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Journey to Parenthood

The Benefits of Breastfeeding and Donating Breastmilk

Lindsay Groff, MBA

Executive Director, Human Milk Banking Association of North America

Before becoming a mom, I knew about the benefits of breastfeeding, but I didn’t know anything about donating breastmilk. It wasn’t until my newborn spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) that I learned about milk donation and became a donor.

Being thrust into parenthood as a NICU mom was difficult, but the experience inspired me to give my extra breastmilk to other babies in need. Today, I am the proud parent of a healthy 10-year-old, balancing motherhood while at the helm of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

Breastfeeding 101

Although breastfeeding is natural, it can still feel intimidating to first-time parents. Research shows countless benefits, including a stronger immune system for the baby and a faster recovery for the mom. Here are some tips to help:

  1. Make a plan: Speak to your doctor about your desire to breastfeed and ask for support services at the hospital where you plan to deliver. Having a plan in place can make things go more smoothly once the little one arrives.
  2. Consult with a pro: Contact a lactation consultant for practical advice on getting a good latch, positioning for optimal comfort, reading your baby’s cues, and more. Lactation consultants have seen it all and can help you establish your milk supply.
  3. Phone a friend: Tap into the rich wisdom of family and friends who have breastfed their babies for the best tried-and-true advice. Like they say, it takes a village.

Donating milk

Moms choose to pump for many reasons. Pumping can maintain your milk supply and help you create a “stash” of milk in your freezer. If pumping becomes part of your breastfeeding journey, however, you may find yourself with an abundance of milk. By donating your extra milk to a Human Milk Banking Association of North America milk bank, you can help save the lives of the most vulnerable infants. Contact your local milk bank to learn more about how donors are screened to ensure the safety of the milk. You can also reach out to the milk bank to receive milk if you do not have an adequate supply for your baby.

COVID-19 and breastfeeding

Let’s face it — parenting is hard work. During the COVID-19 pandemic, you might feel especially overwhelmed, isolated, and uncertain. However, breastfeeding protects your infant from illness and infections, making it as important as ever. In this challenging time, there are many tools dedicated to keeping you safe. At home, you can connect virtually with a professional lactation consultant or clinician. Your pediatrician can also share resources during in-person visits and through telemedicine. Throughout the pandemic and beyond, breastfeeding provides your baby the optimal first food. There are always multiple options to find help and support along the way.

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