Donated breast milks helps a variety of infants
After giving birth to her daughter, Micaiah Kline hadn't expected the challenges she faced.
Her baby was born 11 pounds and 1 ounce, and required regular blood sugar checks because of her size. Kline's nurse quickly suggested that she supplement and told Kline that donor milk was an option. Kline told the nurse to sign her up.
The afternoon after her late-night delivery, Kline had to be separated from her baby again when she was suffering from blood loss and had to go into surgery. Fortunately, because they were already supplementing with breast milk, Kline's husband was able to feed the baby while she was away.
Kline's goal with her daughter was to exclusively feed her breast milk. With the help of donated breast milk, Kline was able to reach that goal despite the obstacles.
"For me, it was really a gift because I think it jump started successful breastfeeding. My milk came in faster, my body healed quickly and she thrived," Kline, who is a nurse with the Regina Birth Center, said. "I think that this chance to be using donor breast milk was really important and I think that it's really a life giving way that women can support other women — also supporting babies and in turn supporting the whole family."
The Regina Hospital Birth Center opened up the Regina Milk Depot in February. Talks about getting a milk depot at Regina began in October after staff at the hospital heard that the Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies was looking for hospitals to get on board.
"I knew that there were other depots around but the only one I really knew was in River Falls. What we were really trying to do is help this community and the surrounding area," Roberta Kieffer, a lactation counselor at the Regina Birth Center said.
Donated breast milk can be beneficial in a variety of cases. Any time a baby would benefit from supplementing with donated breast milk or if they will be briefly separated from their mother, donated breast milk can be used. Other instances could be parents of an adopted child who want to feed them breast milk, or if a mother has had a mastectomy — the list is almost endless, according to manager of the Birth Center, Julie McGary.
"On average, 10 percent of babies need some sort of assistance at birth and those babies are most likely to be the ones that need to supplement with breast milk," McGary said.
Being a breast milk donor
There are many ways that women can donate extra breast milk. With breast milk in high demand, Julie Langer, a nurse and milk donor, said there are many groups on Facebook that help connect donors with babies in need.
"I established a relationship with another mom and she told me that her goal was to get her son to six months (using breast milk) and asked if anyone could help her out. I thought, 'Yeah, I can do that,' and all the stars aligned," Langer said. "I just made my last donation to get him to one year. His birthday is in March."
Another way to get set up in donating breast milk is through the Minnesota Milk Bank for Babies.
To be a donor for the Minnesota Milk Bank, interested individuals must go through two interviews, cleared by a doctor and do a blood test to be approved for breast milk donation, according to donor Ashley Frosch.
In the interview, questions about medications, caffeine use and other health habits are asked to be sure that breast milk will be of the highest standards for the babies receiving the milk.
"It seems like a lot of work as a donor, but then it makes you know that if you end up ever having to receive breast milk, it's comforting to know that the milk is screened and that they have strict rules," Frosch said.
Frosch started donating after giving birth to her daughter AnnMarie last year.
Between all of her children, she said that she has been through all aspects of the breastfeeding journey. With her oldest, she had struggled with breastfeeding and he was exclusively on formula at 4 months old. With her now 3-year-old, she exclusively pumped after going back to work. With AnnMarie, her goal was to only breastfeed to help build that mother-baby bond.
When she found that she had an oversupply of milk, Frosch decided to donate it.
For Frosch, donating breast milk means more than giving back and helping other mothers and babies. Exactly a year before AnnMarie was born, Frosch had lost a baby girl.
"It's very emotional to have a child on the day that you lose a baby. We wanted that bond. We pushed through and we got it," Frosch said. "We realized that I had an oversupply and we started donating to local moms in honor of the baby that we lost. That was, to us, the best way to keep her memory alive."
Frosch was excited to hear that a milk depot was coming to Regina, which she calls her "home hospital." Her brother, sister and all of her own children have been born at the Birth Center.
"To have that connection and be able to donate my milk here and help babies in Minnesota and to know that my milk could potentially come back here to Regina and help other babies is really cool. To be able to give back to the people who have given so much to us through everything is really remarkable," Frosch said.
Anyone interested in becoming a breast milk donor can visit mnmilkbank.org to learn more, or contact the milk bank at 763-546-8051.