Donating to the Human Milk Bank

When Oran was a baby I was very happy to be able to donate breast milk to the Human Milk Bank here in Ireland, which was a really rewarding experience.  The milk bank issues breast milk to hospitals throughout Ireland to be used for premature or sick babies.  The milk can help to save the lives of some of the most vulnerable babies.

A lot of people haven’t heard of the milk bank, I hadn’t when I had my first baby, so I want to help spread the word about it, to encourage more people to donate if they can.

When I was pregnant with Oran, I knew I wanted to donate breast milk, so contacted the milk bank to apply to donate.  I had to answer a questionnaire and then they sent the bottles for donating.  I was worried at first that I wouldn’t find the time to express milk, because of having a toddler too.  I started pumping once a day, from when Oran was 6 weeks old, every day after breakfast, and found it pretty easy to fit it into my day.  At first I was only getting about 1 ounce of milk a day, but by pumping at the same time every day, I was soon getting about 5-7 ounces a day, in 10-15 minutes with a double electric pump.  I felt such a sense of achievement with every bottle I pumped, which really made me feel happy for the day.

I froze the milk in the bottles provided by the milk bank, and soon had a box full to donate.  The milk bank provide an insulated box to send the donation in, and it is sent by post or courier (which the milk bank pay for).  I sent off the donation as well as a blood sample for testing.   The milk is also tested and pasteurised by the milk bank.  After a while I received a card from the milk bank, letting me know that my donation helped four babies.  It’s a wonderful feeling to know that my milk could help babies, and hopefully help to take a little stress away from their parents.

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Oran with his milk all ready to send away

My advice for expressing milk to donate would be to find a time when your baby is happy, or pump while feeding from the other breast.  Try to pump at the same time every day and be consistent so your body will start to produce more milk at that time of day.  Even if you are only getting a little milk at the start, stick with it and hopefully you’ll soon start getting more.  And you’d be surprised how little time it takes every day and how quickly you can build up enough milk to donate.

If your baby is under 6 months and you have some excess milk or are able to express milk, then it’s a really wonderful thing to do for premature or sick babies.

If you are interested in donating milk you can contact the Western Trust Milk Bank on telephone 028 686 28333 or email tmb.irvinestown@westerntrust.hscni.net, or if you are outside of Ireland, there may also be a human milk bank in your country, or a network like Human Milk 4 Human Babies.

Please help to spread the word about the milk bank, so that more parents can donate.

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