Benefits of donating breast milkSonali Shivlani
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CCCE, CLE., CPFE.U.S.A.
Executive Director – CAPPA India
Prenatal, Lactation & Paediatric Nutrition Educator
When Megha started breastfeeding, she could not relate to other mothers who complained about not having enough milk for their babies. Her breasts seemed to be constantly leaking making her feel comfortable. Thankfully, a visit to a lactation consultant assured her that she was not alone.
Though overproduction is less common as compared to underproduction, it is an issue many lactating women face. Thankfully, this milk can be pumped and donated to human milk banks for use by mothers who cannot naturally breastfeed their babies. Donating breast milk isn’t beneficial just for the recipients, it has a number of advantages for the donor as well.
Your breasts feel lighter
Producing more milk than your baby needs can make your breasts feel full and hard. They may feel lumpy and more tender than usual. In some cases, the swelling may affect the armpits as well. As the milk collects, the condition gets more painful. An overabundant supply of breast milk may also plug the ducts causing swelling, redness and localized pain.
Donating breast milk can make your breasts feel more comfortable and, in turn, make you feel better. By doing this, you will also have fewer leakage issues to deal with.
Reduced Risk of Mastitis
Mastitis refers to an infection in the breasts. It is a common condition and can affect up to 2-20% of lactating mothers. Mastitis is associated with pain, swelling in the breasts, fever, flu-like symptoms, tiredness, nausea and body aches. Over-production of breast milk that is not drained away is one of the common causes of this condition. It can also be caused by plugged milk ducts and engorged breasts- both side effects of overproduction of breast milk.
In some cases, medication may be needed to treat mastitis. However, by choosing to donate breast milk and pumping the extra breast milk, you can reduce the risk of mastitis.
Breastfeeding gets easier
Overproduction of breastmilk is often associated with a strong let-down reflex. This means the milk is released in a strong jet. Your baby may choke or gag on this and have difficulty breathing and feeding simultaneously. Your baby may also end up swallowing a lot of air while feeding. In addition, breast engorgement may make it difficult for the baby to latch on while feeding. All of this can make breastfeeding frustrating for you and your baby.
Pumping out the extra milk for breast milk donation between feeds or at the start of a feed can regulate the force of milk. This makes breastfeeding more comfortable. It allows you to choose a breastfeeding position which is comfortable for you and your baby rather than an against gravity position.
Your baby gets milk with more fat
There are two types of milk a baby gets while breastfeeding. Foremilk refers to the milk he/she drinks in the beginning. This has high lactose content but low-fat content. As the bay continues feeding, richer, creamier milk called hindmilk becomes available. This has a higher fat content and is more filling.
It is impossible to tell how much of foremilk and hindmilk a baby drinks in one feed. However, if your breasts produce too much milk, the baby may get more foremilk than hindmilk. This may make the baby want to be fed more often, as foremilk is lighter and the baby will feel hungry more often. This can result in the baby being fussier and also cause digestive issues.
Pumping the breastmilk regularly to donate breast milk can balance the proportions and help your baby get more hindmilk.
Where to donate breastmilk?
Breast milk donation is easy. Always donate your breastmilk to authorized and regulated human milk banks. They will pasteurize the milk to keep it safe for babies and ensure that it reaches babies who need it. Though you may not know the baby who ultimately gets to drink your breastmilk, you would have helped an infant grow stronger and stay healthy. Isn’t that a happy feeling?