Northwest Mother's Milk Bank nearing opening donation goal

Nationwide, the number of breast milk donations increased by 17 percent in 2011, but advocates say many are still unaware of the practice
August 10, 2012 -- The Northwest Mothers Milk Bank is still inching toward its goal of opening a facility where donated breast milk can be processed and donated back into the community – without the added expense and time involved in shipping donor milk to out-of-state labs to process. Scotti Weintraub, who serves as secretary on the all-volunteer board, said the milk bank has raised $300,000 so far, with another $140,000 to go. Board chair June Winfield said the last major influx of cash came in the form of a $15,000 grant from the Juan Young Trust, but smaller donations have steadily poured in. “We appreciate all those donations, however small,” Winfield said. Earlier this week, the board hosted the screening of a documentary called “Donor Milk,” preceded by a reception at a wine bar in Portland's Hollywood neighborhood. Weintraub estimated about 200 people would attend the screening, whose tickets sold for $25 apiece. Filmmaker Kevin Douglas West said he got interested in human milk banking after he and his wife lost a baby four years ago, and his wife decided to donate breast milk. She ended up donating more than 8,000 ounces to a milk bank in Texas, where he and co-filmmaker Jarred King live. “Even among very highly educated females that have had kids, there's not a lot of awareness about human milk banking,” King said. Earlier this year, the couple started screening their film, and have traveled to cities around the country hoping to raise awareness and funds for other human banks around the country. The film mostly focuses on milk banks in North America, though they have the chance to attend a human milk banking conference, and spoke with some leaders from the international milk banking community. Brazil has 94 donor milk banks, compared to 12 in North America (10 in the U.S., and two in Canada). Since breast milk must be kept at room temperature, firefighters assist with transporting donor milk to hospitals quickly. “They've got milk banking figured out,” West said. The Portland milk bank is one of handful in North America in the developing stages, said Jean Drulis, president of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Milk bank advocates in Mississippi, Toronto and Florida have started organizations similar to Portland. “The main reason they're not able to open is finances,” Drulis said. All the developing milk banks, like Portland's, are in the process of raising awareness and funds to open. Drulis added that lack of public awareness is another barrier. People may not know about donor milk banking, or they may not realize that milk taken to drop sites has to be shipped out of state for processing. “We try to make it as easy as possible for our donors and recipients, but those of us who work for milk banks are crazy busy,” Drulis said. There are seven drop-off sites for donor milk in the Portland area, and two in Washington. All ship milk to either the San Jose or Denver milk banks for processing. The Human Milk Bank Association of North America was founded in 1985 to develop guidelines for donor human milk banking practices (which include screening for HIV and other diseases that can be transmitted through breast milk). In 2011, according to its website, 2,182,916 ounces of donated milk were dispensed in North America – up 17 percent from 2010. TO LEARN MORE: Human Milk Banking Association of North America: Northwest Mothers Milk Bank: Donor Milk documentary:
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Excellent story! Thanks for getting the word out Christen, about the needs of Northwest Mothers Milk Bank. June Winfield, Board Chair Northwest Mothers Milk Bank