Donating milk

A few posts ago I wrote about my “quandary” in which I had a surplus of milk and had no idea what to do with it. Bemoaning my quickly shrinking freezer space, I asked you all for advice and also called my lactation consultant. Now, my freezer is a bit lighter and my heart is full of happiness, now that I know that my milk has gone to a good cause. Miley Palmonka is a tiny little girl born full term but with IUGR who lost much of her weight after her birth (going from 4 lb 6 oz to less than 3 pounds) and is only able to tolerate breast milk after trying many different formulas. Her family is furthermore in significant financial distress and cannot afford to purchase breast milk from the local milk bank, nor can they drive significant distances anymore to procure the milk that she so desperately needs.  Her mother Julie has told her family’s story in local newspapers, including the Altoona Mirror and local television programs. It is my sincere hope that she is able to get the donor milk that she needs and that her own supply is able to increase, which in itself is a huge challenge.

Yesterday my wonderful T helped me out; I dropped off a cooler full of milk at his office – over 150 ounces of milk in all – collected over about two months – and he promptly took it to ship to Miley.  Incidentally, the news coverage began at the same time that we got the milk to them so I didn’t hear word right away and was waiting anxiously all day to know the fate of the milk. With 100 degree weather outside I was really afraid the dry ice in the shipment didn’t cut it.   But I just received a call from Julie, who had been busy all day returning phone calls and was just able to let me know that the milk arrived. It feels so great to know that I am helping out in this story and I wish all the best to the Palmonka family.  If you are interested in helping them out, check out Miley’s Facebook page and contact Julie yourself if you can donate milk directly.

As an aside, it was an interesting process trying to figure out where to donate a milk.  One always worries that if you donate outside a milk bank, what will happen to your milk. Is it really going to someone who needs it?  Well, even if you donate to a milk bank it is not always going where you expect. Initially, I had planned on becoming part of the Prolacta bioscience donor network.  But I wasn’t exactly sure what they were all about.  While having its own slant, this article gives an interesting perspective on Prolacta.  Just read it in detail to know where it’s going because there is a lot of ground covered and no point to my rehashing what the authors say. Suffice to say that although I am a pediatrician and have worked in a NICU and understand the value of HMF in fortifying breast milk, I did not painstakingly collect my breast milk and would not plan to offer it for donation so that it would be processed into something else and sold.  But on the flip side, what are we doing when we donate blood to the nearest blood bank?  We are doing the same thing, except we are not collecting and preserving the blood ourselves as we do with breast milk.  Donor blood is not given in its whole form to patients: it is tested, spun down, converted in to a variety of products.  So what Prolacta does may not be so onerous after all. What are your perspectives on this issue?