Last month when the so-called ban on formula in hospitals came to a head with NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg encouraging the movement, people went nuts. It was all a colossal misunderstanding where people thought babies would starve and the rivers of free formula would stop flowing. Neither is true. But what is true is that Bloomberg wants babies to be healthier -- that's what this is all about. What's also true is that more and more babies are getting breast milk, even the ones whose mothers cannot breastfeed. Donor breast milk banks are in high demand because of the simple fact that there is nothing better for a baby than mama's milk.
It's also quite the business as one ounce of breast milk is going for 3 to 5 dollars. That certainly gives a new meaning to liquid gold. But you know what else is a business? Formula. And one that shouldn't be in bed with hospitals.
It was reported that last year the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) gave out about 2.18 million ounces of breast milk, up from 1.5 million ounces in 2009. Healthier kids -- isn't that what we all want? What's happening is more hospitals are using donor milk for premature babies and moms who want to breastfeed but are having a hard time just after birth. Sometimes it takes a little time for mama's milk to come in and the donor milk is there to help until it does, all without introducing formula, which could possibly derail breastfeeding.
This isn't formula bashing. This is simply taking a supply of what's out there and giving the best stuff to those who need it most. Why wouldn't we use donor milk? I also hope that formula companies take note of this, and do MORE to make sure their product is safe and the best it can be for those who need it as well.
More and more milk banks are working with HMBANA, making the best stuff on earth more available. The preemies and little ones in the NICU really benefit from breast milk, helping them thrive and get what nature intended them to get from the start. Right now getting donor breast milk requires a prescription, and it's sent in to the hospital frozen for use. It's screened for safety, making sure there is no bacteria or viruses, and then pasteurized, which is why it costs so much.
There is also casual breast milk sharing, most notably the former Eats on Feets, now Human Milk 4 Human Babies. Its founder Emma Kwasnica connects moms all over the world who need and have breast milk through Facebook. Here, it's free, and while some fear the risk involved with getting breast milk from a stranger, Kwasnica says that many times the women connect and live close to each other and they discover their commonalities, like having mutual friends, even kids who play together. So it's not exactly a stranger after all.
Can we take a moment to thank all the moms who selflessly donated their breast milk? As a mom who pumped for months and months for my kids while I was at work, I can attest to how challenging that can be. To have extra milk and to give to a mom and baby in need is one of those good deeds that really shows the heart in people.
I'd certainly use donor milk over formula if I had another baby and needed it. Would you?
Image via Daquella manera/Flickr