by Heidi Hauser Green
September 29, 2011
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) is a non-profit association of donor human milk banks. It sets standards for the operation of milk banks throughout North America. If you need donated milk for your baby, HMBANA is a good place to start.
Start by identifying the milk bank closest to you on the HMBANA website. Then contact the milk bank directly and ask about ordering donor milk. According to HMBANA, “most banks are able to ship via overnight delivery.” However, all milk orders require a prescription. So you will need to contact your doctor or your baby’s doctor.
A growing awareness of the importance of human milk for babies and moms has accelerated the demand for human milk at a time when processed donor milk is scarce and costly. There are currently only 10 public milk banks in North America (six more are in development). Given the limited availability of human milk, babies with serious medical conditions such as prematurity are given priority, leaving healthy babies with few options aside from infant formula.
Some insurance companies will cover the cost of human milk when there is a documented medical need, but mothers of babies without a medical condition must pay $3 to $5 per ounce to cover collection, processing, and distribution costs. At a cost of $60 to $100 a day, it’s easy to understand why mothers without enough milk for their babies are looking beyond milk banks and seeking donated breast milk from other mothers with milk to spare.
There are online resources for milk sharing such as MilkShare and Eats On Feets, but with their growing popularity come concerns about mothers sharing milk without proper medical oversight. The HMBANA and the Food and Drug Administration currently offer guidelines (click here to read the HMBANA guidelines and here to read those from the FDA) for sharing human milk. Both support human milk feeding with a mother’s own milk or human milk processed by established milk banks, but neither endorse the peer-to-peer sharing of human milk between mothers due to the risk of infection.
To learn more about peer-to-peer milk sharing and donor milk, read this.
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