Supplies of donated breast milk are running low, with the demand for breast milk higher than ever. That’s according to the eleven milk banks scattered around the U.S.
Mother’s Milk Bank in San Jose is one such venue, and its head Pauline Sakamoto says kids in need are losing out:
“In the 12 years I’ve been executive director, I’ve never been short. We’ve had to cut back on some of the hospital orders just so we can service more. We had to cut back on some outpatient kids because we didn’t have that supply. I’ve never had to do that, and I hate to do that.”
Mother’s Milk Bank works from a trailer behind Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, and gave out 420,000 ounces of breast milk to hospitals and families in need during 2010. However, that figure rises between 15 and 18 percent each year, and now supplies are getting squeezed for the first time in the bank’s 37-year history.
The likes of Mother’s Milk Bank supply a crucial service, providing milk for babies at high risk, such as those born prematurely. Such children require human milk as they struggle to digest foreign substitutes, such as formula. Says Sakamoto:
“The problem that we’re facing is that we have a lot of kids that need milk. The preterm infant rate is not going down, and doctors are prescribing it more prolifically. And the milk’s just not coming in.”
Furthermore, the banks are stretched already. Mother’s Milk Bank has to provide for for hospitals and families in Washington, Oregon, Hawaii, Maryland, Idaho and Wyoming, as no milk banks exist in those places.