I had an awesome milk supply after Alex and Nathan were born, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to breastfeed. With them going to the NICU right after birth, I couldn’t nurse them, so I exclusively pumped the entire time they were in the NICU and continued after they came home. I took enough milk to the hospital for them to eat and froze the rest. After coming home, they were diagnosed with a milk protein allergy and put on a specialized hypoallergenic formula instead of breast milk. This lead to a whole bunch of unused milk. I had so much milk stored we had to buy a deep freezer to hold it all and now it was sitting in our storage shed, untouched. I briefly thought of selling it, but never actually looked into how to go about it. I knew I’d rather donate it. Though breast milk AKA “liquid gold” can go for a pretty penny, giving it freely it to mothers in need just seemed like the right thing to do. I had been blessed with the ability to make an abundance of milk, so I wanted to be a blessing to someone else. Getting in touch with a milk bank was just another thing I never “got around to” after the twins came home and I got really busy.
The milk sat there for about three months before my friend Briana sent me a link to a Facebook group. “Breast Milk Donation for Black Mothers.” There were about 250 women in the group; mostly mothers who didn’t want to give their babies formula but didn’t have the milk supply to meet their needs. I joined it, and after my join request was approved, I made a quick post saying I had a freezer full of milk in Tuscaloosa, AL that was smoke, drug, and alcohol free. I didn’t know what kind of response I’d get, but almost instantly, a mom in Atlanta and a mom in DC both expressed interest in my milk stash. Soon, several moms in different states were asking to get their hands on some of my milk. I didn’t realize people donated to those in other states and figured it would just be a local thing, but apparently some women travel far and wide or pay a hefty fee to have donor milk shipped to them.
The next day, I got a call on Facebook Messenger from a woman everyone in the group called “Dr. Z.” She said that the group had been a lifesaver for her grandson, so she enjoyed helping other women by facilitating the milk exchange, whether through driving it or helping with shipping it. Dr. Z told me that she was driving from D.C. to Atlanta, but she wanted to drive to Tuscaloosa to pick up my milk and distribute it to several different mothers in need all over – moms in Baltimore, Atlanta, Montgomery, and Dallas all needed my milk. Some women needed it immediately – their babies were almost out of milk and they couldn’t exactly run out to the grocery store for more. After a couple of days of trying to coordinate times, Dr. Z asked if I minded her using “Roadie” to pick up the milk. Through the app, she hired a pick-up and delivery driver to come to our house, fill up as many coolers as they could fit, and drive it back to her to distribute.
I had to access my medical records, which I was able to do online, redact any personal information and show where I was negative of any communicable diseases before distributing my milk. If moms wanted to verify my claims that my milk was substance free, they could buy drug and alcohol tests at their own expense. Since breast milk is formulated specifically for your baby’s needs, some women only wanted milk from a mother whose baby was the same gender or around the same age as hers. Others were less specific and just wanted milk from a healthy, substance-free mom.
I feel great about becoming a milk donor. I was fortunate to have such a great milk supply, and pumping and storing cost me nothing (literally – I rented my breast pump for free and the NICU provided me with storage bottles.) But being able to help other moms who were in such a difficult position was priceless. Many moms cannot afford the expensive cost of breast milk. With babies who cannot have formula and little to no breast milk of their own, what are they supposed to do? I know if the roles were reversed, I’d want someone to be willing to help me out without wanting anything in return.