Milk Banks face unprecedented crisis
Pauline Sakamoto will forever remember the anxiety she felt last Christmas when, for the first time in her Milk Bank’s 37 year history, she turned away mothers seeking human donor milk for their infants.
Demand for mothers’ milk continues to rise nation-wide as supplies remain inadequate. At the Mothers’ Milk Bank, based in San Jose and serving hospitals in much of the Western US, mothers’ pleas for milk are, in some cases, going unmet.
In the nearly four decades before this current crisis, the San Jose Mothers’ Milk Bank received enough donations to provide nourishing donor milk for babies in and out of the intensive care unit and babies with chronic or congenital illness. Today, the Milk Bank is barely meeting the needs of the most vulnerable infants in intensive care in the thirteen states it serves. The 95,000 ounces distributed during the first quarter of this year fell far short of the 107,000 during this same period last year.
“On the demand side, the Surgeon General, along with several major maternal and child health associations have issued calls to action for mothers’ milk as the nutrition of choice, especially for prematurely born infants,” explained Pauline Sakamoto, the executive director of the San Jose Mothers’ Milk Bank, whose testimony before the CDC helped push the passage of these new policies.
Simultaneously, the Mothers’ Milk Bank faces unprecedented competition as a sellers’ market emerges to meet rising demand. The Milk Banks distinguish their services as a public benefit. Members of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America screen, test and distribute pasteurized milk at cost, in contrast with for-profit enterprises. Milk banks fill physicians’ prescriptions ensuring donations reach preterm infants who are failing to thrive without it.
The Mothers’ Milk Bank safely and confidentially processes donor milk from most of the Western US and distributes it to the infants whose own mothers cannot nurse them. Nursing mothers can call the Milk Bank to find out more at 877-375-6645 , connect on http://www.facebook.com/freshestmilk; or find us online at www.sanjosemilkbank.com.