Like many new moms, I had difficulty nursing my first child. Even though I’d taken a course when I was pregnant and met with the lactation consultant while I was the hospital, when I got home it was much harder than I expected. A kind family friend–who also happened to be a pediatrician and a mom–came to visit when my little guy was a few days old to encourage me and give me some nursing pointers. She also brought me several bags of her own frozen breast milk.
I remember taking the bags from her and placing them in my freezer–and being sort of grossed out. That’s probably not very nice to admit, but it’s the truth.
So I was interested when I read a recent article in the Houston Chronicle about Texas Children’s Hospital’s plea for donated breast milk for prematurely born babies whose mothers aren’t able to produce enough to feed them.
“The evidence is overwhelming that these critically ill preemies do best on mother’s milk, the reason we only feed breast milk in our neonatal intensive care unit,” Nancy Hurst, a Texas Children’s nurse and director of the new donor milk program, says in the article. “Ideally, they get their own mother’s milk, but donor milk is the next best thing.”
Milk banks have become more popular in recent years, even though the Food and Drug Administration warns against individuals acquiring milk from banks themselves because of the risk of infectious diseases. Milk that’s donated to the hospital is sent to a special facility in California where it’s pasteurized (and the mother’s blood is screened). It’s also fortified with calories and nutrients before being returned to the hospital. The pasteurization process kills some of the milk’s key immune factor, but the article said that 70 percent remained. Formula contains none of the immune factor.
Many mothers whose infants are born prematurely aren’t able to produce enough milk to sustain their babies, or else they have medical conditions or are on medications that prevent their milk from being used.
In my case, I never used the friend’s milk. After some early struggles, feeding became much easier and I nursed both children for just over a year. And to be honest, I’m still not sure what I think about individuals sharing breast milk. What’s your take? Would you donate your milk to such a program? And if you had a premature baby, would you want donated milk fed to him or her?