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When I first had my daughter, even after I made it through the normal stage of engorgement, I was left with a ridiculous supply of breast milk that was way too much for my daughter to handle. Having an oversupply of milk might sound great but it is definitely not fun.


I would wake up soaked in milk after leaking through two breast pads, a sleeping bra, a t-shirt, and my sheets. I used to shoot milk across the room when my baby would de-latch herself from my overpowering letdown.

In the first few weeks, I pumped a few times for just a few minutes for comfort. I knew not to pump or empty too much because I would only make MORE milk. (Remember: the more you empty the more you make.) I ended up staying home with my girl and never giving her a bottle, leaving me with a small amount from those beginning weeks stashed in my freezer.

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I went online and did a bit of research. Through mama to mama donation on Human Milk for Human Babies, I was able to give my milk to a mama in need. She so desperately wanted to give her daughter only breastmilk for her first six months of life and due to a breast reduction, she made very little milk. Even though I only gave her a small amount, it felt amazing to know my milk would be nourishing another little babe. This mom was so grateful and her baby was so sweet!

The practice of milk donation is very controversial, especially when it’s not done through a milk bank and it’s just mommy to mommy.

In the 1800’s, poorer women nursed other wealthy women’s babies for a living, straight from the breast, because it was seen as unfashionable to nurse your own. Then with the industrial revolution and more women working, lower income families used the rural poor peasants as wet nurses. “Wet nurses” as the norm stopped by the 1900’s because of the invention of formula and bottles. Formula feeding became the norm with the help of marketing and formula companies teaming up with physicians.

Today, with the rise in breastfeeding rates, more and more families are donating breast milk or getting donations of other women’s breast milk. Milk Banks and informal milk donation is the modern day wet nursing, and a way to create sisterhood across the world.

Have you ever thought of donating breast milk or felt curious what it’s all about? Are you a mama in need of breast milk for your baby? Here is some information to help guide and inform you:

1. The World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Canadian Pediatric Society all mention donor milk as the alternative and next best thing to a newborn having his own mother’s breast milk. “Mother’s own milk is always preferred, in part because some of breastmilk’s beneficial biological components may be reduced after pasteurization. But donor human milk can be an effective alternative when maternal milk isn’t available or falls short of the infant’s needs, according to the AAP.”

2. There are two ways to receive or give breast milk donations:

  • Through a milk bank (either at a hospital or directly from the bank) with a prescription
  • From another mama directly (most often through social media) in Private Arrangement Milk Sharing (PAMS), also called casual sharing.

3. There are many reasons a parent may decide to receive donor breast milk:

  • slow weight gain, weight loss, or failure to thrive
  • breast surgery or mastectomy
  • medical reason that does not allow a mother to make breastmilk or a sufficient amount of breastmilk
  • adopted child
  • premature baby
  • baby does not tolerate formula
  • breastmilk can not be given temporarily (possibly because of a procedure or because of a medication the mama is on)
  • baby needs post-op nutrition
  • immunological deficiencies
  • allergies
  • congenital abnormalities such as cleft lip/palate
  • maternal death

Seen through research and clinical practice, preterm infants fed human milk (including banked donor milk), have better outcomes than when fed formula alone, related to nutritional qualities, digestibility and immunological components of breastmilk. There is a reduction of length of hospital stay, Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC), and sepsis in premies. More and more hospitals worldwide are using donor breastmilk for their sickest and teeniest babes.

Donor milk is often not meant to replace the baby’s own mother’s milk but to complement the mother’s efforts, especially when there is a medical need.

4. Why might a parent choose to donate/receive informally online with a fellow mama? Some moms donate and receive this way because it’s faster. There is no formal interview process or wait time and you can get your milk out or receive it as soon as the recipient or donor mama can come grab it (or you drop it off to her).

Donating or receiving this way will not cost you money. You may even create a life-long bond with the family you are sharing milk with which can be incredibly rewarding and special. And lastly, there will be no risk of losing any of the amazing milk properties in the freezing and pasteurization process done in a bank.

5. Why might a parent choose to donate or receive through Milk Banking?: The Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice states that, “Donor human milk banking is the process of providing human milk to a recipient other than the donor’s own child. It involves recruiting and screening donors, storing, treating, and screening donated milk, and distributing the milk on physician order.” Going through a milk bank will ensure safety.

6. Screening a donor for a milk bank

When a parent decides to use a milk bank, they will start with a conversation about requirements, type of screening and storage requirements. Next is a screening questionnaire, more detailed set of forms asking about health and lifestyle and consent to contact the mamas and baby’s physicians.

The infant’s doctor is contacted to make sure the donation will not have an adverse effect on the mom’s own child. The donor’s blood is tested for HIV, human T-lymphoma virus (HTLV), hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and syphilis. HMBANA (Human Milk Banking Association of North America) requires additional serological screening for cytomegalovirus and tuberculosis.

7. Processing and storage of milk at a milk bank

It is extremely important that the milk given out from a bank is treated/pasteurized because most of the milk goes directly to the most fragile of babies who are immunocompromised and whose lives may be dependent on it.

