A baby formula shortage has prompted a “major surge in interest” in donor breast milk, according to Lindsey Groff, the executive director of the Human Milk Bank Association of North America, which accredits nonprofit milk banks.
With the formula shortage worsening in recent weeks, “every milk bank that I have spoken with has seen a major increase in demand,” Groff said, adding that premature or medically fragile infants, such as those in the neonatal intensive care unit, receive priority for donor milk but that healthy, full-term babies can be recipients as well.
At Mothers’ Milk Bank at Austin in Texas, one of the largest milk banks in the United States, requests for donor milk started ticking up in February, when a product recall added to existing supply chain woes.
Accredited milk banks carefully screen donors through a verbal questionnaire, written clearance from a physician and a blood test. The milk they donate is tested and pasteurized to eliminate any pathogens.
Experts strongly advise against receiving breast milk from unknown sources, such as social media groups, where few precautions, if any, are taken to ensure the safety and purity of the product. Sellers may dilute breast milk with water or cow’s milk; the milk can also be tainted with bacteria or other dangerous contaminants that milk banks stringently monitor for.