Finding Milk Donors: Top 4 Tips Before You Start Your Search

By Ashley Fore, I.B.L.C. @Flow_Lactation

When a parent doesn’t make enough milk to meet their baby’s needs, either donor breastmilk or formula needs to be provided to keep baby growing well. Adding extra breastmilk or formula is known as supplemental feeding.

The Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine states “if the volume of the mother’s own colostrum/milk does not meet her infant’s feeding requirements and supplementation is required, donor human milk is preferable to other supplements.”

As an Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) I often see families who are needing to supplement. Supplementing for medically necessary reasons – such as a baby who isn’t gaining weight well – can feel overwhelming at first. With a formula shortage still upon us, I wanted to share my top 4 tips to streamline your search for donor milk.

Ask yourself these 4 questions:

1. How many ounces of supplemental feeding does baby need every day? If you know how much milk you make right now, how does that compare to the ounces of milk your baby needs every 24 hours to grow well. Your IBCLC would let you know this based on baby’s birth weight compared to their current weight. A healthy growing baby is always the goal, no matter what. Exclusive pumping moms can gauge this easily, but latching moms may need to rent a highly-sensitive professional scale to check how much milk baby is getting at the breast.

2. How far are you willing to travel? If you can’t find a local donor, can you travel 5 miles away? 15 miles? What volume of a milk donation would make it worth the extra travel time? It may not make sense to travel 1 hour just to get enough donor milk for 1 day of supplements, but would it be worth It if 1 week of supplemental feeds were available? Share the Drop allows you to see how far away your matches are – love that feature!

3. Are there foods to avoid or allergies that you’ve noticed baby reacts to? While true food allergies are rare (Cleveland Clinic estimates about 3% of babies have them) if your baby has allergies, you should only request milk free from those allergens. If you are offered milk from a mother who is taking medications, you can always use InfantRisk.org or their MommyMed app to check safety of that medication for lactation. Remember that the safety of a medicine in pregnancy can be different for safety recommendations in breastfeeding. Only accept milk that you are truly comfortable giving to your baby – no donor wants their milk to go wasted.

4. How long will I need to supplement? If your baby is less than 1 month old and your low supply is not related to a medical condition such as Insufficient Glandular Tissue (IGT), it’s likely that you can still increase your supply. For moms with older babies, it may be more difficult or not possible to increase your current supply. If you find a donor, she may be able to donate to your family long-term – just ask!

For moms who planned in pregnancy to breastfeed/chestfeed, needing to supplement can be frustrating and take extra time day and night. Human milk is the preferred supplement for babies if it’s available, and Share the Drop has helped to match families nationwide. Save time in your search for donor milk by thinking about what milk you need, how much you will use, where you are willing go for it, and how long you might be using It for. This can streamline the search for supplemental feeds and help your baby grow with optimal nutrition.

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