Banks collect, process, screen, store and distribute the milk to individuals who have been prescribed by a licensed practitioner. All donor milk is screened for bacteria and it is refrigerated or frozen until it is dispensed. Freezing, although it preserves most the unique milk properties, does not destroy many of the pathogens. Careful heat treatment is done with Holder Pasteurization preserving as many as the properties as possible

A note on pasteurization: It is a myth that all the best nutrients and “good stuff” is destroyed in this process. Kelly Mom writes, "Pasteurization is a very gentle, controlled heating process using special equipment that kills viruses and bacteria while still maintaining 95% of everything that was originally in the milk.”

8. Safety

Donor milk banks worldwide have shown an incredible safety record and there has never been a recorded case of becoming seriously ill from donor milk received from a recognized bank. However, it is very important to know how a mother is screened and how her breast milk is tested and processed whether you get the milk directly from the mama or if you receive it through a bank.

With informal sharing of milk, straight from another mother, there is no way of being 100% positive you are receiving safe milk—unless you pasteurize the milk yourself, it is not being done. There are possible risks associated with informal sharing such as diluted milk, contamination with pathogens or chemicals (medications), or environmental contaminants. There is the low risk (but risk nonetheless) of disease transfer. And the risk of poor hygiene and improper storage of the milk before it gets to you.

What questions can I ask a mother I am going to receive milk directly from?

Ask for her medical records, if she is on any medications, if she smokes, how she stores and handles her breastmilk and pump equipment, and her alcohol/drug use. You can even go onto the HMBANA (Human Milk Banking Association of North America) website and use their screening criteria to make sure you ask all the right questions.

Eats on Feets, the first established milk sharing organization, has created four pillars for safety that you should follow:

  1. Informed choice
  2. Donor screening
  3. Safe handling
  4. Home pasteurization.

9. Some women, after the loss of a pregnancy, decide they want to donate their breast milk.

Breast milk will ‘come in’ after the placenta comes out regardless of your baby passing away which is absolutely heartbreaking. Some of these women find comfort to know their milk is nourishing another newborn in need or may feel like it’s their own baby’s gift to another.

10. Breast milk is expensive from a milk bank

Because of the expense of screening donors, processing, dispensing and record keeping, milk banks must charge for their services. Depending on the country you are in and the service setting, the price will vary. In 2013, the price was $5-$6 an ounce, plus the expense of overnight shipping. The donor of the milk to a milk bank does not pay any money. If your baby does not have a medical need, health insurance will not cover the cost of breast milk.

If you receive breast milk privately from a fellow mama, it will depend on the mom whether she wants to ask for compensation or not (hopefully not and if so, you may want to find someone else!) HOWEVER, if you go through the milk sharing established organizations online they are not-for-profit.

A really important part of donation/receiving of breastmilk is that you as the mama make your own informed choice. This topic brings about a lot of ethical questions and concerns. You need to make sure you never feel pressured to donate your milk. Do not let the “yuk-factor” in our society push you away from gaining more knowledge.

Donated breast milk can be lifesaving for sick or premature infants. Stay open-minded and do your research on ALL feeding options and their risks and benefits. If you decide to become a donor, remind yourself that it is something only a mama can do and that you may create a life-long connection with another mama and babe. And that can feel pretty great.

Resources:

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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There's a lot of discussion about the importance of early education—but what about soft skills like respect and kindness? How can mamas teach children important values like cooperation, gratitude, empathy or politeness?

These values are basic, foundational beliefs that help us know right from wrong, that give balance and meaning to life and that enable us to form community bonds with one another. These soft skills are crucial for kids to learn at any age, and it's important for them to be reinforced, both in the classroom and at home, throughout their childhood.

Here are fundamental ways to build character in your young children:

Kindness

Performing random acts of kindness can have a positive influence on both the individual showing and receiving the kindness. As a family, think of ways that each one of you can show kindness to others. Some ideas may include baking cookies for the mail carrier, donating an unopened toy to a local charity, purchasing canned goods for a homeless shelter or leaving notes and drawings for the neighbors. Include your child in the process so they can see firsthand the joy that kindness can bring to others.

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Responsibility

Children have a strong desire to mimic adult family members. Encourage your child to help complete simple chores in and around the house. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can do their share and feel that sense of responsibility. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting books away, putting paper in the recycling box and tending to the garden. Older children may enjoy helping out in the kitchen or with yard work.

Patience

Patience is the ability to demonstrate self-control while waiting for an event to occur. It also refers to the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration. This is a skill which develops in children as they mature. While it is important to practice patience, adults should also be realistic in their expectations, evaluate daily routines and eliminate long periods of wait time from the schedule.

Politeness

Schedule a time when the whole family can sit down together for dinner. Model good manners and encourage older siblings and other members of the family to do the same. Use phrases such as, "Can you please pass the potatoes?" or "Thank you." Be sure to provide your child with guidance, by explaining what to do as opposed to what not to do.

Flexibility

Change your routines at home to encourage children to be flexible in their thinking and to try new things. Try being flexible in the small things: enjoy breakfast for dinner, eat ice cream with a fork, have your child read a bedtime story to you or have a picnic in the living room. Let your child know it is okay to do things in a different way.

