Breastmilk Shortage Hurts All of Us

breastmilk bank shortageAs more informed new moms become aware of options that our own mothers didn't have, the popularity of lactation classes, breastfeeding support groups, and breast milk banks is increasing. While this is a great thing, there are some pretty big bumps in this road to getting moms on board with breastfeeding. One that is concerning hospitals that care for premature babies is the low supply of breast milk in the banks. A phenomenon that is getting worse, not better.

In fact, one milk bank in San Jose, California says they haven't seen such low volumes in their milk in over a decade. Hospitals are being denied breast milk for their preemies, and that's not a good thing for tiny immune systems. So what is causing this national milk bank depletion?


One employee points to the widespread dissemination of information about the benefits of breast milk. Which means more people than ever are turning to milk banks when they have their own issues and cannot produce enough, or any, for their babies. Which highlights to a problem akin to our country's ailing infrastructure. We need more support in place in order for babies to be able to get the breast milk they need to thrive.

It's great to educate women on the benefits of breastfeeding. What's not great is then telling them they have to go right back to work after the baby is born, will not be provided a private area or daily breaks to pump, and by the way, your health insurance doesn't cover a lactation consultant or breast pump. Whether these women are frequenting milk banks or not, we don't know. What we do know is there would be a lot more women able to donate breast milk if they weren't too busy pumping for their baby that was left behind when mom went back to work.

While the requirements for milk donors can also be daunting -- especially to a new mom who is already exhausted and in a time crunch -- truly motivated women do donate to milk banks every day. It's just not enough. Milk banks are feeling the crunch of too little supply and too much demand, and the tiniest babies are suffering as a result.

Which is why as we're cheering for breastfeeding awareness, we have to back that up with family-friendly work, tax, and health insurance policies. You can't have one without the other, as these milk banks can attest.

Do you donate breast milk?


Image via Daquella manera/Flickr

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