Thursday, October 2, 2008

a new use for breastmilk?

about a week ago, people for the ethical treatment of animals (PETA) asked ben&jerry's to replace the cow's milk in their ice cream with human breast milk. this was, quite obviously a publicity stunt, and it's old news, so why am i blogging about it?  to promote one of my favorite causes - milk banking!  the human milk banking association of north america (HMBANA) was established in 1985 to promote, protect and support d onor milk banking.  basically, moms can donate their extra milk to a local milk bank that meets HMBANA standards.  that milk is then screened, homogenized and pasteurized.  recipients are infants who cannot have their own mother's milk (perhaps because of inadequate supply, medication/medical condition) and who have a special need for human breast milk (digestive problems, failure to thrive, prematurity, allergies, etc.).  much of the milk is distributed to neo-natal intensive care units in hospitals, and other babies can receive donor milk with a prescription.

my daughter was born 7 weeks early and spent 5 1/2 weeks in the nicu.  luckily, i was able to establish a good milk supply, so she didn't need donor milk.  in fact, i had the opposite "problem" - i was strictly pumping for the first couple weeks and ended up with a big oversupply of milk.  at first i thought i'd save it for when i went back to work, but i soon discovered that, unless i bought a dedicated freezer, there was no way i could store it all and store it safely for that long.  so i became a milk donor.  but, i have to confess, it wasn't just our of the kindness of my heart.  the milk bank provided me with containers - which can get expensive, especially if you want to store large quantities for a long period of time - and lent me a fancy (hospital-grade) electric breastpump (medela's lactina plus - way nicer than what i could afford, and i ended up not having to buy a pump at all). i made my last donation when she was 10 months old and, altogether, donated about 1100 ounces.

so, if you are fortunate enough to have extra milk (remember that lactating burns lots of calories too!), please think about donating it.  it is very easy to become a donor.  you just need to go through a blood screening (at the bank's expense) and provide a short medical history.  the bank will also check with your physician and your child's pediatrician for approval.  many banks will also cover the cost of shipping your milk if there is not one nearby.  even if you just spend 10 more minutes each day pumping, that will make a huge difference for a needy baby out there.

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