Breast Milk Donor Banks: A Life Saver For Babies In Need

Breast milk donor banks have become increasingly popular for mothers who — for one reason or another — cannot feed baby themselves.

Not many realize it, but there are women out there who pump milk to help babies in need and donate their breast milk to organizations which distribute them to hospitals or individuals. The stored milk is used mostly to help premature babies, who are most at risk than any other, and many times are not able to be fed the natural way.

Such was the case with new mom Claudia Lozano, of Madison, Wisconsin, who, in her 26th week of pregnancy, went into labor. Tiny John Sebastian was born, weighing just two-pounds, six-ounces, and was immediately hooked up to a breathing machine and feeding tube.

Claudia spent 12 weeks in the NICU with baby John and had to wait an entire week just to hold him in her arms. Hospital staff fed little John breast milk from a donor bank, because Claudia’s milk supply had not come in at the time of his birth and she wanted to breastfeed him.

“Breast milk is easier, much easier to digest than formula. A lot of premature babies have digestive issues. Premature babies have a higher risk of infection. Because their immune system is particularly immature, formulas and supplements can’t provide the antibodies and other benefits that breast milk has.”

Maybe because of the stress of having a premature baby in the NICU, but Claudia was never able to breastfeed her baby herself. That’s when she came across donated breast milk from the local organization, Mother’s Milk Alliance.

“Him being premature, he was at risk of other problems. Mother’s milk was going to be the best thing I could feed him.

I just couldn’t believe it, I couldn’t believe it! I was thrilled that there are women out there willing to pump just to give milk to other babies. That’s incredible.”

Katy Kaufman, a volunteer with Mother’s Milk Alliance, founded in 2007 to cover a need in the area, says they currently have almost 3,000 ounces of breast milk from nine different donors.

“A lot of our recipients are receiving really great lactation support. They’re trying to do everything they can possibly do to breastfeed their own babies and for whatever reason, it’s not working out.”

Last year, the organization collected almost 40,000 ounces of breast milk in Dane County and gave it to 60 different babies in need, and it’s all thanks to local moms like Sarah Brown, according to NBC 15.

“I think breastfeeding is really special,” Brown explains, while holding her son.

“It’s something every mother should have the decision on whether they want to do it, and for somebody not to have that choice makes me really sad.”

Even though Sarah is not in need of breast milk from a stranger, she has pumped extra milk and donated it so other babies can have access to what has be determined to be the perfect food for newborns. But the important thing for her is that the milk is donated, otherwise families that are truly in need would never be able to afford one ounce of breast milk at $4, the price it costs to feed an infant.

Baby John is now four-and-a-half months old and, because he was born 14-weeks premature, his true age is only five weeks. Thanks to the breast milk donated by women like Sarah, he has access to five to six feedings per day.

“I’m just grateful, what can I say. There were so many hurdles,” says Claudia with a smile, “Yes I wasn’t able to carry a pregnancy to nine months, and yes, I’m not able to breastfeed as I wanted to, but he’s healthy. He’s being fed breast milk anyway, and he’s thriving.”

Would you feed your baby breast milk from a donor bank?

[Image via NBC 15]