How to: A First-Time Mother’s Guide to Breast Milk Donation

When Saand Ki Aankh (2019) producer, Nidhi Parmar Hiranandani heard of all the premature babies she was helping through her breast milk donation, she decided to continue her endeavour. “When I saw those tiny babies, weighing just 650 grams, it became a bigger driving factor for me. I will try to donate breast milk at least till February 2021,” she told us in an interview. It was during the lockdown owing to the COVID-19 pandemic that Nidhi donated over 40 litres of breast milk.

In another interview with The Better India, Nidhi answers all questions about breast milk donation that a first-time mother or donor would have.

Here are six tips on how to become a breast milk donor.

The first step

You have to find out if there is a milk bank in your city. The best way to do that is to call up a hospital with a NICU (Neonatal intensive care unit) in your city and enquire about milk donation. They will ask you for a couple of test results such as HIV, Hepatitis B antigens tests and a few others that you have already taken during pregnancy. Once the tests are clear, you can donate.

Buying the right pump

One needs to express their breast milk with the help of a breast pump. Pumping done correctly should not hurt at all. Initially, there will be discomfort, but it goes away once you get used to pumping. Choosing a good breast pump with the right flange size is very important. Medela breast pumps are perfect, and one can select a pump based on their budget. I also recommend LuvLap and Medela Single Mini Electric Breast pump. You can easily Google search to know the right breast pump flange size for you.

The only bad experience I had was with Medela Swing Breast Pump Electric, as it was very inconsistent and ended up really frustrating me.

Dealing with pain

In case the nipples hurt because of breastfeeding and pumping, one can use Lansinoh Lanolin Nipple Cream. I found it very cooling and comforting. Also, one should give warm compress to the breast and nipple to relieve discomfort. To make a hot compress at home, heat some mustard seeds on a tawa and put them in a handkerchief. Make a potli by tying it up with a rubber band. You can also put some breast milk on your nipple and let it dry before wiping it off with a lukewarm cloth.

Dietary needs

I follow a very balanced diet. I found that beetroot soup was beneficial to increase milk volume. Boiling water with cumin/fenugreek/fennel seeds and drinking it throughout the day also helps. Carrots and green veggies are a must. Salmon and eggs are known foods that aid in the increase of breast milk volume.

Hygienic storing practices

There are BPA-free milk bags for breast milk available on Amazon – Pigeon, Medela, Morisons, Lansinoh, etc., brands are a few. These are sterilised milk bags required for storing breast milk. Always wash your hands thoroughly before expressing milk and handling the milk bags. Keep your breast pump bottles, connectors, flanges, etc. washed and sterilised in an Avent steriliser or one can even put all of these in boiling water for five minutes before use.

Be careful not to burn the plastic bottles. Anything that comes in contact with the breast milk and the equipment needs to be sterilised and clean. The breast milk bags should be stored in the freezer section of the refrigerator. Breast milk has a shelf life of two to three months in a home freezer.

COVID-19-related risks

There is no risk of COVID-19 in breast milk donation. Ensure that you wear a mask and a face shield when you go to donate the milk and keep your hands sanitised. My husband, Tushar Hiranandani, wears a PPE kit when he goes to drop off the milk to minimise any risk.

Once you’re accustomed to using a breast pump and have an abundant milk supply, it is straightforward to pump and freeze a bag or two for donation. I have dedicated one pump session every day for this cause, after having fed my child. Even a 100 ml bag can help a baby, so please try and do as much as you can as it will go a long way for the little ones in need.

(As told to Yoshita Rao)

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