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Why Human Breast Milk Banking

One of the goals of The Lactivist is to help spread awareness of the availability of human milk banks. As a donor to the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio, I've been continually amazed to learn just how vital human breast milk is to the most fragile of babies.

A few things to consider:

Donor Milk is Extremely Safe.

One of the questions that I've heard time and time again both in person and on discussion forums is whether or not donor milk is safe. After all, it is a fluid that comes from someone else's body. It's understandable how that might make some people uncomfortable. With HIV still posing a significant threat to the world and dozens (hundreds?) of other communicable diseases floating around, it makes sense that moms and dads would want to be reassured that donor milk was safe before giving it to their children.

The reality is that milk bank donors are carefully screened. Full medical histories are taken, bloodwork is done (and must be redone every six months) and release forms must be completed by both a woman's physician and her babies pediatritian. These women must remain drug and alcohol free and cannot donate any milk collected while they, or any members of their families are ill. Donors are also given an extensive list of medications they may not take while donating. (For instance, even a single tylenol means that a mother cannot donate any milk collected within 24 hours of taking the pill.)

When it comes time to process the milk, milk from several donors is carefully combined before being pasteurized to kill any bacteria that may still exist. On top of that, every batch of breastmilk is carefully tested and screened before being shipped out. In fact, donor milk is even tested for its nutritional properties with the most fragile babies recieving the milk with the highest calorie levels.

Donor milk is so safe that there has never been a single documented case of a baby being harmed by donor milk in the 40 year history of modern milk banking in the United States.

Sometimes the babies that need breastmilk the most are the ones that can't get it.

The irony of the benefits of human millk is that sometimes the babies that need it the most are the ones whose mothers are unable to give it to them. Sometimes, a baby is born so prematurely that a mother's milk has not yet come in. This is especially common with premature multiple births where there is simply no way for a mother to express enough milk for two, three or even more babies.

Add in the potential of a mother that has delivered early because she's suffering from an illness like Cancer or HIV, or a mother that is simply too exhausted from the stress of caring for a child in the NICU to produce milk and you suddenly have great need for milk from donors.

Support Milk Banking With Awareness Shirts

That's part of why I'm working to come up with more unique shirt ideas that can help spread awareness of human milk banking. Not only do the shirts themselves use humor to draw attention to the program, but every single penny of profit from the sale of milk bank awareness shirts at The Lactivist will be donated to the Mother's Milk Bank of Ohio. Shirts start at under $10 and the unique slogans like Modern Day Wet Nurse and These Breasts Save Lives are surefire conversation starters.

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