Contrary to the general belief (and advertising we read in a lot of magazines), the second best thing after breastfeeding is not formula. The World Health Organization is very clear about it: the best thing for your baby is your own breastmilk given by way of breastfeeding (good for the development of your baby’s mouth and jaw in particular, on top of all the proven benefits of breastmilk itself) , the second best is your expressed breast milk, the third best is human milk coming from a human milk bank, and fourth comes formula.
Milk banks are not legion, but they are very very useful for little preemies in neonatal units. Some mothers of ill and premature infants are unable to provide enough milk for their babies, and donated breastmilk may mean the difference between life and death for their babies. A friend of mine is a pediatrician caring for premature babies in one of Toronto’s hospitals and he was telling me that they see a significant increase in the chance of survival for babies who are fed breastmilk. They are now working on establishing a human milk bank here, but in the meantime ask mothers with a lot of supply in the regular maternity ward to give away part of their extra “liquid gold” in order to help someone else’s baby to thrive and grow.
FACTS ABOUT MILK BANKING
(taken from the Mother’s Milk Bank of New England’s website)
Q. What is a mothers’ milk bank?
A. A mothers’ milk bank collects, processes, tests and distributes donated human milk. Some milk banks are hospital affiliated, others are independent entities that serve the whole community. MMBNE is a non-profit independent milk bank operating under the guidelines of the Human Milk Bank Association of North America (HMBANA).
Q. Why is banked milk better than specialized formulas?
A. Human milk is designed for human babies. Specialized formulas for premature babies are modified from cows’ milk and they are very harsh on the delicate digestive systems of premature newborns. For example, necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) is 10 -17% more likely if a preemie receives formula. NEC can lead to lifelong gastrointestinal problems, and is largely preventable by feeding babies human milk.
Q. Is milk banking safe? A. Multiple steps are taken to make sure that banked milk is safe for the vulnerable babies it will feed. Screening of milk donors includes an interview regarding health behaviors, letters from mothers’ and babies’ physicians and blood tests to detect communicable diseases. Milk is heat-treated and must show no bacterial growth. Milk is shipped frozen overnight.
I wish all of us full term pregnancies, healthy babies, and successful, positive and rewarding breastfeeding relationships. When something does not go as planned though, it is good to know that there are people who care and that there is help available. Here is the list of the existing milk banks in the USA and Canada. If this can help one of you some day, I can’t tell you how good I would feel.
Human Milk Banks in the United States and Canada
Indiana Mothers’ Milk Bank, Inc.
Methodist Medical Plaza II
6820 Parkdale Place, Suite 109
Indianapolis, IN 46254
Phone (317) 329-7146
FAX (317) 329-7151
Mother’s Milk Bank of Iowa
Department of Food and Nutrition Services
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Room C330 GH
200 Hawkins Drive
Iowa City, IA 52242
Bronson Mothers’ Milk Bank
601 John Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
Phone (269) 341-8849
FAX (269) 341-8918
WakeMed Mothers’ Milk Bank and Lactation Center
3000 New Bern Ave
Raleigh, NC 27610
Phone (919) 350-8599
FAX (919) 350-8923
Mothers’ Milk Bank of Ohio
Grant Medical Center @
Victorian Village Health Center
1087 Dennison Avenue
Columbus, OH 43201
Phone (614) 544-0810
FAX (614) 544-0812
Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin
900 E. 30th St. Suite 214
Austin, TX 78705
Phone (512) 494-0800
Toll-free 1 (877) 813-MILK (6455)
FAX (512) 494-0880
Mothers’ Milk Bank of North Texas
BC Women’s Milk Bank
C & W Lactation Services
4500 Oak Street, IU 30
Vancouver, BC V6H 3N1
Phone (604) 875-2282