Since the beginning of the year I’ve donated almost 1,300 ounces of breast milk to the Mothers’ Milk Bank of Austin.
The Austin milk bank, which is the largest one in the country, distributes donated milk to premature and ill babies around the greater Austin area and other cities throughout the country.
Most of the babies who receive it have suffered from premature birth, failure to thrive, formula intolerance, malabsorption issues, or other ailments. Research shows that more than half of moms who deliver a premature baby are unable to produce enough breastmilk for their babies. And breastmilk is just what many of these babies need; it provides ideal nutrition for them and significantly reduces their risk of contracting necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), a condition that can damages and, in some cases destroys, the intestinal tract.
At the Milk Bank, every ounce that’s donated is thawed, analyzed for its nutritional value, cultured, poured into bottles, and pasteurized. An independent laboratory obtains microbiological cultures from the milk before and after it’s pasteurized to ensure that it doesn’t contain heat-resistant pathogens during pasteurization and that there’s no chance of bacteria growing in it.
It’s a fascinating process that I sometimes think of when I’m feeding Tucker, who’s 13 months old. I’m still nursing him but stopped pumping earlier this month. Pumping, as my mom friends know, truly is a labor of love. I’m grateful I had the support I needed to pump multiple times a day at work — and a strong milk supply.
I don’t know the story of where my milk has ended up or who it has helped. But I hope the babies who received it are at least a little better off because of it.