Friday, April 11, 2014

Becoming a human milk donor

By To-wen Tseng. Original posted on San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition's Blog.
A Texas mother has donated 53,081 ounces of breast milk and is applying to the Guinness Book of World Records to officially be named the record holder. Her good deeds might inspire some mothers to follow her example. Thinking of donating your breast milk? Read this first.

Why become a donor?
In the absence of the baby’s own mother’s milk, donor milk offers many of the benefits of human milk, such as easy digestibility and immune substances to protect against diseases. Further more, because it is species-specific, complications which arise with the use of infant formula are not seen.

Donor milk bas a broad range of therapeutic uses. For the infant who is failing to thrive because of food intolerance, human milk can be a lifesaver. For the infant whose tissues and organ systems need to mature or heal, donor milk provides growth factors which facilitate these processes, helping tissues damaged by illness to repair themselves, and helping the individual to regain health. Donor milk may also help prevent certain conditions in prematurity that are life-threatening.

Why donate through a licensed milk bank?

Some mothers give their milk directly to the parents of babies in need, an exchange known as casual sharing. The intention behind casual sharing is wonderful, it’s a caring act of sister hood. However, in the age of potential transmission of HIV, hepatitis, and other viruses through human milk, there is an increased risk of casual sharing.

Donor milk banks have put several safeguards into place to prevent the possibility of disease transmission. All donors are carefully screened for diseases of various kinds before their milk is accepted.

What does it take to be a donor?

The human milk donor must be in good health, have a milk supply in excess of her own infant’s needs, and be motivated to express and donate to the milk bank using the collection protocols provided by the milk bank. She cannot be high-risk for transmission of blood-borne diseases. No donor to a non-profit milk bank receives payment for her milk.

The screening process for becoming a donor is a two-stage procedure. First the donor answers a detailed health history questionnaire. An additional form goes to her primary care provider to verify the accuracy of her health self-assessment. According to HMBANA, potential donors may be excluded for the following reasons:

Receipt of a blood transfusion or blood products within the last 12 months. Receipt of an organ or tissue transplant within the last 12 months. Regular use of more than two ounces of hard liquor or its equivalent in 24-hour period. Regular use of over-the-counter medications or systemic prescriptions. Use of megadose vitamins or pharmacologically active herbal preparations. Vegans who do not supplement their diet with B-12 vitamins. Use of illegal drugs. Use of tobacco products. A history of hepatitis, systemic disorder of any kind, or chronic infections. Had a sexual partner in the last 12 months who is at risk of HIV, HTLV, or hepatitis. Once the prospective donor has completed the health history, she then enters stage two of the donor process and is tested serologically through blood tests for HIV-1, HIV-2, HTLV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and syphilis. New tests may be added to this screening panel as new viruses emerge which should create potential problems for recipients. Milk banks will cover the cost of the serological screening. Repeat donors are treated as new donors with each pregnancy and must undergo screening again. 
How to become a donor?

Please contact your local human milk bank for details.

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