Pump, donate, repeat: How to donate breast milk in the South Sound
In the Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital, there is one statistic that doctors, nurses and parents know by heart:
Just one ounce of donated breast milk can save the life of a fragile baby.
Gabriela Mckay knows a thing or two about the power of breast milk. She spent 125 days in the NICU at Tacoma General with her son Asce.
"I believe breast milk and kangaroo care is what helped Asce the most," Mckay says.
On one visit to the NICU she donated 500 ounces — almost four gallons — of breast milk.
Asce was born at 23 weeks. He weighed 1 pound, 1 ounce. Mckay didn’t need donor breast milk because she was able to produce her own within three hours of Asce's birth.
But not all moms can produce milk for their fragile infants. Mckay made friends with many moms in the NICU who were unable to do so. For those moms, there is donor breast milk.
Mckay was lucky. She not only produced milk, but also went home from the NICU with a surplus of milk. She also maintained a frequent pumping schedule at home to keep her supply up.
When Mckay had bags of frozen milk in two freezers at her house and another freezer at her parents' house, she called the NICU to start the process for donating.
"I met a lot of moms in the NCU who struggled to pump and I thought it was good to bring back some love to the babies in the NICU," Mckay says.
Have spare breast milk in your refrigerator? You can give some love to the babies in the NICU at Tacoma General, too.
You may qualify to donate breast milk if:
- You are in general good health
- You don’t smoke
- You don't take regular medications
How to donate
- First, call the Mothers’ Milk Bank at Rocky Mountain Children’s Hospital toll free at 833-234-0555, for a phone screening with a lactation consultant
- The milk bank will mail a kit of paperwork and tubes for a blood draw.
- Call the Tacoma NICU’s lactation desk to make an appointment to draw your blood and drop off your excess breast milk: 253-403-5525.
There is no cost to donors for lab work and shipments.
Tips for storing and donating breast milk:
- Breast milk can be stored for six months in a freezer attached to a fridge and 12 months in a deep freezer.
- If you are donating, make sure you can keep 200 ounces frozen for a personal surplus.
- Donate oldest milk first and try to commit to donate 150 ounces or more total.
- Coffee drinker? Try to consume less than 24 ounces of coffee daily.
- It’s okay to drink alcohol but wait 12 hours after your last drink before pumping to donate.
Learn more about the Breast Milk Donation and Outreach Center at Tacoma General Hospital
This article was originally published in June 2016 and updated in August 2018.
About The Author
Jen Rittenhouse is the social media manager for MultiCare and Mary Bridge Children's Hospital. She writes stories that connect people with hospitals, health care and each other. You can reach her at [email protected].
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