Breast Milk Stash: What Do You Do When You Can’t Use It?

In the US, many start using pumps to express breastmilk shortly after delivery. Parents will start pumping to increase supply and to save a frozen stock of milk. By the time a baby has started showing food allergy symptoms, parents have already begun creating a substantial frozen milk stash.


Unfortunately, once the allergy is detected, parents are not able to confidently use the milk that they worked so hard to save. The frozen stash of pumped milk before your elimination diet may or may not have harmful food allergens.


Many interviewed women begrudgingly threw away large volumes of expressed milk due to unknown allergen contents. Peace of mind and less wasted human milk would come from an allergen detection mechanism. In the meantime, we want to cover all the options for your precious labor of love.



Saving Milk for Future Use? Breastmilk Storage Guidelines Here


If freezer storage space is unlimited, parents can most definitely keep the expressed milk in hopes of the infant outgrowing their allergy while the milk is still viable to use. According to the Center for Disease Control, the below Breastfeeding Guidelines and Recommendations map out how long breast milk can be stored. [1]






Note: These are general guidelines.


Many times, properly frozen breast milk will last longer than indicated below. Use your best judgment by checking the odor and consistency of milk before feeding if you extend beyond these timelines.


If a donation or saving until later isn’t an option for you, there are other ways to utilize your liquid gold. Some companies create jewelry from your expressed milk such as Made With Love Keepsakes.


Adding milk to baths, homemade soaps, and infection home remedy treatments are all popular choices. Many parents report successful ear and eye infection breast milk treatment. It’s important to note that while widely accepted in the parent community, scientific research is significantly lacking in the area of non-nutritional human milk therapeutics. [2]


Breast Milk Donation Banks


Women who abundantly produce beyond their infant’s need may choose to donate to a human milk donation bank. Donated human milk provides optimum nutrition to preterm infants by preventing many life-threatening infections. [3]


Beyond prescribed donated milk, parents may choose to purchase human milk from donation banks. This can be especially important for families with adopted children. These are often referred to as milk banks.


Human Milk Banking Association of North America has 28 accredited milk banks throughout North America and Canada and they will be happy to accept your milk! HMBANA provides milk to neonates regardless of a family’s ability to pay. HMBANA follows CDC and FDA guidelines as well as any state department regulations in processing and safety. HMBANA will pasteurize and test the milk for bacterial contamination before they release the milk to an infant in need.


Other Donation Options For Stored Breast Milk


Parents without a local milk donation bank may expand their milk search to sites especially designed for this function. Facebook Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB) is a global network of milk sharing with community pages for each region. HM4HB will allow you to connect with families looking for breastmilk in your area.


We interviewed Wendy, a mom who has utilized social media to solicit donated milk for her adopted children. Read on to learn why providing her adopted daughter with breastmilk was important.



Wendy’s Adoption Journey


“My adoption journey started a long time ago. My husband and I always knew we wanted to adopt. We had our biological children first and then knew we wanted to adopt after that. We went on a mission trip to Africa and that sort of sparked our push forward to start our journey once we got back. It definitely was a long and painful journey with a lot of heartbreak, but we finally were able to get our girl and we know she was meant to be in our family. We’re super blessed.”


Why is utilizing breast milk important to you?

“Using breastmilk for my adopted daughter was really important to me. I wanted the best for her, and breastmilk is the best in my opinion. I tried to induce lactation without success and getting donor milk was the next best option.”


How did you find donations?


“I went online to the Facebook group human milk for human babies and that is how I connected with donors in my area. Fortunately, I was able to feed her mainly breastmilk for her whole first year. I did have to supplement formula sometimes but because of generous donors I was able to give her lots of good nutrition from breastmilk.”

What would you want other parents to know about adoption and/or breastmilk donations for adopted children?


“I would tell other adopted parents to look into it and not be worried about giving it to your adopted babies. It’s so good for them and gives them lots of antibodies from other moms to help their immune system. The benefits outweigh the risks in my opinion.”


What About Infant Food Allergies for those RECEIVING Milk?


Families needing donated milk with infants with food allergies pose a special challenge. Allergic symptoms have been shown to present as early as the first few days of life in some children. [4] Due to the nature of donated human milk, there is no appropriate way to determine what allergen components may exist.


These children, by default, must be placed on specialized formula and no longer have the proven benefits of continued human milk consumption. A detection mechanism (like test strips!) would allow donation banks and receiving families the power to identify allergen-free human milk for children with specialized needs.


What will families do when allergen testing is available?


Once allergen detection strips are available, parents can safely determine if their stored milk contains allergens that are harmful to their baby. A quick and simple test will give parents the peace of mind to utilize pre-elimination diet milk by providing an allergen ingredient deck for each bag! The above tactics can be used for any milk which does contain the allergen culprit.


Join the waitlist for test strips here!



Authors:


Katie Plummer, M.S. & Trill Paullin, Ph.D.



References:


  1. Protocol, A. B. M. "ABM clinical protocol# 8: human milk storage information for home use for full-term infants (original protocol March 2004; revision# 1 March 2010)." Breastfeeding medicine 5.3 (2010).

  2. Karcz, Karolina, et al. "Non-Nutritional Use of Human Milk Part 1: A Survey of the Use of Breast Milk as a Therapy for Mucosal Infections of Various Types in Poland." International journal of environmental research and public health 16.10 (2019): 1715.

  3. Ahrabi, Ali Faraghi, and Richard J. Schanler. "Human milk is the only milk for premies in the NICU!." Early Human Development 89 (2013): S51-S53.

  4. De Greef, Elisabeth, et al. "Diagnosis and management of cow’s milk protein allergy in infants." World Journal of Pediatrics 8.1 (2012): 19-24.