I could stop pumping now. But I decided to continue to pump. After completing a series of screening, this week I packed my breastmilk for Mother’s Milk Bank of San Jose.
Some may ask, who would need donated breastmilk when infant formula comes in so handy? Well, for a healthy, full-term baby, infant formula wouldn’t do much harm. But for a sick or pre-term baby, that’s totally a different story. There are more than 200,000 preterm births in the U.S. per year. For these babies, breastmilk is not only the best nutrition, but also the life saver.
The number one cause of death among preemies is necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC). It is a devastating disease that affects mostly in the intestine of premature infants. Infants with NEC need to stay in the intensive care unit (NICU) for months, go through many surgeries to remove the necrotic tissue, which can cause various complications and lifelong sequelae. The medical costs for each case can be as high as $600,000, and the process is unpredictable painful for the parents and infants.
Breastfeeding is the best way to prevent NEC. Human milk contains ingredients that reduces NEC which formula industry simply cannot duplicate. According to Best for Babes, exclusive breastfeeding can reduce the incidence of NEC among preemies up to 79%. When a preemie’s mother doesn’t have enough milk supply, donated breastmilk can save the infant’s life.
That’s why breastmilk is becoming big business. Currently in the U.S., the market price of breastmilk is $2.5 per ounce. Breastmilk is truly gold liquid. Biotechnology companies like Prolacta Bioscience that buy breastmilk, research and sell breastmilk products have received tens of million dollars in investments from life science venture capitalists. In hospitals, the extremely premature babies can be fed on the high-protein products by the company and get optimal nutrition.
But I can’t be optimistic about that cutting edge companies trying to replace traditional non-profit organizations. The Prolacta Bioscience products can surely help premature babies recover, but at a cost of thousands of dollars a baby. Not all the families can afford their products. On the other hand, these companies are buying breastmilk and attracting mothers with extra milk supply to sell instead of donate their mother’s milk, which has caused the freezers of mother’s milk banks around the country low and families rely on milk donations troubles.
Breastmilk is love. Love is for sharing, not for selling. Dear moms, if you’re as lucky as I am and can produce more milk than what your baby needs, please consider join me and become a breastmilk donor. Please contact Mother’s Milk Bank at (408)998-4550. The San Jose Mothers' Milk Bank is a NON-PROFIT milk bank, and a member of the non-profit Human Milk Bank Association of North America. Thank you for sharing your liquid gold!
This is an original post for San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition. Photo credit to Mu-huan Chiang.