Sinai Hospital recently became one of the very few hospitals in Maryland to offer its smallest NICU babies donor breast milk if their moms cannot provide their own. Sinai is the first hospital in the state to use a human milk-based fortifier to give breast milk the extra calories and nutrients some premature babies need to grow.
If it weren’t for the time and dedication of moms who have an oversupply of their own milk and wish to donate it, more NICU babies would contract NEC, a dangerous intestinal condition that can lead to a lifetime of medical issues and often death.
If you’re a lactating woman with excess milk and are wondering how you can donate it, though you can’t bring it directly to us, here’s what you can do:
Contact your closest HMBANA milk bank. As of publication, there are only 11 of them nationwide; the closest one to Baltimore is the WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank in Raleigh, N.C. Call the bank at 919-350-8599 to express interest in donating milk.
You’ll be interviewed over the phone to make sure you meet medical guidelines. With key exceptions, generally you can’t be regularly using medications or herbal supplements. Also, you can’t be a smoker, use illegal drugs or regularly consume more than two ounces of alcohol each day. If you have certain medical conditions or have traveled to particular countries, you might also be disqualified. Finally, you must agree to donate at least 200 ounces of milk to WakeMed (some HMBANA banks have a 100-ounce minimum) that is collected in your first year of lactation. After a year, the composition of breast milk changes, making it less nutritious for NICU babies.
If you meet these criteria, you’ll need to have a blood test that will be paid for by the milk bank.
If you pass the blood test and are cleared to be a donor, collect and freeze your extra milk according to the bank’s guidelines.
When you’re ready to send in your milk, the bank will send you a cooler with bubble wrap and a priority overnight shipping label. When shipping the bank’s minimum donation, the cooler and packaging is designed to keep the milk frozen throughout the shipment process.
The bank will test, pasteurize and process the milk. It will then go to hospitals like ours.
You won’t receive monetary compensation for the milk (that’s why it’s called “donor” milk), but you can feel good about helping to save the lives of premature babies. Their mothers and fathers will thank you!
To learn more, visit www.hmbana.org . Click here to learn more about Sinai’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.