Got (breast) milk? Demand for donations is rising
The OhioHealth Mothers' Milk Bank in Whitehall is experiencing an unprecedented demand for donated breast milk.
- But while requests are up 30%, the pandemic is making it more difficult to get donations to vulnerable infants than ever before.
Why it matters: Ohio's only milk bank ships free, nutrient-rich human breast milk to babies when their mother's milk isn't available (recipients just pay processing and handling). Most recipients are premature infants in intensive-care units.
- Once hospital requests are fulfilled, families at home can access donations.
- "Donor milk is to premature infants like a blood donation is to a trauma patient. It's life-saving," outreach coordinator Chris Smith tells Axios.
By the numbers: The bank is on pace to dispense nearly 468,000 ounces — or 3,656 gallons — this fiscal year, which ends June 30.
- One ounce feeds three premature babies for an entire day.
Threat level: Milk banks across the country are reporting shortages of donors, per the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
- Our local supply should last as long as our donor supply doesn't dry up, Smith says.
The intrigue: The more immediate issue is supply chain difficulties preventing the bank from operating at maximum output.
- Milk donated from healthy mothers must first be pasteurized to remove potential bacteria and viruses. The bank's machines, from a manufacturer in England, use specific 3- and 6-ounce plastic bottles that are capped by hand.
- But 6 ounce bottles have been unavailable for some time, making the process more tedious and time-consuming.
What they're saying: "We're trying to dispense at least 30% more milk with one hand tied behind our back," Smith says. "We're barely keeping up."
How to help: Donated milk is accepted up to seven months after the date it's expressed. Plenty of freezer space is available.
- The bank has 14 drop sites across Ohio, including one in Westerville.
- To become a donor or request donations for your baby, call 614-566-0630 or email [email protected].
Editor's note: This piece was updated to clarify recipients of donated breast milk do pay for processing and handling.
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