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Health & Baby

Milk Banks Supply Needed Breast Milk

Experts say the donated milk can be a life-saving -- if costly -- boost for fragile babies.
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Not Regulated by the FDA continued...

Currently, the association operates milk banks in each of the following states: California, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio, and Texas, as well as Canada. Some of its banks are affiliated with hospitals; others are community-based. Recently, Prolacta Bioscience opened North America's first for-profit human milk processing facility, in California.

Recipients do not need to reside near a milk bank to benefit from the pasteurized milk it supplies. "All but one location has milk shipped in and out," Tully explains.

"I ship all over the U.S. I've even sent milk overseas," adds Gretchen Flatau, executive director of Mother's Milk Bank in Austin. Because it is perishable, the milk is shipped on ice and overnighted, Flatau explains. Most of the milk shipped from milk banks around the country finds its ways to hospital neonatal intensive care units, where vulnerable infants stand to gain the most from human milk.

About Donors

Women are not paid for donating to milk banks; their motivation is purely altruistic. "They know they're helping babies. For a lot of women who donate, it's kind of a spiritual thing. They feel a connection to moms who can't breastfeed," Flatau tells WebMD.

So far, supply has never been a problem. "I get at least 10 emails a day, and five to 10 phone calls, from people wanting to donate," More says.

The amount of milk donors supply varies. Milk banks require that donors provide a minimum of 100 ounces to 200 ounces over three months or less. Some women far exceed that requirement, donating up to 10,000 ounces, Flatau notes.

A willingness to donate a minimum amount of milk is not the only requirement. Donors, and their own infants, must be healthy. "Donors must be free of illness and have babies that are thriving," says Tully. "We never want to be taking milk from a baby who's not healthy," she tells WebMD.

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