(NaturalNews) Many mothers today are rediscovering the importance of breastfeeding, as powdered infant formulas simply cannot meet the complex nutritional needs of a growing newborn baby. But along with this resurgence in breastfeeding is a growing demand for breast milk, as many women are unable to produce enough of their own, and are thus turning to other mothers for assistance.
In a recent report, USA Today explains that demand for human breast milk is now so high that human milk banks are unable to maintain adequate supplies. According to the figures, distribution of breast milk via the respected Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) network has risen by more than 31 percent in just two years.
The Fort Worth, Texas-based nonprofit group currently has 17 distribution locations throughout the U.S. and Canada, and is currently in the process of establishing several more. But HMBANA is barely able to keep up with demand at its current locations, having distributed an astounding 2.18 million ounces of breast milk just in 2011.
"We're just struggling to keep up," said HMBANA Executive Director Pauline Sakamoto about the phenomenon. "Our freezers are empty, but the demand is skyrocketing. It's just exponentially growing, so it's imperative for us to find more milk."
More hospitals recognizing that real breast milk is vital for health
The biggest surge in demand is apparently coming from hospitals, many of which are now ordering donated milk particularly for preterm infants. Since these fragile little lives typically have a higher than normal risk of illness and other conditions because of their underdeveloped organs and tissues, they are often priority candidates for receiving much-needed breast milk.
Other milk bank users include mothers that experience delayed lactation, or who are unable to lactate at all. Because HMBANA heavily screens each milk donation before distribution, the practice is largely considered to be safe and relatively low risk. Obtaining milk through HMBANA also requires getting a prescription from a doctor.
Many women sharing breast milk at the grassroots level as well
Because its milk donations come from all sorts of sources, HMBANA's policy is to pasteurize all of its milk before distribution to ensure its safety. Pasteurizing milk, as many NaturalNews readers are likely already aware, damages probiotic bacteria and other delicate nutrients that assist in proper growth and development. (http://www.realmilk.com/pasteurization-harms-milk.html)
For this reason, and the fact that obtaining milk through official sources like HMBANA can be quite expensive, many mothers are turning to informal breast milk-sharing groups comprised of their friends and neighbors. As we wrote about previously, the nonprofit group Eats on Feets has spearheaded a movement to help mothers connect with other mothers through local Facebook groups, which allows them to meet, get to know one another, and share milk. (http://www.naturalnews.com/031679_Facebook_breast_milk.html)
"You can find a mom within a few miles of home," says Emma Kwasnica, founder of Eats on Feets, which now has 120 individual Facebook chapters representing all 50 U.S. states and 52 countries. "It's very different than the anonymity of sharing milk online and shipping it out ... [the mothers are] meeting at play groups and they're handing over a cooler of frozen breast milk."
"How much risk is there when there's a woman down the road from you who you know, her children play with your children, you've been to her home? For many women, it seems safer to get to know a mom and use her milk."