The Gift of Liquid Gold
Soon after delivering her first born, it was clear that Lisa McDougall was producing almost double the supply needed for her own daughter. For many women who pump, it isn’t long before they question, ‘what do I do with all this milk?’ Putting it in zip lock bags and adding it to the freezer is a short-term solution, but an over-producer can quickly run out of storage space.
Lisa found Mothers’ Milk Bank, a nonprofit program of Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation. Mothers’ Milk Bank (MMB) collects, tests, processes and provides donor human milk to babies across the country. While mom’s own milk is the preferred option for babies, when it is not available, milk generously given by screened donor mothers is the next best thing.
“I like the idea of being able to help babies who aren’t as healthy as my own,” Lisa said. “I am fortunate to have two healthy girls, Addie and Cameron, and that I have the opportunity to help many other babies.”
Statistically, one in nine babies are born premature and fewer than half of moms who deliver a baby prematurely are able to provide their babies with human milk. Donor human milk is especially crucial for preterm babies who weigh less than three pounds at birth. When these infants are fed only human milk, they have a reduced rate of infection and intestinal complications, better neurodevelopmental outcomes, and fewer trips back to the hospital after leaving the NICU.
“As a donor, my experience has been both rewarding and personal,” Lisa said. “While I have been a milk donor twice, I am one of the few who have seen the benefits first hand. My niece, born seven weeks early, was the lucky recipient of donor milk.”
Lisa, like all donors, had to pass through a screening process. Donors participate in a phone interview to determine initial eligibility, fill out a health questionnaire, complete a form to be signed by their obstetrician and pediatrician, and have a one-time blood test done at no cost to them. After the one-time screening is complete, donors are then registered. The whole process is important in ensuring that both donor moms and recipient babies are healthy.
Portneuf uses donor human milk for babies who need supplementation and we serve as a human milk Donation and Outreach Center for the Mothers’ Milk Bank (MMB) network. Once a mom qualifies to donate, our role is to safely transport the milk donations to the Colorado facility where the milk is pasteurized, tested and distributed across the country to babies in need. Donor mothers receive no compensation for their donation, other than the knowledge that they are helping babies thrive.
“When people ask why, I comment, Why Not!” said Lisa. “If you are able and willing, it is certainly worth seeing if you can become a donor.”
Over the last three months, Lisa has donated over 800 ounces of milk to Mothers’ Milk Bank.
Women interested in giving the gift of human milk may fill out the donation screening form by visiting www.milkbankcolorado.org/donate-milk or by calling 303-869-1888.