You've heard the stories. Baby in NICU still getting breast milk thanks to incredible donor moms! Gay celebrity dads recognize breast is best and turn to breast milk bank! They're the sort of feel good tales that make you feel like the village really is pulling together to raise our kids. And yet, I've always wondered: who is actually donating all that breast milk?
Most of the breastfeeding moms I've known over the years were having a hard enough time trying to juggle everything it takes to keep their own family going. Donating their milk might sound good in the abstract, but actually doing it sounded near impossible.
Ladies, I have found a mom who is about to prove you all wrong. Not only is Kentrina Kimball donating her milk, but she's juggling a pretty hefty set of complications at the same time.
Kimball is a mom of three. Daughter Syren just started kindergarten, son Kaden just started pre-k, and then there's baby Masen. Her husband is a full-time professional firefighter. Kimball works full-time as a nurse. Oh, and she's also currently back in college to advance her nursing career.
That would be enough to keep any mom busy.
But on top of all that, Kimball is breastfeeding Masen and pumping additional milk to donate to the local milk bank. We've been friends for years, so I asked her how she's managing to keep all those balls juggling. A passionate advocate for milk banks, she was happy to share how she makes it work with The Stir readers:
How did you find out about breast milk donation?
A family member had mentioned donating milk back in the '80s. So I decided to Google it and found many different cities but chose to go with a large hospital in North Carolina.
What made you decide to be a donating mom?
I was always an avid blood donor and I’m a nurse, so I know all about the needs that little ones in the NICU need for their health benefits. And when reading the label on a formula bottle that said "not a sterile product," it got me to thinking about feeding the tiniest people with the worst projected outcomes on life something made in a factory and regulated by the FDA, which states that it can contain x amounts of animal hair and feces.
What did you have to do to qualify?
The list is crazy long! You have to have a clean medical history, letters from your OB/GYN and your baby’s doctor, and blood work. You can’t take medications within certain time frames, leave the state, smoke, live with a smoker, have alcohol within 12 hours ...
OK, so how does it actually work?
You pump a complete batch, the foremilk and the hindmilk, put it in sterile human milk storage bags, and freeze it. When you have 200 ounces, you call them and they mail you a freezer box to mail back to them. They pasteurize it, and send it to the hospitals.
So they cover the freezer box, but does it cost you anything?
So far it's cost us buying a pump, buying an extra freezer, and purchasing the milk storage bags. And I’m now purchasing another new pump because I’ve just about burned mine out!
What about your daughter? Does this make it harder to feed her?
Donating doesn't affect Masen, since I work 12-hour shifts and need to pump whether or not I donate. I am able to pump enough in the morning from the night for my husband to give her during the day, then what I pump during the day goes to the bank, and when I get home at night, I feed her and pump one side for the milk bank.
It sounds like a lot of work, so are you going to keep it up?
I plan to continue to donate, they accept milk up to the baby’s first birthday.
What about other moms? Would you tell them to do it?
If you can adhere to the strong guidelines that come with donating, then you should donate. You get a feeling of accomplishment! Most moms are stressed out when their child is in the NICU for any reason, whether it's something small like monitoring or life altering changes. These moms try their hardest to make milk, but stress can stop milk production. These babies need every chance that they can get at a brighter future!
What do you think? Think you can donate breast milk?
Image via planet_oleary/Flickr