New Utah Breastmilk Bank
What do you guys think of this? I'm all for a milk bank, but it really upsets me to see them charging $30 per ***ounce***, when Denver's milk bank charges $3, how is there such a huge discrepency? I think this is a really irresponsible case of feeding off people who desperately need this stuff for their infants. Not to mention that out of that $30, the donor gets $2..........unreal.
Mother's milk: A gift with a price tag?
Milk banks are winners, but profit-making brings jeers
By Ronnie Lynn
The Salt Lake Tribune
Nurse manager Lori Noorlander, left, and registered nurse Shelly Lomax watch Tuesday in the McKay-Dee Hospital NICU in Ogden as preemie Titan Pacheco gets donated breast milk through a syringe pump. (Al Hartmann/The Salt Lake Tribune)
OGDEN - Latasha Hernandez wanted to give her tiny twins, Titan and Xavier Pacheco, the best possible start after they were born 13 weeks premature.
So when she couldn't produce enough breast milk to feed them both, she agreed to supplement their feedings with pasteurized human milk purchased from Mothers' Milk Bank, a nonprofit bank based at Presbyterian St. Luke's Hospital in Denver.
Until this summer, that was the closest bank to take Utah moms' donations and fill Utah hospitals' orders.
Now, the Birth and Family Place in Holladay has opened a depot to collect donated breast milk on behalf of California-based Prolacta Bioscience, the country's first for-profit distributor of human milk.
Some Utah moms love the convenience of a local milk depot, but Prolacta's arrival has stirred up a debate on the ethics of selling human milk commercially.
"Human tissue, no matter what it is - organs, blood, skin, eyes - needs to be outside the realm of the commercial endeavors," says Laraine Borman, director of Mothers' Milk Bank. "Saving lives should be paramount and not giving money to the stockholders."
Prolacta sells milk to hospitals at a reported $30 an ounce, compared with the $3.25 per ounce charged by Mothers' Milk Bank. Repeated calls to the company were not returned.
Susan Rugg, the owner of Birth and Family place, counters that more babies will benefit if more banks - for-profit or not - can provide it.
"I happen to believe human milk can help an infant," she says. "I don't Related Articles
When the breast milk runneth over
see a difference in helping one way or another."
Why banked milk? Banked milk is more expensive than formula. But doctors, nurses, nutritionists and lactation specialists at McKay-Dee Hospital in Ogden so endorse its benefits that they consider it the preferred alternative when mothers' breast milk isn't available.
Premature babies tolerate human milk better than formula, says Robert Christensen, director of research for Intermountain Healthcare neonatology and a physician in McKay-Dee's NICU, where the Pacheco twins have been since they were born Aug. 10.
"They don't throw it up, they don't have diarrhea, they don't have blood in their stools and they don't get a bloated abdomen," he said.
That means they're getting the nutrition and calories they need to grow and build strength, not to mention some of the immunity benefits of breast milk. Some immunological properties are lost when human milk is pasteurized, Prolacta and the Human Milk Banking Association of America (HMBANA) acknowledge.
Ronald Stoddard believes banked milk provides another health, if not economic, benefit. Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, where Stoddard heads the NICU, has a low rate of preemies with necrotizing enterocolitis, an inflammation that can literally kill parts of the gastrointestinal tract.
"I've seen babies go from healthy to dead in just a few days," he says. "It's quite a worrisome problem."
Stoddard hopes to do a formal study to investigate whether banked milk is making a difference.
Titan Pacheco and his twin brother were born 13 weeks premature. Their mother doesn't produce enough breast milk to feed them both, so the twins are supplemented with donated milk. (Al Hartmann/The Salt Lake Tribune)
Other hospitals, such as St. Mark's Hospital and University Hospital, rely on formula for preemies in need. Chantelle Turner, a spokeswoman for University Healthcare, said it questions the commercialization of banked milk and is concerned that pasteurization damages its protection against infections.
How safe is it? Both Prolacta and nonprofit banks within HMBANA first screen potential donors' health and lifestyles via written applications. Both banks pasteurize donated milk and test for viruses and bacteria before freezing and shipping it to preemies.
