The film focuses on two milk donor/recipient pairs. Each of the donors had suffered the loss of a premature infant after birth and decided to donate her milk. One donated hers through casual milk sharing (aka not through a milk bank), while the other went through a milk bank. The film touched upon the importance of human milk being provided to premature NICU infants. There are visits to multiple Human Milk Banking Association of North America milk banks and their milk pasteurizing process is gone over. I thought that part was pretty cool and would've loved to see more about it.
Despite being pretty fascinated by the pasteurization, what I took away from watching the documentary and listening to the panel after the movie was the urgent need for donated breastmilk. A statistic in the movie said that HMBANA needs 8 million ounces of breastmilk for all the NICU preemies that weigh under 1700 grams [not 100% sure of the babies' weight, going from memory alone - please correct me if I'm wrong], while they collect 1 million ounces per year. The difference is staggering.
As someone who received donated breastmilk through casual sharing from my doula, I planned on "paying it forward" and donating my unused frozen milk. In the 15 months of nursing E, I've donated approximately 500 ounces of my own milk through casual sharing. I was interested in the milk bank, but after reading about their limitations (no alcohol, certain medications are restricted, no alcohol...), I backed away. I was having the occasional glass of wine or beer, but more importantly, was taking lots of fenugreek to help my supply. I felt I wouldn't pass their screenings and never bothered to pursue it.
My largest haul - 191.5 ounces
After tonight, I've changed my mind. These little babies need mom's milk, even if it's not from their own mom. I remember how I felt after having E 3.5 weeks early, combined with the stress of not being able to feed him - and he wasn't even in the NICU! If my doula hadn't suggested giving E her pumped milk, he would've been on formula. While that wasn't the worst thing in the world, it probably wouldn't have been ideal for a late preterm baby who missed almost a month of development in utero.
Whenever baby number two happens (and if you follow the blog on Facebook, you know that's on my mind), I will see if I can donate whatever pumped milk the baby doesn't drink to the milk bank. If the milk bank can't/won't take it, then I will give it to a mom in need via casual sharing.
If you're a pumping mom who has extra frozen milk and needs the freezer space back for ice cream, please contact your nearest milk bank. Even if they are out of state, many milk banks will provide you with shipping materials and reimburse you for the shipping costs.
And if Donor Milk: The Documentary premieres near you, please go see it. It really is an eye opener. I took away a lot from tonight. I cried, I learned, I empathized, and I loved on E more than usual when I got home.