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Milk Bank secures breastmilk for IN newborns, premature babies

Young mother breastfeeding her newborn baby boy at home
TATYANA TOMSICTKOVA/Tomsickova - stock.adobe.com
Young mother breastfeeding her newborn baby boy at home

Newborns benefit the most from their mother's milk but may not always receive it.

An Indiana nonprofit group works to get breastmilk donations for premature babies. Similar to a blood bank, The Milk Bank accepts breastmilk donations from nursing mothers. Breastmilk is vital to a child's growth and development but what should be a natural occurrence between mother and child has sometimes historically been used as a tool of subordination.

Andrea Freeman, professor at Southwestern Law School, has conducted research on breastfeeding and found it has been a concern among Black families for more than 200 years.

"Black women breastfeed at lower rates than any other women, and always have done," Freeman explained. "This is a story that started during enslavement, and has continued ever since. And there are a lot of health consequences to Black families not having the same choice whether to breastfeed [or] use formula as other families."

Freeman asserted the baby formula industry is powerful in America, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is its biggest purchaser. She stated the industry's perks and lobbying persuade medical professionals to promote using formula instead of encouraging new moms to breastfeed.

One study found infants who are not breastfed have higher chances of pneumonia, childhood obesity, diabetes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and more. But medications or a parent's financial need to return to work could mean opting for baby formula instead.

Jenna Streit, advancement director for The Milk Bank, said it sends 80% of breastmilk donations to the most medically fragile infants in neonatal intensive care units. She pointed out potential donors undergo thorough screening.

"They complete a prescreen online on our website and after that, they complete a more detailed health history," Streit outlined. "They get a blood test done at The Milk Bank's expense. And then, we also reach out to their health care provider to get their consent for donation as well."

She said the organization does experience shortages at certain times of the year. Streit acknowledged more donor milk was available during the pandemic because more moms were at home. According to the nonprofit Women4Change, one in four women returns to work within 14 days after childbirth.

Terri Dee has worn many hats in her nearly 30-year career in radio, tv, and print as a news reporter
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