Growth and Development: Donating Breast Milk in North Texas / If your baby’s bottle runneth over, consider donating the excess

Alexandra Kay
April 2016 in
March 28, 2016
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After Britt Bachmann’ son was born a year ago, the breast-feeding Fort Worth mom found herself producing more milk than her baby needed — or could ever drink. So after talking with a lactation consultant friend, she decided to donate the surplus to Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, which screens donated expressed milk for at-risk babies such as preemies in 100 neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) in 12 states.

“I was pumping all the time and getting 20 to 25 ounces per session,” says Bachmann, who has now donated roughly 10,000 ounces to date and plans to continue donating any excess for as long as she breast-feeds her son.

And Bachmann is not alone. In 2015, the bank approved 778 new donors and dispensed 552,761 ounces of breast milk to babies in need — up over 100,000 ounces from the previous year — all donated by breast-feeding moms with packed freezers like Bachmann.

Banking on it

Signing up is easy: You do a phone interview with the Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas in Fort Worth about your health and lifestyle and do a blood test every six months. The bank asks for a 100-ounce commitment over the time you’re breast feeding, says Mary Michael Kelley, executive director for the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), a professional association that offers guidelines for nonprofit milk donation.

After you’re cleared, you can drop off excess milk at one of the centers in Arlington, Bedford, Grapevine, Fort Worth, Mansfield, Dallas, Plano, Richardson, Rockwall or Denton. The milk is then pasteurized and screened for drugs like alcohol and nicotine as well as diseases such as hepatitis and HIV.

A doctor’s prescription is required to purchase the banked milk, so most goes to babies with medical needs — such as the critically ill babies in NICUs and babies with a birth weight of less than 3 pounds, 5 ounces.

According to Dr. Erin Hamilton Spence, co-medical director of Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas, donor milk actually helps premature babies ward off diseases like blindness, late-onset sepsis, chronic lung disease and necrotizing enterocolitis, a dangerous intestinal illness that can kill underweight newborns.

“While mother’s milk should always be the first choice, no matter how big the newborn is, donor milk should be second choice every time,” Spence says.

Crystal Chevalier couldn’t agree more. Her son, Ryan, now 3, sustained a brain injury at birth that had him in and out of the hospital for the first year of his life. The delicate infant needed help fighting pneumonia and had other medical issues too. Trial and error (under a doctor’s supervision) found Ryan’s issues subsided with breast milk. So the Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas provided donor milk for Ryan until just a few months after his 2nd birthday.

“He’s happy and healthy, and we attribute so much of that to his having that breast milk for the first 2 1/2 years of his life,” Chevalier says.

Bosom buddies

But what about the moms who survive breast cancer, those who suddenly see their supply plummet due to stress or sickness, or the couple who adopts a newborn? Are there any options for getting their babies breast milk if that’s what they choose?

Enter casual milk-sharing arrangements through online volunteer communities. Sites like Eats on Feets and Human Milk 4 Human Babies, both of which have Facebook pages that serve Texas parents, support the “Breast is Best” campaign and provide a platform where moms offer up their excess or make requests for milk. Both sites are strongly against the sale of breast milk. Instead, they encourage free sharing among mothers, something that’s been done for millennia.

While neither Eats on Feets nor Human Milk 4 Human Babies screens donors or checks milk for quality or contamination, both advise users to ask potential donors about their health and lifestyles, and/or offer to pay for a blood test to screen for herpes, syphilis, tuberculosis, cytomegalovirus, strep, staph, hepatitis and HIV. Also, compare birthdays. A mom’s milk changes over time to match her baby’s needs, so share with a mom with an infant close in age.

It should be noted, however, that while it’s completely legal to share breast milk online or among family and friends, the Food and Drug Administration — and the majority of the medical community — cautions against it because of the safety risks.

Yet the moms who used Dallas mom Melissa Porter’s extra milk didn’t worry at all. Porter was already donating to the local milk bank and was nursing her daughter when she offered her surplus (more than 400 ounces) to her sister and her sister’s friend, both of whom had insufficient supplies for their infants who wouldn’t latch.

“My sister’s friend didn’t ask about my lifestyle or health or anything, but she knew my sister, and she was accepting donations from other moms too,” says Porter, who gave because she could and because she didn’t think it was necessary to save frozen milk for her daughter, now older than a year, when an infant needed it more.

Because they can. That’s the resounding reason the moms we talked to gave for donating their extra milk. Don’t toss what Wired magazine once referred to as “liquid gold.” Instead give it away, whether it’s through a milk bank or through a more informal arrangement.

“It’s just one of the best things I think I’ll ever do in my life,” Bachmann says. “And I’m so blessed to be able to do it.”
Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas has drop sites in Dallas, Collin, Tarrant and Denton counties. Check the website for your nearest location, after you’ve been cleared, of course.
Fort Worth, 817/870-0071

Share your supply with neighbors on Eats on Feets Texas or Human Milk 4 Human Babies - Texas. 


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