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World Day of Human Milk Donation –

#MilkDonationDay and #PowerOfHumanMilk

The gift of breastmilk is often celebrated by the staff and users of human milk banks.  However in 2010 a special day was chosen to ensure that human milk donation is celebrated throughout the world in recognition of how these special donations facilitate the safe provision of breastmilk to the many thousands of infants who benefit globally. Originally, this day came about in response to Brazil’s successful national milk donation day that started in 2004.  Once the idea of a global day had begun, it started to spread from its largely South and Central American roots, to become a truly global event.

This year, for the first time, HMBANA (the Human Milk Banking Association of North America) joined forces with EMBA (the European Milk Bank Association) to jointly promote the day and ensure that the messages around donor milk and milk banks and in particular those that celebrate the gift of human milk were widely celebrated, especially across social media.

Together the two international associations adopted the theme; Empower Parents, Enable Breastfeeding which in turn was chosen by WABA to be their annual World Breastfeeding Week theme for 2019.  Those who celebrate the gift of breastmilk and the use of donor milk generally see both as a means of empowering parents to be able to feed their infants with human milk even though the baby’s own mother is not able or not yet able to fully breastfeed herself. And studies have shown that when used appropriately and in support of breastfeeding, the availability of donor milk leads to more babies going home from hospital neonatal units breastfeeding.

The social media messages that were chosen to spread the word about donor milk and milk donation were: #BridgeToBreastfeeding, #HumanMilkAsMedicine, #DonorMilkSavesLive

When maternal milk is either not available or there is insufficient, donor milk empowers parents and enables breastfeeding; firstly by being a #BridgetoBreastfeeding through the provision of temporary support for breastfeeding and secondly by ensuring that the baby receives only human milk. This can be lifesaving (#DonorMilkSavesLives) as a result of the unique immunoprotective and other bioactive components in human milk (#HumanMilkAsMedicine).

Donating breastmilk is also often very helpful for the donors. On the Milk Donation Day, I was contacted by Laura Brookes who had seen a re-tweet of one of the EMBA Twitter posts by the UK’s Association of Breastfeeding Mothers. Laura wrote about her experience of donating 19 litres of breastmilk following the 7 weeks she expressed milk in hospital for her son who was born at 28 weeks gestation. Laura explained “It was a really tough time for our family but it makes me feel a bit better about the whole thing knowing that the excess milk I donated will have helped other premature babies, and all that pumping means that I have been able to exclusively breastfeed him since 36/40 and continue to feed him now at over 10 months”.

Social media messages originating from HMBANA, EMBA and their supporters, used additional hashtags to promote and broaden the reach. These included  #DonorMilkAccess #DonorMilkEquity #NonprofitMilkBanks #NonprofitMilkBanking #NonProfitDonorMilk #MilkDonors #DonorMilk #HumanMilk.

In addition to social media, more traditional broadcasting media was in use promoting the work of milk banks and in particular celebrating the donors whose milk ensures the work continues. Here are a couple of examples:

Serbia celebrates in style!

In Serbia, the day was celebrated at the Institute of Neonatology, home of the first milk bank in Serbia, where a party with cocktails (or maybe mocktails for the breastfeeders) was organised for the donors and their families. Dr Radmila Mileusnic Milenovic was instrumental in organising the event which was highlighted by 2 of the country’s TV channels which interviewed her in the studios and also filmed in the hospital.


Born To Be Breastfed

In North America, former EMBA President Gillian Weaver was interviewd for a World Day of Milk Donation special by Marie Biancuzzo for her ‘Born To Be Breastfed’ on the Voice America Talk Radio Network show that goes out weekly. Gillian was quizzed about the world of milk banking and about how milk donation differs globally. You can hear the podcast here: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/born-to-be-breastfed/id714636387?mt=2 and read more about it here: https://mariebiancuzzo.com/blog/


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