SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) – Hospitals across the country are facing a critical shortage of mother’s milk. It’s forcing some to ration their supply and that means fragile babies at hospitals right here in Utah are not getting the milk they need to thrive.
It's an invaluable life-giving source. Feeding a baby breast milk, for many, is the first choice for nutrition.
Rebecca Holliday gave birth to her baby girl six weeks ago. Holliday said, "Breast feeding is better for your baby and formula can get expensive."
Holliday is able to breast feed, but many mothers can't and that's where the agency Mother's Milk comes in.
The University of Utah Health Care’s Redwood Health Center is a milk bank depot and collects donated milk and ships it to the headquarters in Denver. There it’s pasteurized and sent off to hospitals across the country, but now their supplies are running low.
Wendy Barber is the Nursing Manager at Redwood Health Center. She’s also in charge of the Mother’s Milk collection center. Barber said she’s also noticed a decline in donations.
Barber said, “We were probably sending out 4 to 5 boxes a week. That's about 35 pounds including the dry ice, but recently we haven’t had any shipment in a couple of weeks.”
The same is true for collection centers across the United States; there are more babies in need of breast milk than there is milk.
Barber explained, "If the baby has a physical deformity, maybe the baby is a pre-term infant, or the mom can't be there all the time or doesn't have the production and the baby needs that extra nutrition."
Holliday says it's an option she would have considered if she wasn't able to breast feed.
"It would be different, but it would be an option worth going with because they probably go through a lot of tests before they feed it to a baby,” said Holliday.
All donors are blood tested for viruses before they're allowed to give breast milk. They also have to be a non-smoker, be in good health, and limit their use of caffeine, alcohol and medications. Donors also have to be willing to donate 150 ounces of breast milk.
Barber compares it to giving blood, she says it's safe and it saves lives. "Some things just can't be replicated and this is one of those things,” said Barber. “It's so valuable to the babies and their moms are so appreciative. It saves a life, giving a product and saving a life."
For more information log on to: http://healthcare.utah.edu/primarycare/redwood/breastmilk/index.php