Donating Milk for NICU Babies

In an effort to demystify milk sharing, for the next few weeks we will be sharing stories from breastfeeding moms who either donated their excess breastmilk or supplemented their baby with someone else’s milk.  For more information about milk sharing, both informal and through milk banks, please visit our article: Supplement Options: Donor Milk, Milk Banks, and Formula, as well as our Boob Group podcast episode, Low Milk Supply: Donor Milk, Milk Banks, and Formula.


Today on the San Diego Breastfeeding Center blog, I am honored to share Ashley Doelliing's story about donating milk for NICU babies.  If  you would like to submit your story to be shared with our readers, please email me at  Thank you so much, Ashley, for sharing your inspiring story with us!


My son was born at 29 weeks gestation when I developed severe pre-eclampsia and we also found out that he was growth restricted.  He was born 1lb 15oz with lots of medication in his system from all the things they pumped through me to keep me from having a seizure and to keep my blood pressure down.  This meant that he was not allowed to have my milk for about 3 weeks.  I started pumping the night after I delivered him and did it religiously every 2 hours and would take the milk to the NICU.  

All the demand of pumping gave me quite an oversupply of milk.  All of my milk went straight to the freezer in the NICU to stay until he could have it.  He started out with .5 mLs the first time they gave him milk!  I was making 5oz per breast!  Eventually I took over an entire deep freezer (the size of a refrigerator) and we knew he would never use it all. The lactation consultant put me in touch with the Mothers Milk Bank of North Texas.  I completed the blood work, answered some interview questions, and was approved.  The lactation consultants started shipping my milk off.  After 4 months in the NICU my son was finally sent home but my milk was still slowly being shipped.  

I still receive emails today every time they receive my milk.  So far I have donated 2133 oz to be processed and shipped off to preemie babies (since I was making preemie milk).  Being in the NICU for 4 months I saw all of the babies around my son, some whose mothers couldn't pump enough for them and had to be put on formula (since the hospital wasn't set up to receive donor milk yet).  I donated because every one of those babies needs the best start possible. They already have so many obstacles to overcome including lowered immune systems.  They need all the antibodies and proteins, and nutrients they can get!