World Prematurity Awareness Day Underscores Need for Donor Milk Amid Formula Shortages
November 17, recognized annually as World Prematurity Awareness Day, is dedicated to spotlighting, and raising awareness of premature births and babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). Each year, nearly 15 million babies are born prematurely, and as a result, can face life-long health issues and challenges. Compared to full-term infants, preterm babies need more intensive care, medication and, in some cases, surgery.
Additionally, many premature babies rely on donor breast milk in their first few days or weeks of life, as their moms’ body may not yet produce breast milk given the preterm birth. Breast milk is particularly beneficial for preterm babies’ development, providing nutrients to help them grow and potentially prevent serious illness and infections associated with preterm birth.
As the effects of global supply chain issues have continued to impact families, donor breast milk banks have experienced an uptick in demand due to the shortage of baby formula. Many families, not just those with children in the NICU, have turned to milk banks to help provide the necessary nutrients their babies need. In 2021, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA)’s 31 milk banks collectively dispensed 9.2 million ounces (roughly 720,000 gallons) of milk, up 22 per cent from 2020, and that number is expected to have risen even more in 2022 due to the formula shortages.
Medela, the most trusted breast pump brand, launched the #MomsUnite4Milk campaign, a pump-a-thon and education effort to support moms and families impacted by the national formula and donor milk shortage. Through the campaign, Medela is providing breast milk storage bags to moms who agree to donate their milk to a nonprofit milk bank. To date, more than 50,000 ounces have been donated to milk banks across North America.
In addition, Medela has donated $25,000 USD, benefiting 11 nonprofit milk banks across North America. Medela’s monetary donation will help to further the important role that milk banks have in supporting this national issue, finding more milk donors, and increasing capacity at their locations.
“Families need support now, and we’re committed to doing what we can to address this crisis,” explains Jeff Castillo, executive vice president for the Americas at Medela. “Through this pump-a-thon, we are offering breast milk bags and educational resources for those who want to donate their breast milk. Medela is also offering support to nonprofit milk banks so they can continue to serve the community of families who rely on them to provide the essential nutrition they need for their baby.”
If you’re concerned about the safety or legitimacy of donor milk, there’s no need: donors are screened and blood tested prior to donation, and the donor milk is both pasteurized and tested for communicable diseases before being added to a milk bank’s frozen inventory prior to distribution. For those who may not be near a milk bank, many milk banks will provide pre-paid, insulated boxes to allow moms to ship milk to help others in need.
If you want to learn more about Medela’s #MomsUnited4Milk campaign, their commitment to helping new mothers and families in need and how you can get involved, visit medela.us/breastfeeding/supporting-moms