I started pumping at about four weeks postpartum to build my freezer “stash.” It became almost an obsession to squeeze out those last few drops after each nursing session, or to fit in a pump during Annabelle’s longest sleep stretch.
Little by little, I filled up our freezer with carefully measured and dated storage bags. Even as my stockpile grew, I still fretted that it wouldn’t be enough in case of “emergency.” What if Annabelle started drinking more bottles than I could replace while I was at work? What if my milk suddenly dried up and I had to feed from my stash alone? What if I had to go out of town and the stash was all she had? Irrational fears kept me fighting exhaustion as I pumped one last time and cleaned all the parts before I fell into bed at 1am every night.
When Annabelle was six months old, I left my full-time job to be a stay at home mom. We really had no need anymore for expressed milk other than the occasional dinner out, but still I pumped “just in case.” However, Annabelle had ideas of her own. She decided that bottles were lame and she wasn’t going to use them. Ever. At all. Again. She would rather go hungry in protest, wait for me to return home from my rare grown-up nights on the town, and then attack my boobs ravenously.
Finally I decided that it was pointless to continue pumping at all and gave myself a break. I packed up my special bag and bottles for the last time, and I can’t say that I was very sad about it! (I might have done a little happy dance…) But now what to do with all that milk just sitting in our freezer??
I have maybe 150 ounces give or take– not a ton (I wasn’t a crazy overproducer), but definitely enough that I don’t want to see it go to waste. So I started to do a little research to see what the options are. Where could I donate breast milk locally? Is it really an option to sell breast milk?
Here are some ideas to look into if you have extra breast milk:
1. Donate to a Local Hospital — Hospitals are always in need of donor milk for premature babies in the NICU. Mothers of preemies often struggle more to produce milk, whether it be due to the early birth, stress from the situation, or separation from their baby. Breast milk has been shown to drastically reduce the risk of necrotizing enterocolitis, a condition that is more common (and life-threatening) in preemies. Donating to a hospital usually requires a little work on your end: a thorough screening process and blood test, but you can rest assured that your milk will truly be helping babies in need.
2. Donate to a Local Milk Bank — Reputable milk banks follow standards set by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), and so this donation process will be similar to that of a hospital (many hospitals use a milk bank as their source). Again, you can be sure that your donated milk will be going to babies that really need it. You can find a milk bank in your area by visiting the HMBANA website.
3. Donate in Person — A very close friend of mine was a major overproducer while she was nursing her daughter and very quickly accumulated a large excess of pumped milk. It turns out that a co-worker was struggling to breastfeed her own child, so my friend gave much of her extra milk to her co-worker so she could supplement with real breast milk instead of formula. Obviously, not everyone will have a situation like this, but what a great feeling to actually help someone you know!
4. Donate Online to a Milk Sharing Website — There are quite a few sites that offer a place for parents looking to donate extra breast milk to connect with those searching for it. From what I can tell, the intentions are good, though there is no way to 100% guarantee that your milk is actually going to a baby (as opposed to being used for other purposes or resold for profit). This may be an easier way to donate, as there is no screening process, blood tests, etc. — the website merely serves as a meeting place.
5. Sell Through Online Breast Milk Classifieds — There are a few websites (onlythebreast.com seems to be the most popular) which allow mothers with extra milk to sell to those willing to buy. You can set your own price (usually from $1-$5 per ounce). However, it seemed that there were WAY more people looking to sell than buy, so I’m not sure how viable this option really is. Again, there is no 100% guarantee that your milk will actually be going to a baby in need.
We’ve all seen articles telling moms to “make extra cash selling liquid gold,” but the jury is out on whether or not this is a legitimate or realistic option. If you don’t personally know someone in need, the best bet is probably to contact your local hospital or milk bank. The screening and tests are done at no cost to you– all that is required is your time and willingness to get pricked to draw blood.
Have any of you donated breast milk before? Where and how did you do so and what advice do you have for other moms looking to make good use of their “stash?”
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**Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional– this is post reflects my own research and opinions on the subject of breast milk donation. Always do your own research and/or consult your physician first.