This Just In: Breast Milk Shortage!November 4, 2011 No Comments
This just in: there’s an American breast milk shortage! And we need your help (we’re looking at you, American moms!). Non-profit milk banks in the USA have issued a plea for more mothers to donate breast milk.
Donated breast milk can save the lives of preterm babies whose moms are unable to produce milk themselves. The 1.8 million ounces of milk currently distributed by non-profit milk banks across America is less than a quarter of the 8 million ounces needed. That’s a whole lotta breast milk.
“All babies should receive human milk. But because it’s a scarce resource, we prioritize it for preterm infants in neonatal intensive care who weigh three pounds or less. These babies respond the best in terms of decreased infection rates and shorter hospital stays,” said Kim Updegrove, President of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
Research has long shown the benefits of human breast milk including being rich in nutrients to help babies grow and antibodies that guard infants against infections.
The shortage of donated breast milk might be due to the fact that few moms know about milk banks.
Canada’s only milk bank exists in the BC Women’s Hospital in Vancouver. The milk bank is registered under the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Donors complete a short verbal and written questionnaire, blood tests are done at a local lab and their doctor or midwife is consulted before milk can be donated.
For milk banks, the rising demand is both good and bad. Although it does reflect a growing awareness on the benefits of breast milk, it also means that providing the service is getting more expensive. Milk banks are now forced to send milk as it becomes available instead of guaranteeing supplies to receivers.
Increased prices could lead to more moms sharing online — a risky health practice. The 10 milk banks under the Human Milk Banking Association of North America umbrella have strict standards for donor screening and pasteurization but informal milk sharing sites do not.
“While it may be compassionate to share informally, it’s unsafe medically and dangerous legally,” said Updegrove.
Suffice to say, milk banks are important organizations increasingly needed by our communities. The more people who are aware of their existence, the more we can do to support this important cause. Spread the word!
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