News stations around the country and, indeed the world, have focused on a demand surge for safe, pasteurized donor human milk. What does that mean here in the Midwest and Heartland? Freedom Kolb, Executive Director of The Milk Bank, breaks down the critical need and urgent appeal for milk donors.
Tissue donors are a community safety net
Communities are accustomed to hearing from blood banks – regarding need, opportunities to give, and lifesaving impact. This is especially apparent in times of crisis such as 9/11 and natural disasters. The public steps up and blood donors become an essential part of the healthcare system – they are the very fabric of community safety nets.
Milk banks operate in a similar way. Unfortunately, milk donation seems to fly just a bit under the public’s radar. Unless of course, you have had a NICU experience or critically ill infant. For these families – and everyone who cares for them – milk donation is a very real, reliable source of hope, treatment, and support.
Why human milk donations are critical
While human milk provides optimal nutrition for all infants, it is lifesaving medicine for the most critically ill babies. From providing bioactive properties to protect against infection to reducing the rates of dangerous health complications, the use of donor milk gives those born too small, too sick, or too soon the best chance at health and survival.
Pasteurized donor human milk (PDHM) is especially protective against a life-threatening condition called necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). A human milk diet is estimated to lower the risk of NEC by 79% while also reducing hospital stays and costs.
Over 65 hospitals and neo-natal intensive care units (NICUs) across Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, and the Midwest rely on The Milk Bank to provide safe, human milk to their patients. The organization also supports hundreds of families at home on an outpatient basis. And that number is growing…significantly.
Since the start of the pandemic, The Milk Bank has seen a remarkable 41% growth in demand. And it has become clear that this level of need is not simply a spike but represents a sustained new normal – a standard of care. Mom’s have stepped up too, with more than 800 donors giving an incredible 574,000 ounces last year alone.
While this is also a 30% growth, it is simply not enough to meet the regional needs of pre-term and fragile infants. The Milk Bank is proud to have filled every order from outpatients and inpatients to date; however, we must mobilize now to ensure demand does not outpace supply and to avoid triaging infants, potentially compromising their treatment and hope for recovery.
“Whether you’ve considered making a lifesaving milk donation before or you’ve never heard of this lifesaving opportunity, now is the time.”
Freedom Kolb, Executive Director at The Milk Bank
You can help protect the tissue supply
The good news – we know the solution. We know what we must do to help save lives. We must increase milk donations. Each month, The Milk Bank must successfully screen and approve 84 milk donors.
- If you are a breastfeeding parent, become a Milk Donor. Donate a little at a time throughout your breastfeeding journey, or clean your freezer out and make a one-time donation. From your freezer to their tiny tummies!
And while we know not everyone has the superpower to give milk, to reach these numbers we need everyone who cares about infant and public health to sound the alert and share the stories.
- Amplify the urgent need by sharing The Milk Bank social media and by encouraging healthy lactating women who wish to learn more to visit themilkbank.org /donate-milk. Follow The Milk Bank on social media channels, share a post that is meaningful to you and invite your network to do the same.
Together, we can ensure all babies get the best chance to celebrate their first birthday.