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Statement on Milk Sharing and Banked Donor Milk

October 30, 2013


The Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon (BCO) acknowledges the scientific evidence of the positive role of breastfeeding and mother’s milk in improving health outcomes for mothers and babies. In situations where a mother’s own milk is not available to meet her baby’s needs, pasteurized donor human milk from a licensed, nonprofit milk bank is the preferred replacement. The modern milk banking system in this country and in the Northwest in particular is relatively new and BCO supports strategies to build capacity to meet the potential demand for all babies to receive screened human donor milk when they need it. The current cost of and limited access to human donor milk make it out of reach for many families, creating potential health inequities and disparities that need to be addressed to ensure the future of all babies is as healthy as it can possibly be.   In Oregon, the newly opened Northwest Mothers Milk Bank (NWMMB) is a Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) affiliated milk bank. NWMMB licensing regulations provide protection for human milk recipients as well as donor mothers. They do this by screening donors for infectious diseases that can be transmitted through breastmilk, pooling milk from multiple donors to mitigate any contaminants in the milk such as medications, alcohol and other substances, and pasteurizing the milk to kill harmful bacteria that may have found their way into the milk from improper pumping and storing techniques. The informal sharing or purchasing of human milk presents a potential risk to the infant receiving the milk because these precautions are not used when one mother gives or sells her milk to another mother. We are concerned that problems arising from informal milk sharing may deter families from seeking human milk even though it provides factors not replicated in any other source of nutrition. A safe source of donor milk is critical to support the nutritional needs of all our community’s children. In addition, by increasing the supply of banked donor milk the prohibitive cost of human milk will come down, making it more accessible to families seeking to minimize the health risks of formula. BCO is also committed to a strategy of advocacy for insurance coverage of donor human milk.   The Breastfeeding Coalition of Oregon recognizes the culture of helping one another that is expressed when women share human milk and we also believe informed consent and knowledge-based decision making are at the forefront of a mother’s decisions about her family every day. Mothers faced with the challenges of not being able to meet the nutritional needs of their babies with their milk alone need to have support and understanding of all the issues to make a knowledge-based decision about what is best for their baby.   The BCO urges mothers who want to donate milk to be screened through Northwest Mothers Milk Bank and to give milk to this trusted community resource. The more donors we have, the more milk will be available to meet the needs of both hospitalized and healthy infants. A robust, accessible, safe and equitably distributed supply of milk will provide the best protection now and in the future for our most vulnerable Oregonians.   The BCO is a statewide organization of organizations. Opinions expressed by the BCO are not necessarily the position of all organizations participating with BCO in the statewide coalition and opinions expressed by BCO representatives are not necessarily the position of the BCO.