A weblog for news about human milk.
Maintained by Jodine Chase
Friday, September 07, 2012
Toronto's pending milk bank sparks controversies over delays leading to baby deaths, and who should get the milk
Toronto is finally
getting a donor human milk bank, and it is not without controversy. Questions
have been raised over how many babies have died in the six years it has taken
for the milk bank to open, and now a family in Ottawa wants the milk bank to
provide donor human milk for healthy, term babies as well as the premature babies
it intends to serve.
The milk bank is
scheduled to open this fall, six years after it was first proposed and a year
after the Toronto government committed $1.2M towards it, reports the Toronto Star. The Star doesn't pull any punches: donor
human milk could have saved the dozens of babies who died from necrotizing
enterocolitis (NEC) while the milk bank was in the planning and research
stages. The Star notes a milk
bank in Calgary was up
and running just 16 months after it was first proposed. The Star's story
has triggered an opinion column in
one of Canada's national dailies, the National Post, slamming the
Ontario health care system for taking so long to establish the facility.
Meanwhile, CBC reports,
the mother of a healthy term infant in Ottawa who was unable to breastfeed arranged
and paid for donor milk from another milk bank. She wants the Toronto milk
bank to serve families with healthy children who can't receive their mothers'
own milk, as well as the very low birth weight preemies and babies with bowel
disorders the bank intends to target. CBC quotes Ottawa neonatologist Brigitte
Lemyre who says, essentially, donor milk is a scare resource and the sickest
babies should receive priority. CBC reports Lemyre also says there is no
evidence donor milk benefits healthy babies.
Calgary Mothers' Milk Bank's Facebook photo album tells the story - from equipment move-in day March 1 to the first official donation March 18 and the first delivery of pasteurized donor human milk to the Foothills Hospital on April 13 - 6 weeks.
The baby deaths in
the years it took for Toronto's milk bank to get off the ground are a tragedy
and the resulting controversy is likely to overshadow the issue of who should
receive donor milk once milk banks are re-established across Canada.
The delay in
establishing the Toronto milk bank was one of the catalysts for the creation of milksharing
communities on Facebook two
years ago. Canadian breastfeeding advocate Emma Kwasnica and her network
of moms from around the world decided to take matters into their own
hands. Mothers were clamouring to donate, and were frustrated at being
told there was no demand for their extra milk - instead of pouring it down the
drain, they started offering it to families in need in their communities.
They turned to the networking solutions of their generation to match families in
need with mothers who had extra milk, and the resulting global Facebook
milksharing network made news in the fall of 2010.
Some health care
professionals, concerned about possible risks of milksharing and realizing
increased pressure on milk banks from NICUs was making less milk available to
babies in the community, found themselves assuring mothers of healthy infants
that infant formula is just fine for their babies. This of course is contrary
to the messaging breastfeeding advocates have worked hard for decades to get
out to the general public. Breast is not best, it's normal, and formula is not fine, it
comes with increased risks for all babies,
with of course the sickest being at most risk.
One concern at the
time was that the popularity of milksharing might reduce the number of moms who
donate to milk banks. That concern appears to be unfounded, but when there is a
shortage of donor milk in hospital freezers, or when policy glitches or funding
issues keep the sickest preemies from receiving donor milk, emotions naturally
On the eve of WorldMilksharing Week (Sept 24-30) USA Today explores the rising
popularity of both milk banks and milksharing. Operator of the long-standing
milk bank in San Jose, California, Pauline Sakamoto, says HMBANA milk banks
distributed 2.1 million ounces in 2011, up from 1.5 million in 2009. And more
milk banks are on the way - Kansas City, Orlando, Portland, Missoula will
all be getting milk banks soon. In Canada – a new
milk bank collection depot is set to open in Edmonton, B.C.'s milk bank system
is expanding, and efforts are underway to open milk banks in Saskatchewan and
New Brunswick. Sakamoto and HM4HB's Kwasnica both note there is no rivalry
between milksharing and milk banking, and acknowledge each practice brings
different benefits and risks to a community.
As donor human milk
is embraced both in the community and by neonatologists and health care
authorities, more families will turn to milksharing, and more milk banks will
open. In each community questions will arise:
Why did it take
so long to re-establish our network of milk banks after the AIDS panic in
the 80s, and how many babies died during this time?
Is there enough
donor milk for all who want it?
hope we will be able to move away from kneejerk responses born of concern over
safety and scarcity. We need to acknowledge and applaud the success that
has come from decades of hard work on the part of breastfeeding advocates who
have clearly convinced families and health care professionals of the value of
donor human milk. We need to explore the issues that have arisen and develop
thoughtful and sound, evidence-based policies to support the use of all donor
It's time for
stakeholders in North America - families who need donor milk, moms with milk to
donate, advocates who support, protect and promote breastfeeding, health care
providers, hospital administrators, policy makers, and anyone else with the
authority and capacity to restore and improve the system - to come together.
It's time we had appropriate policies and processes in place for funding and
support for families who wish to use donor human milk when mother's own milk
isn't available. Babies are dying in NICUs - and mothers are still pouring
excess milk down the drain.
The World Milksharing Week 2012 Blog Carnival is hosted by Milk Junkies blogger Trevor MacDonald.
finally getting a breast-milk bank Toronto
Star, August 31, 2012
Six years after it was first proposed for Ontario, a breast milk bank that
could have saved dozens of vulnerable babies is still months away from
completion. Vancouver has had a facility for more than three decades, and
Calgary opened one in April after only 16 months of planning....more
Matt Gurney | National
Post | Sep 4, 2012 10:11 AM ET | Last Updated: Sep 4,
2012 10:16 AM ET
There was an
absolutely astonishing article over the weekend on the development of a new
Ontario breast milk bank. The facility, to operate out of a Toronto hospital,
will house properly screened donations of human breast milk for babieswhose own
mothers are, for whatever reason, unable to nurse their children. A facility
such as this will keep babies alive and save taxpayers money.
Yet it has been stuck in limbo for no less than six years....more
last year, Mother's Milk Bank in San Jose may have been able to send a month's worth
of donated breast milk to hospitals in Alaska or Hawaii in a single shipment.
Now many of those same hospitals can only get their milk by the week.... more