Friday, February 24, 2006

Milk III - Pumping All the Way to the Bank

[Part 3 in a very long post about breastmilk. Part 1 and Part 2]

Okay, Smarty. What do you do with four freezers-worth of extra breastmilk? Again, the internet? Not much help. Most women are working hard to save up a few ounces of pumped milk for their return to work. Excess milk doesn’t seem to be a problem for the internet.

I delicately asked a few friends with babies if they wanted some, which was weird. I mean, would I take someone else’s breastmilk for my baby? I dunno. If I knew her really well, maybe. One friend asked her doctor about it, who advised her against using another mom’s milk.

So, I contacted a milk bank. Human milk banks are few and far between, overworked and understaffed, so getting in touch with them required some patience. After a rigorous screening process that included blood work and two interviews, I was given a donor number and was approved by the WakeMed bank in North Carolina. They promised to send a cooler as soon as they could.

In the meantime, Aunt Bob and Peter and Bump and I had nothing frozen in our houses except breastmilk. Ice? Who has room for ice?

Two weeks after my approval, we went out and bought a cooler to donate to the milk bank, because we couldn’t wait any more. We had rearranged all four freezers enough times to know there was no way we could fit another bag of milk in. And the boobs kept pumping out the goods.

Since then, we've donated over a thousand ounces to the milk bank. Bump handles the shipments, because the cooler weighs a ton. We pack the cooler with newspaper and hard-frozen milk (ice is a no-no because it’s actually warmer than the milk. Besides, who has room in their house for ice?) and Bump takes it to FedEx for overnight express delivery. At the bank it’s pooled with other milk, processed, treated for bacteria, and sent out to babies who need it. The whole thing is kinda neat.

Even better, the bank sends the cooler back with containers for milk, so we don’t have to use those gdmf CSF bags anymore. (Oh, and we discovered that the Lansinoh bags are better, anyway. Double-zippered, they’re easier to use and they hold as much as twelve ounces each.)

The downside? Because of medical privacy, the bank asks us to black out any identifying features on pre-frozen milk. So all those painstaking hours spent labeling the bags with Lumpyhead’s name now only makes the process more complicated. Before we ship, we use a marker to black out his name on the gdmf CSF bags. The one reminder of why I’m going through all this hassle - Lumpyhead's name on the bag of milk - must be removed before we send it off.

Still, I feel like I’m doing a good thing with the milk donation. And I’m doing what's best for Lumpyhead, through the whole unpleasant pumping saga.

I only have to pump three times a day now, which is a blessed relief from the every three hours nonsense. I'm not sure when I'll stop, but I get the feeling my body will tell me when it's time. I’m producing only about 40 ounces of milk a day, instead of the half-gallon I was getting before, so I'm assuming I'll taper off to a level where stopping makes sense. (Is it called "weaning" when you're not actually nursing?)

I no longer have the appetite of a bear in the fall, which I chalk up to the slow-down in milk production. I expect those lost pounds will find me again soon. If anyone knows a good recipe for breastmilk ice cream, shoot me an email.


tammy said...

I have to say that I am extremely jealous of anyone that can produce milk like that! My children had to have formula (along with breastfeeding) so that they didn't starve. I seemed to make about 1/2 of what they needed!

Lumpyheadsmom said...

I realize that in the grand scheme of things, this is a good problem to have.

But sometimes it's so, I don't know, demoralizing.