Prolacta adds extra steps to produce three grades of milk, each with a specific caloric and nutritional content. Donors to nonprofit banks ship milk in prepaid containers. Prolacta pays Rugg $2 for every ounce she picks up from donors and sends to its processing plant outside Los Angeles. Rugg says the compensation might not cover her costs of driving to each prospective donor's house multiple times to collect DNA and blood samples, drop off a Prolacta-provided breast pump and pick up milk. Even so, she says, her efforts might prompt more Utah women to donate excess milk and help countless sick babies.
"I see that as a trade-off," Rugg says. "I'm not going to get rich doing it."
Kim Lyne isn't sure Prolacta should, either. The Centerville mother began donating extra milk to Birth and Family Place this summer because she knows both the benefits and the demand for human milk.
"It does seem kind of odd that they're making money off breast milk, and it doesn't seem like they should be making money for something they're not buying," she says. "But there's nowhere else in Utah for me to donate."
The Utah Breastfeeding Coalition has a grass-roots effort under way to open a nonprofit milk bank, but funding has been a barrier.
'That sounds like gold': Utah Valley Regional Medical Center relied on grant money to pay for banked milk when it first began using it in 2003.
"We wanted to try it because the little bit we'd used, we knew they tolerated it better," says now-semi-retired nurse Deanne Francis, who secured the grants. "Every year, our grant request has had to go up."
Now, SelectHealth, IHC's insurance arm, covers banked milk, and Francis hopes other insurers will follow suit. For now, the hospital will use the grant money to cover what insurance doesn't, so that parents don't have to pay out of pocket, she said.
The cost of banked milk is a tiny proportion - maybe $20 to $40 - of the expense associated with a baby's NICU stay.
Very premature babies take little milk, and they're on banked milk only until they're big enough to graduate to formula, usually when they weigh about 4 1/2 pounds.
"At first glance, when you say banked milk costs $2 to $3 an ounce, that sounds like gold," Stoddard says. "But when you compare that to the cost of infection, you immediately recoup that cost by [avoiding] a couple of blood tests to diagnose an infection."
Even milk at Prolacta's reported prices could mean a savings,
McKay-Dee Hospital is one of the few in Utah that provides premature babies with donated human milk, which it buys pasteurized and packed in small bottles such as this. (Al Hartmann/The Salt Lake Tribune)
but doctors say they'd have a hard time justifying the expense when they can get milk at one-tenth the price from Mothers' Milk Bank.
"We'd still get it from Denver," Stoddard says.
Perhaps most important, says McKay-Dee's Christensen, are shorter hospital stays for preemies.
"Their ticket home is to get bigger, and that happens through feeding and nutrition," he says. "So if we get them something that stays down and is tolerated, they're going to go home sooner. Now there's a cost savings for you."
Who can donate?
Lactating mothers can donate breast milk if they:
* Are in good general health.
* Have permission from their own doctors, as well as their baby's doctor. The permissions are meant to be an endorsement of mothers' good health and assurance that donation won't jeopardize their babies' health.
* Are willing to undergo a blood test at the milk bank's expense.
* Are not using medication or herbal supplements (with the exception of progestin-only birth control pills or injections, Synthroid, insulin, prenatal vitamins or a handful of other medications).
* Are willing to donate at least 150 ounces of milk.
* Have not tested positive for HIV, HTLV, Hepatitis B or syphilis.
* Do not have a sexual partner at risk for HIV.
* Do not use illegal drugs.
* Do not smoke or use tobacco products.
* Have not received an organ or tissue transplant or a blood transfusion in the last six months.
* Do not consume more than two alcoholic drinks per day.
How do I donate?
To donate to the closest non-profit milk bank, Mothers' Milk Bank in Denver, call 303-869-1888 or 877-458-5503 to initiate the screening process.
To donate to Prolacta Bioscience, a for-profit milk bank based in California, call Susan Rugg at The Birth and Family Place in Holladay, 801-278-3102.
Neither bank compensates women for their donations.
The issue: Whether donated breast milk should be sold for a private company's profit.
The context: Some Utah hospitals buy donated human milk from a nonprofit milk bank in Denver. A task force is trying to launch a nonprofit bank in Utah, but lacks funding. A for-profit company started collecting Utah donations this year.
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