Milk rush: Demand grows for donated breast milk - Cincinnati News, FOX19-WXIX TV

Milk rush: Demand grows for donated breast milk

FOX19 -

More mothers than ever are donating breast milk to non-profit milk banks and the number of moms pumping for compensation is also on the rise.

Why the milk rush? There's a critical demand for human milk to feed premature infants.

Some companies offer one dollar per ounce of breast and then turn the milk into a product to help babies in need.

For more than a year, Nicole Hutchison's routine went something like this--feed her baby, pump extra breast milk, and donate it to her local nonprofit milk bank. In all, Hutchison donated more than 3,200 ounces.

"I decided to donate my breast milk whenever I discovered that I had a really abundant supply."

That donation is life-saving according to doctor Sheela Geraghty with Cincinnati Children's Center for Breastfeeding Medicine. "That milk is life-saving for babies who are sick and in the hospital,” said Geraghty.

Non-profit milk banks accept donations from screened donors to provide to fragile infants. Donations from milk banks can also feed premature infants who may not be able to ingest their mother's milk.

The benefits don't stop there. Researchers are also studying human milk's impact on adults to see how it improves the immune system and fights infection.

"The industry of commercializing human milk products is certainly growing. Private companies compensating women for their breast milk shows them that there's a clear value to this very powerful tissue," said Dr. Lars Bode, an associate producer from UC San Diego.

As researchers discover more benefits of breast milk, the demand for breast milk grows. The Human Milk Banking Association of North American says non-profit milk banks are competing with companies compensating women for their donations.

“There's approximately 60,000 mothers in the United States that could donate breast milk to babies. We know that right now the amount of donors that we have donating their milk to nonprofit mothers milk banks isn't enough to meet those needs,” said John Honaman with the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

We are far from fully discovering the benefits of human milk, but the advancements so far point in a positive direction. Experts say milk donations continue to save the lives of premature babies who years ago would not have survived.

Moms who are having trouble making enough breast milk are often willing to buy it online. Experts say the problem with that is the milk you purchase may come with more than you bargained for.

"We have done studies where we've seen that milk that comes from far destinations could have been not temperature controlled, gotten too warm, has a lot of bacteria and also viruses in the milk,” said Geraghty.

So while some moms are willing to cash in on the booming breast milk business and make an extra buck, experts say the best place to go with extra milk is to a non-profit, where the benefit of the milk for sick children is priceless.

"It is a gift to feed your child and it's a blessing to be able to share that gift with others," said Hutchison.

For more information on donating breast milk, visit the site for Human Milk Banking Association of North America.

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