Melissa Healy (Los Angeles Times Blog) reports that several groups promoting breast milk and breastfeeding have made an “urgent call” for human milk donations. Apparently, the infrastructure is now in place for aid groups to receive and distribute breast milk to premature and orphaned infants affected by the earthquake in Haiti.
UNICEF has called exclusive breastfeeding of babies under 6 months old “a lifeline” in this emergency situation, where water treatment infrastructure is damaged or nonexistent and communicable diseases are on the rise. The organization also repeated “internationally accepted guidelines” that strongly discourage the donation of breast-milk substitutes such as infant formula or powdered milk or milk products. The reasons for this are that those substitutes may require the use of water that is not sufficiently clean and because milk replacements can prompt some traumatized nursing mothers to cease or reduce their breastfeeding, denying their babies some of breast milk’s protective benefits.
Healy states that human milk donations right now can only be delivered safely aboard the U.S. Navy ship Comfort, which has a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and is caring for some Haitian babies born prematurely. It is important for women willing to pump their milk for donation to contact participating organizations. They will need to get their blood tested and certify that they don’t take most medications or herbal supplements, don’t smoke or take illegal drugs, and are willing to donate at least 100 ounces of milk. The article recommends the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, one of the groups making the appeal for donations. Joining the group are LaLeche League International, International Lactation Consultants Associations, and the United States Breastfeeding Committee.
Also see the International Breast Milk Project at http://www.thestreet.com/story/10669770/1/international-breast-milk-project-delivers-donor-breast-milk-to-orphaned-and-sick-babies-in-haiti.html
Also see related article, http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local-beat/Breast-Milk-Donations-Needed-82839927.html
Photo (courtesy of the United Nations) from http://www.salem-news.com/articles/january252010/haiti_hmb.php