When I first started to plan this blog, I wanted to share information about breast feeding and breast milk.
As I battled through my own breastfeeding journey (read more here), I came across such interesting information on websites and in books and I wanted to share what I was discovering.
The statistics shocked me…The facts about formula angered me…More than anything I became incredibly passionate about the topic. I was certain that if other mums were aware of some of the theory, for example the virgin gut, they might look at formula in a different light. I imagined if people knew how common and painful some normal breastfeeding problems could be, then they might persevere longer knowing that they were not alone.
I also wanted to spread the word about milk banking and milk donation.
Basically…I wanted to change the world!
By the time I put pen to paper for my first post, I was well into my baby led weaning journey, friends were asking for my recipes and ideas, and so the outline of my blog started to change.
Anyway, just the other day I had a need to express some milk while I was away from the baby for a rare solo day trip. Although I don’t think he is taking as much of my milk as I try and thrust at him, I wanted to leave a good 5oz bottle with grandma just in case he was desperate.
I dusted off the Medela pump and started it up. It took me four separate sessions to collect a paltry 4 ounces of milk. I guess at nearly 11 months old, the little guy isn’t taking from me what he used to, mums’ milk production is going down!!
It has been a few months since we last donated milk to Kings College Hospital milk bank, and after my recent session with the breast pump, I don’t think we will be donating again any time soon.
But let me tell you a little bit about how donating breast milk can help…
Just 1oz (30ml) of breast milk will feed a tiny premature baby for a day and a half. We all know the benefits of breast milk, but it is especially helpful when the gut is underdeveloped as it is in a pre-term baby, the special balance of proteins are much easier to break down and absorb the nutrients from. It also actively helps fight off infections, giving those little babies all the help they can use.
So it is extra distressing for a mother, at a time when her milk is most important to her baby, that a she may be struggling to produce it, or maybe struggling to express it with the pressure of the situation.
That is where we we can help, us lactating mums.
People feel squeamish about sharing milk.
I would happily nurse a baby for a family member or a friend, I am that passionate about breast milk. But milk donation is a whole lot more civilised for those who may be worried!
Donors are screened, milk is tested and is flash pasteurised, briefly heated to destroy any lurking nasties.
The unit that I donated to at Kings College Hospital had a milk room overflowing with about to expire formula…mothers on the unit were so committed to breast milk that not one of them turned down the offer of donor milk.
I think that’s great!
How to donate?
There are many ways to donate, but here in the UK a great place to start is the UKAMB website. It is full of information on how to donate and how the milk is used. Follow the link here to a list of locations of milk banks.
I simply contacted a few of the hospitals closest to me and waited to hear back from them. Kings College Hospital were brilliant. They have a courier service (man on bike with freezer box) who, with a couple of days notice would deliver sterile bottles to me and collect my frozen milk.
The only time I had to make the trip to the hospital was for the coffee morning, hardly a chore, tea cake and meeting the fantastic team, Jude and Hayley, who showed us around the unit and explained exactly how every drop of our milk counts.
Please please please, consider donating your milk the next time you are in a milky situation
It really could help give a tiny baby the best start in life.