Northwest breast milk banks see surge in inquiries

SPOKANE, Wash. – As parents across the country continue to scour stores and social media for baby formula, some parents are turning to donated breast milk.

Experts say it’s not as simple as just asking for someone’s breast milk and exchanging it. The Northwest Mothers Milk Bank says breast milk should be screened in the event a woman may have undetected illnesses or diseases.

Since the baby formula shortage worsened in the last few weeks, the interest in donated breast milk is gaining a lot of traction, whether it’s people wanting to donate or are in need of it.

The Northwest Mothers Milk Bank says in April, it received nearly 180 calls from potential milk donors. As of May 19, the executive director tells us it’s received more than 370 calls about donating.

While Northwest Mothers Milk Bank is located in Oregon, there are places women can drop off donated breast milk in eastern Washington.

In Spokane, women can drop off breast milk at Nurture Lactation located on the South Hill or at the Pullman Regional Hospital, according to the milk bank’s website. If women can’t make it to these drop-off sites, they can also mail it to the milk bank for free.

Kaleena Trimpe, the founder of Nurture Lactation and nurse practitioner, says she’s also received quite a few inquiries about donated breast milk.

Usually, Trimpe said they receive a call or two, on average, a week about people interested in donating milk. This week, she said they’ve had about three or four calls a day.

If people are interested in donating, they can drop off them off at their site and then they will mail them off to Northwest Mothers Milk Bank where they’ll get screened and then donated to others.

If parents are really in need of breast milk, Trimpe said they’ll provide screened, pasteurized breast milk for families but also ask for a prescription from a doctor.

“There’ve been a few inquiries. Unfortunately, it’s not a great long-term solution. That’s hard for families right now with the formula shortage but we’re definitely here for short-term needs,” she said.

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Anna Izenman, who moved from Spokane to Tacoma, tells us she’s been donating since March, finding out she’s producing much more than her son needs.

“It started as a practical solution. We have a deep freezer, and I, in about six weeks, had almost filled up half the door,” she said.

Izenman found out about breast milk donations, so she started donating through the Mother’s Milk Bank under the Rocky Mountain Children’s Health Foundation in Colorado. When getting started to donate, she had to get screened and eventually donated milk.

In about three months, she pumped about 720 ounces of milk, which is a little more than five-and-a-half gallons.

Izenman formula-fed her first baby, and feels like donating her breast milk is one way to help during this shortage.

“I cannot imagine having to face the shortage that’s going on right now, the scramble or having to compete with other people for what’s on the shelf is beyond stressful,” she said. “I’m very grateful we’re able to breastfeed this time around and if I can help other people alleviate some of that stress, that’s just the better.”

Northwest Mothers Milk Bank does mostly donations to babies in the NICU, however, if they have excess, they will donate to those in desperate need during the baby formula shortage. A health screening does take place before being able to donate.

“Breast milk, human milk is a bodily fluid. So it comes with it, risks of bloodborne pathogens like HIV, and so you want your donor to be screened to make sure you’re not transmitting diseases,” said Trimpe.

To find out more information on how to donate or ask for donated, screened breast milk, click here.

Nurture Lactation says it plans to start a baby formula exchange for families in need on Mondays and Fridays from 1 pm to 4 pm. Parents can bring unopened, unexpired cans of formula, and those in need can come get some if they’re in need. Trimpe said they are limiting it to two cans per family. For more information on how to donate to Nurture Lactation or get help, visit their website here.

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