Podcast: All About Human Milk Banking

Breastmilk is sometimes referred to as “liquid gold”. Its benefits are well-known. But as important as it is for healthy, full-term infants, it’s even more important premature babies, sick babies, and babies with some specific conditions. For example, human milk can significantly reduce the rate of necrotizing enterocolitis in preemies. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) operates milk banks in the United States and Canada that provide human milk to the most vulnerable babies – but they always need more.

I recently had the chance to speak with HMBANA past presidents Frances Jones from the BC Women’s Milk Bank here in Vancouver and Pauline Sakamoto from the Mothers’ Milk Bank in San Jose, California. They explained how HMBANA milk banks differ from other milk banks. They also outlined why the need for donor milk is so great, and explained the donation process.

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Photo credit: Tzuhsun Hsu on Flickr

In an ideal world, every mother would be able to provide her own milk to her baby, if that’s her choice. However, even those of us who consider ourselves breastfeeding advocates know that for any number of reasons, this isn’t always possible. In my own case, with a premature baby in the NICU, I wasn’t able to pump as much milk as they said she needed to consume every day. In my hospital, and with a relatively healthy preemie, donor milk wasn’t an option, so my daughter was supplemented with formula until she got her latch down. While she’s healthy as a horse, I would have preferred to have donor milk as an option. Many other mothers with far greater need would also like access to donor milk, and they aren’t able to get it. This is why Frances and Pauline are always looking for more donors.

If you’re curious about human milk banks, how they operate, or how you can donate, listen to the podcast:

Next week on the Strocel.com podcast I’ll be sharing an interview with Samantha Reynolds of bentlily. She started writing a poem a day to chronicle the first year of her son’s life, and it turned into a movement. She inspired me to write my own poem, and I’m not the only one. If you’re looking for some inspiration or a greater sense of mindfulness, you’ll want to tune into this one. Subscribe to the Strocel.com podcast in iTunes, and you won’t miss a minute!

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  1. I think milk banks are wonderful and it’s fantastic that there is one in our backyard in BC! That said, the rules for donating are prohibitively restrictive. I tried! I was rejected! Yet my breast milk has been more than good enough to nourish two human beings, and I’m sure that if I’d wanted to informally share my milk (through a fb group or whatever), I would have found willing recipients. Even when I called BC Women’s and they went through the eligibility questions, they got to one, mentioned that this one results in many many women being deemed ineligible, and sure enough, I was lumped into that group. Despite my willingness to pump every day (not fun!) and donate a litre of milk at a time. sigh. I know there is policy and liability behind this kind of decision but it was very frustrating.
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  1. […] initiation in the United States is over 70% and climbing. Formula use is on the decline, and human milk banks are opening across North America. The trend is positive, but there is a lot of work left to be […]

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