Got breast milk to spare? Denver milk bank is in desperate need.

The freezers are nearly empty at a Denver milk bank, which is experiencing its lowest supply ever in the bank’s 25-year history. The Mother’s Milk Bank at Presbyterian St. Luke’s hospital is one of only 10 milk banks in the country that collects breast milk from mothers across the country and delivers it to sick and premature babies. The shortage has been due in part to a rough flu season and an increased need from hospitals and parents seeking breast milk.

If you are wondering in this day and age, with formula readily available, why milk banks are so important, there’s information in this article, Banking on Breast milk. The majority of milk from the milk banks goes to babies who are sick or need milk because of medical conditions such as formula intolerance or feeding issues related to prematurity. Unlike formula, breast milk contains immunologic properties to help fight infection and illness.

Milk banks exist because many babies will not thrive without human milk. Infants with failure to thrive (FTT), formula intolerance, allergies and certain other medical conditions may require real human milk for health and even for survival.

A typical candidate for donor breast milk might be a formula-fed infant that exhibits prolonged episodes of inconsolable crying, ongoing vomiting and classic allergy signs such as purple or black circles under the eyes, pallor, skin inflammation, lethargy and frequent or bloody stools. Another typical candidate might be a premature infant whose mother cannot (or cannot yet) supply breast milk.

All donors to Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) member milk banks undergo a screening process that begins with a short phone interview. Donor mothers are women who are currently lactating and have surplus milk. Donor mothers must be:

  • In good general health
  • Willing to undergo a blood test (at the milk bank’s expense)
  • Not regularly using medication or herbal supplements (with the exception of progestin-only birth control pills or injections, Synthroid, insulin, pre-natal vitamins; for other exceptions, please contact a milk bank for more information)
  • Willing to donate at least 100 ounces of milk; some banks have a higher minimum

The Denver milk bank welcomes donors both local and out of state
For donating mothers who don’t live near Denver, the milk bank ships supplies and a box with dry ice to mail the milk. Mothers are not paid for donating. Also, the HMBANA milk banks will often loan pumps to donor moms if they don’t have one of their own.

I donated milk to the Denver milk bank when my son Julian was a baby and had previously donated to a local mom directly when Ava was a baby. I’ve been blessed with a plentiful supply and was happy to do what I could to help others. Although I wasn’t able to collect as much as I had hoped, it all adds up.

Brandie also pumped her milk for the Iowa milk bank. She describes the process she went through when she donated nearly 400 oz.(!!) to the milk bank in 2003. As she packed up the cooler to mail her milk in, she couldn’t help but get emotional.

I was sending a piece of myself off in that cooler. Lots of hours of pumping (or at least what felt like lots of hours). I cried. As silly as that sounds, I did. I thought about how that milk might go to feed another baby and help another family – who for whatever reasons needed breast milk for their baby and couldn’t provide it themselves. I thought about how when so many around me thought breastfeeding your own baby was gross, disgusting, something only to be done behind closed doors where no one would have to actually see it, there were people out there who so firmly believed in it that they would use my milk to feed their babies.

Jodi, Milk Donor Mama, and Cate Nelson have all been milk donors too.

Emily from Et Cetera recently found herself with a surplus of pumped milk. As her freezer stash grew, she began to get concerned that it would expire before it was consumed. That’s when she learned about breast milk banking. She’s signed up to be a donor and encourages others to as well. “Why let your extra breast milk go to waste? Share it with a baby who desperately needs it. And even if you can’t donate, you can get involved. The more people know about milk banks, the more babies will thrive.”

A doctor’s prescription is required to receive breast milk from a HMBANA milk bank.

Deanne Walker of Colorado Springs received donor milk from Mother’s Milk Bank at Presbyterian St. Luke’s hospital for her twin boys who were born 10 weeks premature. In addition to the babies being born early, Deanne had several infections which dramatically affected her milk supply. I spoke with Deanne via email where she pointed out the importance of breast milk for preemie babies.

When babies are born prematurely the mother’s milk is different – it’s called super preemie milk loaded with even more protein, antibodies and dense nutrition than regular breast milk. Preemies need the extra nutrition because their digestive tracts are not fully developed, they are so small and need to grow more rapidly, and also because they are so much more prone to infections in those early weeks. Formula just cannot deliver the nutrition and antibodies provided by nature.

Deanne is thankful for the donor milk her now thriving 3 1/2 year old sons received until her supply was established enough to provide full feedings for them, but wishes it was covered by her insurance like formula was. (Note: Medical insurance sometimes covers the cost of donor milk when there is a demonstrated medical need for the milk on the part of the infant.) She and her husband had to cash in their retirement account to pay for the milk. The cost of breast milk from the Denver milk bank is currently $3.50 per ounce (which covers the donor screening, processing of the milk, etc.), which adds up very quickly especially when feeding more than one baby.

