30 Apr 2012

Shipping Bodily Fluids

Our deep freezer piled high with donor milk
Breast milk storage bags!
My hubby is known to the local Greyhound employees as a human tissues guy - he collects frozen breast milk. I think we've used the company five times now to receive human milk arriving from out of town.

When Jacob was a few weeks old, a generous mom in Thunder Bay sent us her freezer stash. After a night of "sleep" with our newborn Ian went early in the morning to meet the incoming bus. We thought we were receiving the Holy Grail - this batch of milk would keep Jacob exclusively breastfed for his first month of life. We breathed a huge sigh of relief when we opened the cooler and saw that the milk was still frozen solid.

Shipping breast milk is obviously a time-sensitive endeavor. It also depends upon the milk being well-packed in a sturdy cooler, especially in the summer. If the amount is over about 500 ounces, there is no need to use dry ice, but in any case breast milk should be packed tightly. Any remaining air space in the cooler should be taken up by newspaper, foam, or other material. We always try to pick up shipped milk as soon as it has made it into town, although that sometimes involves a bit of convincing (shall we say prodding, even?) and educating about the importance and benefits of human milk.

Last summer when we were visiting Calgary, we asked friends back home in Winnipeg to ship us additional milk because Jacob had jumped into a growth spurt, quickly eating his way through what we'd brought with us. We struggled to reach the bus company on the phone, and when we did we were given an incorrect shipping schedule. In short, we realized at 6:40pm that the milk had already arrived and that the depot closed at 7pm. There was no way we would make it to the depot in time, but we got a friend who was closer to try to collect the milk for us.

"I can only release this package to Ian. That is, unless you have written permission from him to pick it up." Apparently the tracking number and confirmation via phone would not do.

My friend blurted out, "But this is breast milk for a very sick baby. It will go bad if we leave it here overnight. We have to get it into a freezer."

Of course, Jacob was fine, but we certainly didn't want to be tossing out spoiled breast milk the next day and feeding him formula. The woman gave up the parcel, and back at my friend's place we unpacked the milk to find it on the verge of starting to thaw.

More recently, we've been receiving breast milk from a prolific, amazing donor in Saskatoon and sharing the goods with several other local families in need. The bus from Saskatoon gets into Winnipeg at 9pm, exactly when the bus depot's counters close. Twice Ian has managed to convince an employee to keep one counter open just a little later.

"Well, how warm is your warehouse?" he asked the shipping guy.

"Does this stuff have to stay frozen or something?"

"Yes," he repeated, "It's frozen human breast milk. It will spoil if it thaws. You could help feed several babies tonight, you know!" Each time, the man at the counter relented and admitted that it didn't make much difference to him if he stayed open a few minutes longer - he had to be there still anyway.

Finally, this last time, one of the Greyhound employees saw Ian and said, "Oh, yeah, you're here for breast milk, right?"

He told Ian that they regularly keep a counter open late for a few doctors receiving samples and for the guys from Canadian Blood Services. How appropriate that, in the shipping world at least, breast milk is taking its place among other human medical necessities.


  1. Love your blog! Just read a bunch of your posts. Totally awesome!! Do you have a "Milk Junkies" facebook page? You should. I just shared your blog on my facebook blog page as well, at http://www.facebook.com/SLMother
    (I blog about being a single lesbian momma) Come say hello! :) My people are good people! And I think you'd fit right in. :)

    1. Hi! Nice to hear from you. I'm glad you like my blog. I don't currently have a Milk Junkies facebook page - you're right, I should, and I will get on it!! Thanks for sharing my blog :) Heading over now to read yours!

  2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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