Wet nursing has a long and illustrious history, but in current times the idea of feeding babies breast milk from someone other than their biological mother can seem shocking. However, a number of organizations and individuals in Britain are striving to change this idea. The United Kingdom Association for Milk Banking (UKAMB) is a charity supporting milk banking and exploring the opportunities for human mothers to feed human babies. Breast milk provides the perfect nutritional source for infants, especially those born pre-term or with medical conditions. A milk bank, similar to a blood bank, collects milk from donor mothers, pasteurises it and tests it for all communicable diseases and then provides it to babies whose mothers cannot provide their own milk.
Milk banking in the UK is currently quite a small industry. For example, a representative bank in Wirral processed 397 L from twenty-three donors in 2007-2008. This milk fed forty recipient babies in the geographic area. Since one in thirteen babies are born preterm in England according to the Office for National Statistics, there is clearly a great deal more need. Milk banks depend on mums not only locally, but across the country. Shipping milk is not only possible, it is desirable in cases where the local supply is too small, or donors with special diets are required. Milk should be carefully packaged for fast shipping, including being frozen at home by the donors in 120 ml containers and prepackaged in foam coolers with dry ice. Flat rate shipping is possible for the milk, saving time and effort for donor mums. Reimbursement of expenses is typically provided by the receiving banks.
Donor milk, once thawed, should be used within 24 hours. As preterm infants can consume around 600 ml a day and older infants consume much more, every bit donated helps. UKAMB distributes brochures for potential donors outlining potential medical issues or medication use which could preclude donation. The most common exclusionary factor is having received a blood transfusion in the UK since 1980, as there is a very small risk of vCJD (variant Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease) for such patients. Milk banks can provide pumping and storage equipment for mums who wish to donate but do not already own the supplies.
Author By-Line This post was written by Sally Rodgers. Sally is a 29 year old writer who is passionate about health and wellness, green living and nutrition. In her free time she enjoys playing with her two English bulldogs.