If you’re a breast feeding mom, you should know that you’re walking around with a very valuable commodity. While most of us think of breast feeding as a personal event – that you do for your own child – more and more milk banks are scrambling to find the donations they need to keep going.
In 2009, for instance, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) distributed 1.5 million ounces of milk; in 2010 they distributed 1.8 million; this year, they distributed 2.18 million ounces of breast milk.
Why is there such a need for breast milk? And why is there a shortage? As executive director of the Mother’s Milk Bank in San Jose, Pauline Sakamoto, explained,
“Our freezers are empty, but the demand is skyrocketing. It’s just exponentially growing, so it’s imperative for us to find more milk.”
Who is using the breast milk of others? More hospitals, as Sakamoto explained, are using donor milk for pre-term babies, and more donor milk is being used by moms who have delayed lactation. This is certainly a good sign, when so much research today points to the many health benefits of breast milk.
The milk banks take in milk from women and screen it for bacteria and viruses before pasteurizing the milk. They then charge $3 to $5 per ounce to the recipients, based on the work that goes into screening the moms with blood tests, screening the milk and pasteurizing it. Milk recipients must have a prescription from a doctor. Then, if it’s a pediatric ICU unit, for instance, that needs the milk, it is sent from the milk bank overnight by mail and arrives frozen.
Certainly this is an unusual line of business, and an industry that appears to be growing.