A while back I interviewed Pauline Sakamoto, director of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, on the Motherlove Blog.
She talked about the increase in demand for donor milk over the last ten years, and how milk banks sometimes struggle to meet the demand.
But recently, as hospitals have rapidly been changing their policies to make donor milk the standard of care for preterm babies under certain gestational ages and weights, the rate of increase has become even steeper.
The result, according to this article on MSNBC, is an "unprecedented" shortage in donor milk:
“For the last four months, everyone has been struggling to find enough milk,” says Pauline Sakamoto, executive director of the Mothers’ Milk Bank in San Jose, Calif.
Donors are willing, but demand is growing faster than supply. The total supply increases 8 percent to 10 percent every year, Sakamoto says, but “the demand has just outpaced our ability to collect the milk. It’s mainstream medicine now.”
Just last year, the banks had enough milk to supply babies who weren’t even in the hospital, such as infants whose mothers had a double mastectomy or the full-term babies who couldn't keep formula down but whose mothers couldn't breastfeed, says Sakamoto, herself a former donor. “I can’t serve them anymore. And as a nurse and as a mom, I can’t handle that.”
With regard to mother-to-mother milk sharing, the donor milk banks are urging qualified moms to consider milk banks:
Many informal milk-sharing website have sprung up in recent years, but both Updergrove and Sakamoto urge women to consider donating to the nonprofit milk banks instead, because they prioritize the highest-need cases. For a healthy full-term infant, Updergrove points out, an extra 200 ounces of milk represents only about eight meals. For that struggling preemie, it means so much more, she said: “You could save a lot of lives by donating your milk to the milk bank.”