There’s been a global outpouring of financial support and aid for the victims of Haiti’s earthquake; however, what is desperately needed for the infants is human milk.
Of course, infant formula may be available as substitute, but what these orphaned Haitian babies need is the nourishment of breast milk. The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), International Lactation Consultant Association/United States Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA/USLCA), and La Leche League International (LLLI) have issued a joint statement urgently calling for “human milk donations for premature infants in Haiti, as well as sick and premature infants in the United States.”
This week the first shipment of human milk from mothers in the United States will be shipped to the U.S. Navy Ship “Comfort” stationed outside Haiti. “Comfort” is currently set up with a neonatal intensive care unit and medical personnel to provide urgent care to victims of the earthquake. An International Board Certified Lactation Consultant stationed at the U.S. Navy base in Bethesda, MD is assisting with providing breast pump equipment and supplies to the “Comfort.” Dr. Erika Beard-Irvine, pediatric neonatologist, is on board the “Comfort” to coordinate distribution of the milk to infants in need. HMBANA, USBC, ILCA/USLCA, and LLL are responding to requests to provide milk for both premature infants and at-risk mothers who have recently delivered babies on board the U.S.N.S. Comfort, but an urgent need exists for additional donations.
These organizations are not only requesting human milk donations, but support for breastfeeding women in Haiti. According to HMBANA:
The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA) is saddened by the disastrous earthquake that struck Haiti on January 12, 2010. Our thoughts and prayers reach out to this country that now has lost so much.
Many areas have no water, electricity, housing or health care facilities. Recognizing the life saving importance of breastfeeding of infants and young children in this situation, we speak in support of protection and support of Haitian breastfeeding women. Humanitarian efforts must continue to support the health of the mothers and their ability to breast feed.
Currently, US milk banks are low in supply. To find the closest human milk donation center, please visit HMBANA. Unfortunately they do not exist in every state, but you can contact the center closest to you “about having your milk shipped to the bank. All costs of screening and shipping are covered by the receiving bank.” The babies of Haiti need your extra breast milk!
UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the Emergency Nutrition Network, and medical professionals all recommend that breastfeeding and human milk be used for infants in disasters or emergencies. Human milk is life-saving due to its disease prevention properties. It is safe, clean, and does not depend on water which is often unavailable or contaminated in an emergency. Relief workers, health care providers, and other volunteers are urged to provide support for breastfeeding mothers to enable them to continue breastfeeding, and to assist pregnant and postpartum women in initiating and sustaining breastfeeding.
If you cannot make a donation of human milk, consider making a financial donation to continue the efforts to bring breast milk to Haiti’s infants. I just did!
Breast milk is on the way to Haiti. Check out the story below:
Ohio mothers’ excess milk to help sick Haitian infants
K. Bolognese says
Before advocating such an action you may want to become better informed about current policy and conditions on the ground. According to a statement issued last week by WHO and UNICEF , “Human milk donations while safe when processed and pasteurizedin a human milk banks also require fully functioning cold chains. Such conditons are not currently met in Haiti and human milk donations cannot be used at present”. See press release “Call for support for appropriate infant and young child feeding in Haiti”. http://www.unicef.org/media_52555.html
Jennifer Lance says
Here’s the updated release from USBC
Breastfeeding is the First Line of Defense in a Disaster
Washington, DC–The Human Milk Banking Association of North America (HMBANA), United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC), International Lactation Consultant Association/United States Lactation Consultant Association (ILCA/USLCA), and La Leche League International (LLLI) strongly affirm the importance of breastfeeding in emergency situations, and call on relief workers and health care providers serving victims of disasters to protect, promote, and support mothers to breastfeed their babies. During an emergency, breastfeeding mothers provide their infants with safe food and water and disease protection that maximize their chances of survival.
This week, the International Milk Bank Project and Quick International Courier coordinated a shipment of milk from the HMBANA member banks to supplement a mother’s own milk for the premature, medically fragile, and orphaned infants aboard the U.S. Navy ship Comfort stationed off the coast of Haiti. This milk will help this small group of infants. In this highly unusual circumstance the infrastructure associated with the Comfort’s resources allows U.S. sourced donor milk to help fragile Haitian babies.
Donor milk, however, is not a solution for the large number of infants and young children affected by the earthquake in Haiti. Members of the public who wish to promote the survival of mothers and babies in Haiti can donate money to the following organizations: UNICEF, Save the Children Alliance, World Vision, and Action Against Hunger. These organizations are using best practice to aid both breastfed and non-breastfed infants. Members of the public can be confident that donations to these organizations will support breastfeeding and help save the lives of babies.
Interventions to protect infants include supporting mothers to initiate and continue exclusive breastfeeding, relactation for mothers who have ceased breastfeeding, and finding wet nurses for motherless or separated babies. Every effort should be made to minimize the number of infants and young children who do not have access to breastfeeding. Artificially fed infants require intensive support from aid organizations including infant formula, clean water, soap, a stove, fuel, education, and medical support. This is not an easy endeavor. Formula feeding is extremely risky in emergency conditions and artificially fed infants are vulnerable to the biggest killers of children in emergencies: diarrhea and pneumonia.
As stated by UNICEF and WHO, no donations of infant formula or powdered milk should be sent to the Haiti emergency. Such donations are difficult to manage logistically, actively detract from the aid effort, and put infant’s lives at risk. Distribution of infant formula should only occur in a strictly controlled manner. Stress does not prevent women from making milk for their babies, and breastfeeding women should not be given any infant formula or powdered milk.
There are ongoing needs in the U.S. for human milk for premature and other extremely ill infants because of the protection it provides from diseases and infections. If a mother is unable to provide her own milk to her premature or sick infant, donor human milk is often requested from a human milk bank. American mothers can help their compatriots who find themselves in need of breast milk for their sick baby by donating to a milk bank that is a member of the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
For more information about donating milk to a milk bank, contact HMBANA at http://www.hmbana.org. Additional information for relief workers and health care professionals can be provided from the United States Breastfeeding Committee at http://www.usbreastfeeding.org, ILCA/USLCA at http://www.ilca.org or http://www.uslca.org, or La Leche League International at http://www.llli.org. A list of regional milk banks is available on the HMBANA Web site at http://www.hmbana.org/index/locations.
USBC is an organization of organizations. Opinions expressed by USBC are not necessarily the position of all member organizations and opinions expressed by USBC member organization representatives are not necessarily the position of USBC.
United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC)
The United States Breastfeeding Committee (USBC) is an independent nonprofit coalition of 41 nationally influential professional, educational, and governmental organizations. Representing over half a million concerned professionals and the families they serve, USBC and its member organizations share a common mission to improve the Nation’s health by working collaboratively to protect, promote, and support breastfeeding. For more information about USBC, visit http://www.usbreastfeeding.org.
Check out today’s story below on misguided efforts to donate breastmilk to Haiti.
Call for breast milk donations in Haiti goes bust http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/35134523/ns/health-kids_and_parenting/