in a regular freezer and up to 6 months in a deep freezer.
Airports and Breastmilk
As an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) has the following regulations regarding traveling with breastmilk:
Breastmilk, along with formula and juice, can be carried in quantities larger than 3.4 ounces (100 mL) and does not need to fit within a quart-sized bag. It should be separated from other liquids, gels and aerosols that are limited to 3.4 ounces.
When you go through security, inform the TSA officer that you are carrying breastmilk in excess of 3.4 ounces.
Breastmilk is typically screened by X-ray. The FDA states that there are no known adverse effects from consuming food or drink screened by X-ray. However, if you do not want it to be screened this way, inform the TSA officer and alternative steps can be taken to clear the liquid.
Ice packs and other accessories used to cool breastmilk are allowed in your carry-on. They are subject to the same screening as described above if they are partially frozen or slushy.
For more information, visit the TSA website.
If traveling internationally, research the regulations at each international airport you visit. Different countries have varying policies regarding breastmilk.
For information about Mothers' Milk Bank of North Texas, click here.