Got milk? If you do -- and if it's of the human breast milk variety --Mother's Milk Bank of California in San Jose is desperately seeking your donations.
It's sort of a mixed blessing for executive director Pauline Sakamoto, who was heartened to hear the Surgeon General put out a call to action in support of breastfeeding last year. But that call -reminding parents that breast milk is full of nutrients and immunologic protection that formula doesn't provide - also sent requests to the milk bank located at Valley Medical Center soaring through the roof.
"We have a dire need," she said. "One can just imagine."
Sakamoto said that more and more doctors are actually prescribing breast milk to premature babies as a medicinal boost, so that while she used to handle orders of about 100 ounces at a time, she's now handling orders five times that amount.
It's a daunting task to fly human breast milk out to the entire western United States, which is the region covered by the milk bank in San Jose. Most of the recipients are babies in neo-natal intensive units in 13 states.
And, the number of donated ounces is decreasing. The 95,000 ounces distributed during the first quarter of 2012 year fell far short of the 107,000 during this same period last year.
At the same time, Sakamoto said Mothers’ Milk Bank faces unprecedented competition as a sellers’ market emerges to meet rising demand. The Milk Bank, which is a member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, screen, test and distribute pasteurized milk at cost, in contrast with for-profit enterprises, she said.
Sakamoto is now mentoring folks in Portland and Montana, hoping to get active milk banks flowing there, too.
Mothers' Milk Bank has a list of requirements for those who want to donate. To learn more, click here. For more information, call (408) 998-4550.