When Charlotte was somewhere around 4 months old, she developed a habit of pulling off the breast right at let-down, and she'd refuse to drink some more. At that point, I started expressing some, even though I greatly dislike expressing, purely for my own comfort. My children don't get bottles, nor did I think of letting Charlotte drink the expressed milk, as I didn't want her to start refusing the breast or for my supply to dip. She's never been a big comfort-nurser, and I didn't want to tempt fate. I then tried to convince Kieran to drink the expressed milk, but he wouldn't. If the idea hadn't been a bit off-putting for my husband, I would've cooked with it. Actually, if it's just something for the kids and myself, I will cook with it.
As it stood, though. I was expressing fairly large amounts of milk, only for it to go to waste. I therefore started wondering if there was a milk bank to whom I could donate. I went to the local LLL meeting around that time, and asked the leader if she knew of one. She immediately told me the name of the Wirral Mother's Milk Bank and suggested that I contact them, as she'd donated to them before. They accept donors from all over NW England, and provide that donated milk to the preemies and other infants in NICUs in the various hospitals around the area. One of my friends had recently given birth to a very premature baby, and so she was on my mind. I also thought of one of my cousins, who was also born premature.
So I contacted them, and they immediately sent me the information and bottles and information for the blood tests I would need. I tried to express daily, provided the kids or I weren't unwell, though this didn't always happen, especially as we got closer to Charlotte's birthday. As I mentioned before, I really dislike expressing milk, but I couldn't see denying those infants the gift of milk, knowing that human milk is better for them, and knowing that mothers of preemies cannot always express (while nearly all women can breastfeed, some have trouble expressing milk - it's really a completely different ballgame).
A lady came to collect the milk on a fortnightly or monthly basis, depending on our schedules and how much I'd been able to express. The last collection was just prior to Charlotte's birthday. They stop collecting at that point because the composition of the milk changes as the child gets older. Obviously it isn't some huge change on the day they turn 1, but I see the reason for the cut-off. This week, I got a card in the post thanking me for the donation of milk, and informing me that I'd donated 3,350 mL of milk. I was rather surprised that I'd donated over 3 litres. I'm very glad I was able to do that, though.
After I started to donate to the milk bank, Human Milk 4 Human Babies (formerly Eats on Feets) was formed. I've not donated through them, but I will if I find someone in my area needs it. I think it's wonderful that such a network exists, so women can have access to human milk for their babies when they, for whatever reason, cannot provide it themselves.