What’s a nursing mother to do? Faced with a freezer filled with breast milk, one Menomonie woman needed to find somewhere to share the wealth.
Among administrative assistant Pang Yang’s jobs at Stepping Stones of Dunn County is ordering food from the Feed My People food bank in Eau Claire to augment pantry donations received from individuals and organizations throughout the community – including dairy products like cheese and cow’s milk.
Breast milk, however, isn’t the kind of donation the pantry can accept.
“I have a small deep freezer we bought just so I could store milk,” Pang said, explaining that her husband, Vang Hang, works an evening shift and looks after their son Noah during the day while she’s at work. “(He) said maybe we should have bought a bigger one. I told him I didn’t know I was going to produce this much! There was so much that I had to take it to my sister’s house to store.”
And it was her sister who suggested that Pang check online to see if there was an organization in the area that could take some of what they call the excess “gold”.
Pang found out that the Family Resource Center in Eau Claire was the closest drop-off site for Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, a nonprofit located in Elk Grove Village, Ill.
According to the website, the milk bank “provides donor human milk to premature and critically ill babies, supports moms who donate milk after loss, and distributes reduced cost or free donor milk to chronically ill middle- and low-income children.”
Pang learned that she meets the donation criteria and decided she had hit on exactly the right place for her growing supply of milk. Her husband agreed. “That’s fine - we could feed more babies!” Vang declared.
“If I’m not going to be able to use it all, why would I want to hold on to it?” she said, noting that she pumps just once a day at work. “It’s at least 9 to 12 ounces every time I pump.”
Pang’s first donation totaled a whopping 500 ounces – and her freezer is once again filling up fast. Because the hours at the FRC depot coincide with her working hours at Stepping Stones, she had to make a special appointment with one of the center’s employees to drop off her initial donation.
After being tested and pasteurized, most of the milk collected by Mothers’ Milk Bank goes to neonatal intensive care units for infants, especially premature babies, who can’t drink formula and are at greater health risk without access to breast milk.
Pang appreciates the health benefits her 9-month-old son, Noah, has enjoyed as a result of breastfeeding. Other than a couple of ear infections, she said, “He hasn’t been sick except for a fever after shots. That’s it! Breast milk is doing something good.”
She wishes that Mothers’ Milk Bank could share some of the stories about NICU babies who have been helped by donations like hers.
Recognizing that breastfeeding is difficult and sometimes impossible for some mothers, Pang feels fortunate that she can produce an ample supply of the good stuff. “I’ve seen online that they take these supplements … so they can produce more milk,” she said. “I’m just happy that I don’t have to do that.”
Pang encourages those who are as blessed as she is to consider making a donation: “If they have a lot, think about sharing!”