Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Breast Milk - Supply & Demand

I recently returned from a fantastic holiday to Argentina and apart from developing a cold on the flight home it was a safe trip, no Swine flu virus, Dengue fever or malaria, thank goodness.
As well as some fantastic horse riding across the Pampas with a real Gaucho I also had the opportunity to milk a cow on the Estancia La Margarita where I stayed for a few days with my husband and two of my daughters. At the time I commented that provided you understand your anatomy you should be able to milk a cow in much the same way as a mother can express her milk, although I believe that human milk expressing is a little gentler and the amounts produced less copious - The cow produced three quarters of a bucket of milk in one go! Having said that I recall how, almost 24 years ago when one of my babies was born prematurely I had to express 3 hourly and deliver the milk to the special care baby unit. At the end of a day I found that I was expressing one and a half litres, and my daughter’s needs were for only an ounce or two! Maybe I’m not so different from that cow after all! Unfortunately at that time HIV and AIDS was a relatively new virus and little was known about it, the milk banks that had provided a lifeline to so many premature babies were suspended, so my surplus milk went down the drain instead of being given to a needy baby. Today, with new testing and screening techniques milk banks are back and sprouting up all over the country, and premature and sick babies can once more benefit from other mother’s surplus.

The cow on the Estancia had a calf which had been kept at a distance all afternoon which was then brought into the coral and allowed to feed for a short time to ensure a good ‘let down‘ . The calf was then tethered nearby and the process of milking begun. Once the bucket was nearly full the calf was released and the cow fed her youngster. You see its all to do with supply and demand, the more you milk, the more you produce, and so the same goes for mothers. Providing human milk for premature and sick babies can be a wonderful gift; many mothers are too sick themselves to ensure an adequate supply and in addition if they have had a difficult or traumatic birth experience it may take them sometime to establish their own milk source for their babies. Donating a surplus is easy and costs next to nothing, so for women who are interested in donating their milk they can contact the United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking. If you’re in the USA then the link is http://www.hmbana.org/ All that is required is a blood test and a short questionnaire to ensure that you are not on any drugs, or have an infection that could be passed on to a premature or sick baby. Milk can be frozen and kept for several days before being delivered to a milk bank and some milk banks will collect as well.

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Anonymous said...

Great post, I must say thanks for sharing this one!

Nicole using Avent Isis these days

Isis said...

I think you enjoyed a lot there in Argentina.

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