Feb 11, 2022 - News

Demand for donated breast milk rises in Pennsylvania

Illustration of a battery icon, but the outline is shaped like a bottle of milk.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Pennsylvania's main independent milk bank is seeing a rise in demand for donated breast milk.

Why it matters: Mid-Atlantic Mothers' Milk Bank provides pasteurized breast milk for babies in neonatal intensive care units.

  • It also supplies milk to New Jersey, West Virginia, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware.

The big picture: Milk banks across the country are reporting donation shortages as the recent Omicron wave and winter weather disrupt the supply chain, according to the Milk Banking Association of North America.

Between the lines: That isn't the case for Pennsylvania yet, but it could be a future concern as demand accelerates.

  • Denise O'Connor, Mid-Atlantic Mothers' executive director, is pushing for more donors to meet demand and to prevent a shortage.

By the numbers: Mid-Atlantic's requests for breast milk have already increased about 30% compared to this time last year.

  • Demand went up 21% from Q4 in 2020 to Q4 2021.
  • The milk bank dispersed more than 294,000 ounces of donated breast milk last year.

The intrigue: O'Connor told Axios there was a small dip in demand at the start of the pandemic when NICU admission rates were low, but there's been a drastic uptick since last summer

  • "I feel that this demand is going to be sustained," O'Connor said. "We don't know what's causing it."

What to watch: State Reps. Wendi Thomas (R-Bucks) and Austin Davis (D-Allegheny) introduced a bill in the House that would provide insurance coverage for inpatient and outpatient pasteurized donor breast milk.

  • A mother must be medically or physically unable to produce milk to meet the child's needs, and the child must be under a year old.

How to help: The bank has four drop-off sites. The closest one to Philly is in Bryn Mawr.


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