Getting to Know the Milk Bank

Milk DonationsI fell in love with one teeny phrase in the book, The Red Tent when I read it years ago.  “Good like milk and rain.”  I don’t remember the complete context today of Anita Diamant’s words other than she was describing the richly nourishing and nurturing quality of something.  I loved the line so much that I wrapped it into the chorus of a song I wrote just prior to moving to Austin six years ago to nurture my fear of change:

Don’t worry darlin. It’s all good like rain. It’s all good.  So good like milk and rain.

Now the sweet goodness of mother’s milk is fast becoming a center point of my life  as I work to stay the course on making an album of songs for the Milk Bank while I  keep on keepin’ on nursing my littlest around the clock.

My Milk & Rain song was running through my head as I drove through the rain yesterday to go visit the Mother’s Milk Bank of Austin to learn more about what they do and talk to them about this little music for milk project I’ve got brewing that is no longer so little.  I was delighted to meet Executive Director, Rachel Muir and her Development Director, Robin Bradford.  Such nice women doing such valuable and important work for our community.

DSC_0024I got the full tour and saw where milk is pasteurized, packaged, nutritionally assessed, stored and shipped to hospitals.  Milk is divided up by its caloric content so that the highest calorie milk can be sent to in-patient babies with the greatest need.  So cool!

They are growing like gangbusters — dispensing over 250,000 ounces of human milk in 2009 — a 22% increase from last year.  And Rachel said they are still just short of meeting the demand.  I asked her if it would be a problem if they ever got to a point where they had more than they could distribute to hospitals.  She said, No — to have excess in storage would be great.

I hope that our advocacy for what the do through our album promotion and sales can serve to help them double their number of donors in 2010.  Currently, they screen more than 50 donors per month.  2010 will be an exciting year for the Austin milk bank as they move into new, bigger offices replete with three milk processing labs and a drive-thru option for dropping off donated milk.  What a brilliant idea!

So, I’m still struck by the fact that until I started pooling mother/child related charity name ideas for our album, I didn’t really know about the Milk Bank or pay attention to the need for donated breast milk.  I’ve been a fairly devoted reader of posts on the Austin Attached Family yahoo group — now on Big Tent.  I read just about every post for two years after my first was born and continue to find the support from parents there amazing.  The information shared inspired me to start this web site.

I recall the Yahoo group membership numbers surpassing 500 at one point.  A LOT of like minded parents gathered online — most, if not all, are passionate about the health and secure attachment benefits of breastfeeding.

And yet I don’t remember ever learning about the Milk Bank.  Now that my second baby is almost 14 months, I’m no longer eligible to donate.  Boo!  Mothers can donate milk up to 12 months following the birth of their baby since that is the period of time when the milk is the most nutritionally rich.

Had I donated my breast milk, I might have directly helped to save a tiny or sick baby’s life.  According to a handy flyer that Robin gave me:

“Human milk is especially critical for premature and sick infants, who are at tenfold greater risk for acquiring devastating intestinal infections, such as necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC), if they are fed formula instead of human milk.”

WOW.  If this isn’t the greatest endorsement of breastfeeding and breast milk, I don’t know what else can convince women that breastfeeding truly is best for babies.

All interested donors have to do is complete a written health history, consent to a blood test and pump away.  Number to call in Austin to get started is 512-494-0800.

Other cities currently with Milk Banks around the country:  San Jose, Calif; Denver, Colo; Indianapolis, Indiana; Coralville, Iowa; Kalamazoo, Michigan; Newtonville, Mass; Raleigh, North Carolina; Columbus, Ohio; Portland, Oregon;  and Fort Worth, Texas.

Milk on mamas!

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2 Responses to “Getting to Know the Milk Bank”

  1. chelsea says:

    like i said last night when we spoke, i am loving this blog! thank you monica.

    so surprised that so FEW cities have milk banks — is that a short list, or comprehensive, do you know? if it is comprehensive, how lucky we are!!

  2. McClain says:

    Fantastic article. I’m hoping that once I am officially a Baylor employee I will have access to medical journals so I can contribute to a longer article. I also wish I would have thought of donating during all this “down” time I have had with Lainy.

    I love your site and am VERY impressed with your productivity!!!!

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