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!