Please see the information below if you have breast milk to spare and would like to help babies in need. Or if you are looking for a worthy place for your tax-deductible donation, please consider making a donation to a milk bank. The HMBANA milk banks are non-profit organizations and depend on community and private donations to keep the doors open.

Information on donating or receiving breast milk:

Edited on 1/26/10 to add:
This morning the United States Breastfeeding Committee released a statement and urgent call for human breast milk for premature infants in Haiti. The first shipment is getting ready to go out to the U.S. Navy ship Comfort. You can read the entire statement and find out how you can donate by reading Give Them Roots blog about it: URGENT: Milk Donations for Haiti Infants. Thank you!

Cross-posted on BlogHer.

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Did we learn anything from the Nestle Family Twitter-storm?

Remember my post from a couple years ago about the Nestle boycott*, the boycott that has been going on since the ’70s? Well, today the boycott and all of Nestle’s alleged crimes against humanity were brought to the forefront due to the #NestleFamily blogger event and the power of social media.

Photo courtesy Rahego
Photo courtesy Rahego

It started when Annie from PhDinParenting wrote An open letter to the attendees of the Nestle Family blogger event. If you don’t know about Nestle’s history, I suggest you go read that first. As Annie said there and I will repeat here, “This is not about what you chose to feed your babies. If you formula fed, whether by choice or by necessity, that is none of my business. That said, the marketing and advertising of formula has been linked to the deaths of millions of babies every year.”

As the event got underway today, the tweets began to fly on Twitter. While many civilly debated the issues at hand (unethical marketing of formula to developing countries where there isn’t access to clean water, child slave labor in the chocolate industry, the bottled water), others (from both sides of the debate) turned to name calling and snark. Still others tried to turn it into a debate of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding, ignoring the real issue at hand – Nestle’s unethical business practices.

The bloggers who choose to attend the #NestleFamily event were caught in the middle. Some relayed the concerns and questions from the Twitterverse to Nestle, while others Tweeted about which Nestle candy they liked best.

The chatter on Twitter went on for hours before @NestleFamily (who had no social media team) finally stepped in and tried to field some of the questions themselves instead of depending on the #NestleFamily event attendees to do it for them. It was reminiscent of the #MotrinMoms debacle except Motrin responded with apologies and corrected their infraction. I have my doubts that a conversation with a bunch of bloggers at this point in time is going to bring about any real changes with with a company like Nestle that has been conducting business unscrupulously for more than 30 years. I’d love to see them prove me wrong though.

Others have written more about this, like Julia from Forty Weeks who wrote On missing the mark:

To me this is a case study for poor planning, short-sighted thinking and other classic marketing errors. What is clear to me is that there was no strategic or top-level thinking applied to this horrific play for Moms on the part of Nestle.

This is a stunning example of why those who are involved with marketing to women and in specific, social media need to have well grounded leader managing their strategy.

Nestle has lost control of the conversation – in fact the conversation that is being had is not only off-message (one would assume) but the defense of Nestle has been left in the hands of those least qualified to handle it — the bloggers who answered their call and came for a few days of fun. This is damaging to the brand on a profound level (obviously) and leaves these bloggers in an untenable position. Feeling loyal, under attack, not knowing facts, frankly over their heads and outside of any normal scope of engagement for an event like this.

Annie at PhDinParenting said:

I think there is an opportunity for Nestle, as a leader in the food industry, to take a leadership role on this issue. At a minimum it should start abiding by the law in all countries where it operates and not just the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law. But ideally, in order to rectify some of the damage that its past practices have caused, it should go above and beyond what the law requires.

Christine at Pop discourse wrote On Bloggers, Breastfeeding, Formula, Morality, Change, & the Nestle Family Event and talks about why she chose not to attend the #NestleFamily event and how all of this impacts blogger relations in general.

MommyMelee wrote a great post called thinking outside the hashtag about ways you can take action.

I encourage people who are upset to research ways they can help, whether it’s through positive activism and awareness, donating time, or donating money.

So what did we learn?
I have to admit I found myself very frustrated as I read Tweets from both sides today. The name calling, the inappropriate jokes, and the total disregard for the serious nature of Nestle’s infractions are the kinds of things that make “mommybloggers” look like raving lunatics. But I also saw a lot of civil debating, people keeping an open mind and presenting information and their positions without attacking and that part – that part was awesome. It’s the respectful discussion that is going to raise awareness and bring about change, not the snark, not the name calling. Let’s keep up the awesome part – the dialogue, the desire to effect change. The awesomeness will bring about good things in the world. :) (Oh, and if you are a large corporation – hint, hint Nestle, please jump on the social media bandwagon NOW. You are missing out on a lot and doing yourself and those who want to engage you a disservice if you don’t.)

If you’ve written about this Nestle event, please leave me your link in the comments. I hope to put a list together. Thanks! In the meantime, please check out this Anthology of #NestleFamily Activist Blogs put together by @BestforBabes.

*Please note: there is now an updated Nestle boycott list as of 10/7/09. Thanks!

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