Banks for Breast Milk? Part 2

“We ask that a mother makes a commitment of 100 ounces,” Mitchell said. That is enough to offset the cost of donor screening and milk processing. At 3 to 4 ounces a day, it takes about a month to fill that requirement. “A lot of mothers call us because they have a freezer full of milk already” she said.

The milk is pumped at home and can be dropped of at the banks or can be picked up by a milk truck if you do not live near a milk bank.

The Miracles It Works
Milk banks have been saving lives for more than 50 years. Even after a thorough pasteurization process, donated milk holds similar benefits as milk straight from the breast. “In many cases components of the milk are 50 [percent] to 90 percent preserved and one component is heat activated. That component is actually improved after pasteurization,” Tagge said.

Human milk is the safest form of nutrition for a newborn’s delicate system. “We use the milk as a gentle introduction of food into the intestines of premature babies. Human milk is especially easy to digest and the instances of infection are less than with formula,” said Michael Spear, attending neonatologist at Christiana Care Health System where the nation’s oldest milk bank is located. Dr. Margaret Handy founded the Mother’s Milk Bank in Newark, Del., in the 1940s.

Research has shown that human milk and breast-feeding infants provide advantages with regard to general health, growth, development and cognitive development, while significantly decreasing risk for a large number of acute and chronic diseases, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, an organization that has advocated breast-feeding since 1948.

“I think it is a miracle. Mother’s milk is just a miracle,” Mitchell said.

How to Receive Donor Milk
Milk is available by prescription for a medical need. Each recipient of donor milk needs to be under medical supervision. With only six milk banks in the United States, chances are that you don’t live close enough to stop by.

Many of the banks will deliver the milk to your home. “We are a national milk bank and send milk all over the United States,” said Mary Tagge, coordinator at Mother’s Milk Bank in Denver.

The recipient pays a processing fee of $2.50 per ounce of donated milk, plus $0.25 per ounce if shipped. This is only a fraction of what it costs to screen the donors, and treat and distribute the milk. “We are estimating that that it costs $4 per ounce to process the milk if we take away initial capitol costs,” Mitchell said. The remaining costs are covered by grants and private donations.