Feb 1, 2022 - News

Austin breast milk bank donors plunge amid COVID

Bottles with donated breast milk.

A 3-ounce serving of breast milk is ready to be shipped out to nearby hospitals in December 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Photo: Natalie BEHRING / AFP via Getty Images

Breast milk donations are drying up in Austin.

Driving the news: In the latest pandemic ripple effect, the Mothers' Milk Bank of Austin has been putting a call out for supplies.

How it works: The facility allows lactating mothers to apply to be milk donors in the first year after their babies are born.

By the numbers: In 2020, the milk bank had more than 1,800 approved donors. In 2021 it saw about 1,200.

Meanwhile, demand has gone up, with COVID-positive women separated from their babies and unable to feed them — as well as the day-in, day-out requirements of premature babies.

What they're saying: "Many people are very stressed during this pandemic, and taking care of themselves and their immediate family is about all they can handle," Kim Updegrove, director of the Mothers' Milk Bank of Austin, told KVUE.

Zoom out: Donations are declining at all 31 milk banks across the U.S. and Canada associated with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

  • "There's no need to panic," Lindsay Groff, director of the association, told The Guardian.
  • But if "you feel compelled to help someone [by donating breast milk] — now is the time. Now, now, now, we need help now."

The bottom line: Updegrove added that no one has been turned away for milk — yet.

  • "We have not had restrictive gatekeeping on donor human milk for many years now, but if number of donors or volume don't increase by the end of March, we will have to" favor the smallest and sickest babies, she told Axios.

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