Michelle from Birmingham, Alabama, donated her extra breastmilk a few years ago after the birth of her daughter, Neva. In the following story, originally published in December 2015, Michelle shares the story of Neva’s birth on Christmas Day and her experience as a milk donor.
My daughter, Neva, was born on Christmas morning last year. I was committed to letting her come when she was ready, even if that meant arriving on Christmas Day. My family had been asking me for weeks if they should come to Birmingham for Christmas or wait until she arrived to travel from Memphis (about a 4 hour drive). Everyone arrived at our house on Christmas Eve, we had a great meal and went to bed.
My labor started around 3 a.m. We headed to the hospital and she was here right on time – 9:42 a.m. on Christmas morning. Our son had just turned 2, so Santa decided to wait two more days to come… until we could all be home together. As our kids get older, we will have to come up with a better plan for making her birthday celebration special and separate from other family traditions and events. (Luckily we have time to figure that out!)
Breastfeeding has become such an important part of my identity. The more you learn about it and the benefits, the more passionate you become, and the more you want to share what you know with others. I think it’s much easier to “trust your body” when you know what to expect and have an understanding of the science behind the process. There are great evidence-based online resources and books. I also really appreciated my mom’s advice, “Drink a tall glass of water every time you nurse or pump.”
I found out about MMBNT through efforts to establish a local milk bank depot in Birmingham. After the birth of my son (3 years ago), I joined a breastfeeding support group and affiliated Facebook group. The moms in the group often talked about formal and informal ways to share and donate milk. The screening process to become a donor was very smooth. There are several steps, but they are all easy and it was a much easier process than I would have thought. I think some people hear the word “labs” and expect something very involved, but I just stopped by a local LabCorp site less than a mile from my house and was in and out in 15 minutes. Very easy.
I have been lucky to have a good supply for both of my kids and made the decision to tandem nurse them for the first 10 months or so of my daughter’s life. Now that I am no longer tandem nursing, I look forward to having more milk to donate in the year ahead.
To learn more about becoming a milk donor, click here.
If you’re traveling this holiday season, a breastfeeding routine can make those plans a bit more complicated. We’re here to help! Below are some basic tips and information about airport security, as well as advice from moms with breastmilk travel experience.
Advice from Moms
“Some hotels allow you to put your milk in their real freezers in the kitchen so they freeze solid!” – Kristen M.
“Some airports will stop you if your ice pack is not fully frozen. Leave a bit of extra time for security.” – Kristian H.
“Allow a little extra time when flying because security will pull you aside because of the liquid. And most places will gladly give you a bag of ice to keep your milk cold or warm water if you need to warm it.” – Heather P.
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.
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 and don’t need to fit within a quart-sized bag. They should be separated from other liquids, gels and aerosols that are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 mL).
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 by X-ray, 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, please visit the TSA website.
If traveling internationally, research the regulations at each international airport you visit. Different countries have varying policies regarding breastmilk.
It’s a season of change for milk banking. Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas is in the middle of a capital campaign and construction of a new facility, while its professional association, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) welcomes an exciting change as well. Recently, HMBANA announced Lindsay Groff as its new executive director.
Lindsay joined the HMBANA team in early November, coming from her previous position as executive director of the Barth Syndrome Foundation. She will be responsible for setting HMBANA’s vision and improving operations as well as implementing the newly adopted strategic objectives of the organization.
“HMBANA has experienced a tremendous amount of growth; the demand is on the rise for milk, and the number of milk banks is also on the rise,” Lindsay said. “What I hope for my position is to bring members together and show member benefits in creating a sisterhood of milk banks where we can accomplish more by working together.”
As a mother of a medically fragile child herself, Lindsay understands the importance of breastmilk. Her daughter, Charlotte, had an abdominal wall defect at birth and spent time in the NICU. Lindsay’s breastmilk provided Charlotte with the nutrition she needed to grow and thrive. Now, Lindsay will work toward the goal of providing donor milk for other fragile babies like Charlotte.
The staff at MMBNT are excited to welcome Lindsay into the milk banking family, and look forward to the future with her at the helm.
Cassandra’s experience with donor milk has come full circle. In 2009, her son was born 9 weeks early due to HELLP Syndrome. Because of her medical complications, she was unable to provide him with her own breastmilk for the first few days of his life. Donor milk gave him the nourishment he needed until Cassandra could take over.
Today, Cassandra’s son is a happy and healthy 8 year old, and there’s a new addition to the family as well – 5 month-old daughter Colbie. When Cassandra realized she had an oversupply of breastmilk this time around, she knew she wanted to donate it to help other babies like her son.
“I love that I am able to pay it forward,” she said. “I know someone else made the selfless decision and donated milk for my son. It feels good to have the opportunity to do the same for someone else.”
It also feels good to have the whole family together, something that Cassandra’s family has been waiting for. Cassandra’s husband was activated for deployment to Afghanistan as soon as she found out she was pregnant. While he couldn’t be there in person, he did attend Colbie’s birth via Skype. The family had a quick visit in September, where he met 3 month-old Colbie for the first time, before his return earlier this month.
While Cassandra’s experience may seem unique, she has advice that can be helpful for many breastfeeding and pumping moms. She encourages moms to be patient, and to use the resources available to them. “Educate yourself. Ask questions. Talk with other nursing moms,” she said. “There isn’t one thing that I have questioned or experienced that someone else didn’t reassure me that they experienced too!”
For more information about donating milk, click here.
Producing a plentiful amount of breastmilk is nothing new to Mandy. After the birth of her oldest child, now 4, she never stopped lactating. “Even two years after I stopped pumping, I was still making milk,” she said. “I only stopped producing when I got pregnant again!”
When her second son, Jeremiah, was born, Mandy already had a lot of knowledge surrounding breastfeeding and breastmilk. Despite all her experience, round 2 of breastfeeding came with its own set of challenges. Jeremiah had acid reflux as a newborn and needed special modifications to his diet, which required Mandy to pump and feed him with a bottle. The reflux went away, but Jeremiah only wanted breastmilk from the bottle, so Mandy became an exclusive pumper.
A friend soon realized how much milk Mandy had stored in her freezer, and suggested she look into donating it to Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas. She completed the screening process and began dropping off her donations twice a week at her local depot, Arlington Green Oaks WIC Clinic. Now 19 months into her donor experience, she’s donated more than 41,000 ounces of breastmilk to medically fragile babies.
Mandy sees her abundance of breastmilk as a gift. “I believe that God has chosen me to be an overproducer so that I can bless so many fragile babies,” she said.
For the smallest of infants, one ounce of milk can provide up to three feedings. That means Mandy’s fed babies in need approximately 123,000 times.
“To know that I am feeding so many babies in addition to my own is a true blessing,” she said.
To learn more about donating milk, click here.