Empathy

Children are beginning to understand different emotions and that others have feelings. Throughout their childhood, talk about their feelings and share one's own feeling with them as well. By taking the time to listen to how children are feeling, you will demonstrate to them that you care and reinforce with them that you fully understand how they are feeling.

Cooperation

Coordinate playdates or take your children to events where they can practice introducing themselves to other children, and potentially with adults. Find games and other activities that require turn-taking and sharing.

Gratitude

Encourage your child to spend five minutes every day listing the things they are grateful for. This could be done together just before bedtime or after dinner.

Respect

As parents, our goal is to teach children to recognize that even though people have different likes and dislikes or beliefs and ideas, they must treat each other with manners and positivity. Respect should be shown when sharing, cleaning up, and listening to others. Always teach and model the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Also remind children that respect can be shown towards things in the classroom. Treating materials and toys correctly shows appreciation for the things we have.
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Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

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This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

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Whether you're having a low-key Friendsgiving with your closest friends or prepping to host your first big Thanksgiving dinner with both families, figuring out all of the menu details can be the most overwhelming step. How much should I cook? What ingredients do I need? How does one actually cook a turkey this big?

But, don't worry, mama—HelloFresh is lending a helping hand this year with their Thanksgiving box in collaboration with Jessica Alba. Because you already have enough on your plate (and we're not talking stuffing).


Here are the details. You can choose from two Thanksgiving boxes: Turkey ($152) or beef tenderloin ($132). The turkey box serves 8-10 people while the beef one will serve 4-6 and both are $6.99 to ship. We got to try both and they're equally delicious so you can't go wrong with either one, but the turkey does require a 4-day thaw period so keep that in mind. And if you're wondering what the sides are, here's a sneak peek:

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  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole with crispy onions
  • Ciabatta stuffing with chick sausage and cranberries
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, ginger and cinnamon
  • Apple ginger crisp with cinnamon pecan crumble

While someone still has to do the actual cooking, it's designed to take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones (or watching Hallmark Christmas movies). You don't have to worry about grocery shopping, portion sizes, recipe curation or forgetting that essential thing you needed to make the meal perfect. Everything is super simple to make from start to finish—it even comes with a cooking timeline.

Orders are open through November 21 and can be delivered anytime through November 24. Even better? You don't need a subscription to order.


ORDER A BOX

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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My mother's death propelled me to start the process of becoming a parent as a 43-year-old single woman. As my connection to her remained strong in spirit after her death, I was ready to experience the same bond with my own child. I began the journey with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I decided to adopt.

The adoption process is a lengthy and humbling one—one that includes fingerprints, background checks, references, classes, doing a profile of yourself and your life that birth parents eventually use to choose adoptive families.

After my application was approved, a young couple chose me just a month later. I couldn't believe my fortune. But I had to get to work and prepare the house for my baby's arrival. I bought the best of everything—bassinets, clothes, diapers, car seats… the list goes on. I told close friends and family that it was finally happening.

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But all of this was in vain. The day I was supposed to pick my daughter up, I learned that the birth parents had changed their minds. They no longer wanted to give their daughter up for adoption. As time passed, it was difficult to endure no interest from potential parents but the faith in believing what is meant to be continued. To increase my potential, I enrolled with a second adoption agency.

A few months later, as I was getting ready to try IVF for the first time, I received a phone call to let me know that a woman had selected me to adopt her child. So I opted out of IVF and found myself in a hospital delivery room with the birth mother, assisting her in the delivery of MY child. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, and he was just adorable.

After six years of losses and disappointments, I was able to bring him home and awaited the final word that the mother and father have given the needed consent. I was getting ready to watch the Super Bowl with him dressed in football gear, I got a phone call.

Once again, the adoption agency informed me that the birth mother had changed her mind. That evening, I had to return the baby to his birth mom. I was heartbroken, and my hopes were shattered.

What now? Going back to IVF meant starting from scratch, and that would take a minimum of six months before being able to really start getting pregnant. I was 49 years old, and the clock was ticking. I really wanted to be a mom by the age of 50.

I was in Chicago, recovering from a collapsed lung, when I received yet another phone call from the adoption agency. An expecting mom had chosen me and had already signed over all of her rights. This little girl was mine. For real, this time. But I had to get to Southern New Jersey by Thursday to pick her up from the hospital.

After negotiating with my doctor to give me the green light to leave while recovering from my condition, I hopped on a train, and 22 hours later, I arrived to New York City in a massive snow storm. I took longer than expected to get to her, but after navigating the icy roads of New Jersey, I met my daughter!

She is now 2 years old, and she has changed my life in ways that just can't be fully described. What I can say is that I now understand my mother's love even more and her devotion to me and my siblings, and as I am sharing the same with my daughter, my bond to my mother keeps on growing.

Becoming a mom at 49 was never what I had envisioned. But whether you are trying to conceive or have decided to adopt a child, the road to becoming a parent is rarely easy. I know that inner strength and believing in what was meant to be kept me moving forward.

Life
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