Perhaps its simply my personality but I am completely neurotic about breastfeeding. I know all the benefits – breastfeeding is best. That is why, when I had my daughter, breastfeeding wasn’t just an option, it was the ONLY option. I would succeed at it – PERIOD. What resulted was a lactating cow. From the minute Ava was first able to nurse, I obsessed over her ability to latch on. Then it was her ability to stay awake during feedings – we often had to strip her down naked, place her skin to skin to wake her – and even that didn’t always work. Eventually we got into a rhythm. That rhythm was more like a frenzied dance. It became a competition with myself. I would feed and pump… eventually I mastered feeding and pumping at the same time… and later advanced to feeding on one boob, pumping the other and switching each feeding. It took me 9 months to get the right stride. This time around, I was thrilled that my son was an even better feeder than Ava could ever be. He took to the boob right away. He could get a let-down within seconds. He had a BIG appetite for a preemie! and at just less than 2 weeks old, I am producing milk like he was 9 months old. That amounts to 30-40 extra ounces of milk a day! I wince when I think of all the milk that I pumped with Ava, only to throw out months later because I simply didn’t need it. I nursed my daughter until a little after her 2nd birthday – and I intend to do the same for my son. So what to do with all this excess milk?!
I recently discovered milk banks. While there is much controversy and stigma surrounding shared breast milk, it really is a time old tradition, formerly called a wet nurse. Actress Salma Hayek recently caused a stir during a trip to Sierra Leone where she nursed an infant that was not her own. It was said she did more for humanity with her left boob than many have in a lifetime. In this case, you are providing milk for needy infants. I am currently qualifying for the International Breast Milk Project, a non-profit international humanitarian aid organization dedicated to finding solutions to help infants in urgent need get donor milk. In the past, IBMP has provided donor milk to infants in emergent need in South Africa, where an estimated 1.4 million children were orphaned due to HIV/AIDS in 2007. By the end of 2009, IBMP donors provided over 64,800 bottles of breast milk to infants in need in South Africa and an emergency shipment the Philippines after the catastrophic typhoon in October 2009.
In addition, there are non-profit milk banks such as the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, that work with IBMP, that distribute milk throughout the US to hospitals and other facilities that aid sick and premature newborns whose mother’s cannot provide breast milk but desire to. HMBANA is the only professional membership association for milk banks in Canada, Mexico and the United States and as such sets the standards and guidelines for donor milk banking for those areas. They have a list of non-profit milk banks across the United States who are all willing to accept surplus breast milk donation. Due to the holiday season, milk banks in the U.S. are at extremely low levels and need your help to meet the needs of recipient babies. Give the greatest gift this holiday season – Give Milk. Give Life. Give Hope.