Sarah Marsh, University of Texas intern
I came to the Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin as a student intern and the mother of a then 10-month-old boy. Although I had known about the existence and importance of human milk banks in my professional life (I’m a nurse and a midwife), it wasn’t until I started breastfeeding my own baby (and experienced the triumphs, and the challenges) that I became more curious about milk donation and learning more about how human milk banks work. Although milk donation wasn’t an option for me, I met many new mothers in my community who became donors, and was inspired to learn more.
The focus of my work at MMBA has been on learning more about the personal characteristics and factors that motivate milk donors. I knew very little about MMBA and its wide network of donors and supporters before I started my internship and have learned so much. In 2014 and 2015, 1723 milk donors from all over the country (29 states and DC) donated their milk to MMBA to help support preterm and medically fragile infants. The median total milk volume donated by donors during this period was more than 500 ounces! As a pumping mom this amazes me!
It was also interesting to learn about how milk donors hear about MMBA. Milk donation is not yet as widely known as blood donation (MMBA is working on changing this!), so understanding how lactating women learn about milk donation is really important to sustaining and growing human milk banks and ensuring that vulnerable infants has access to donor human milk. I found that donors learn about human milk banking in many ways including healthcare providers, friends and word of mouth, lactation consultants, social media. There are champions of human milk bank working in hospitals, breastfeeding centers, and communities all over the country who are educating lactating women about the option of milk donation. In Austin, many donors say they learned about MMBA from driving past the building sign and local billboards.
My time at MMBA has demonstrated that a small group of committed staff, amazing volunteers and generous donors can change lives. The team at MMBA works tirelessly to support the normalcy of breastfeeding in our community and make milk donation as easy for the donors as possible, while processing the milk safely and in accordance with national standards. Together this group of amazing individuals (donors, MMBA staff, volunteers, and supporters) is helping preterm and medically fragile infants thrive!