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Why the national breastmilk shortage isn’t affecting The Upstate

How the shortage is impacting our area
Published: Apr. 25, 2022 at 7:06 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - Earlier this year, we faced a national breastmilk shortage.

According to the Human Milk Bank Association of North America (HMBANA), breastmilk demand is increasing. They’re encouraging lactating people to donate so they can help out others in need.

Luckily, local banks, and our state overall, are going great.

Parents of premature children, parents with an adopted baby, widowed parents, a parent with their breasts removed, or parents who just can’t produce the milk themselves, are a few of the wide range of examples of people who may depend on donated breastmilk.

Ashley Makan struggled to produce enough milk for her baby.

“I, basically, was under the assumption that breastfeeding was a natural, biological function—it wouldn’t be much work. And, in reality, it’s a learned experience,” Makan said.

Makan says donated breastmilk helped her baby, who is five years old now.

“I had a baby that had a very, sensitive tummy. And every formula we tried, it just caused so many issues—gas,” Makan said, ”It was just one problem after another. When we were able to find the donor milk, it completely fixed our problem until we were able to.”

HMBANA attributes the breastmilk shortage to baby formula shortages and shipping issues. They were able to get more donations through awareness.

The baby formula shortage is due to an Abbott recall.

The Breastfeeding Center at Parkside, in Greenville, has a freezer full of milk donations. Registered Nurse and International Board Certified Lactation Consultant Sarah Pruig believes this is why.

“If moms have excess milk that they don’t know what to do with, it is amazing to be able to donate,” Pruig said.

Pruig attributes the consistent donations to:

“Getting support... helps increase the likelihood of them being able to meet their breastfeeding goals.”

HMBANA believes parents working at home during the pandemic helped too.

The Medical University of South Carolina says 10 hospitals received milk. They gave us some stats for the state.

About our donor moms:

  • 79% are employed, while 21% are stay at home mothers.
  • The average age range for our donors is between 32-40 yrs. old.
  • Roughly 50% of our donors are 1st time moms, 30% have 2 children, 15% have 3 children, and 5% have 4 or more children.

Last quarter stats for Oct -Dec 2021:

  • Total number of donors: 44
  • Quantity of donated milk: approx. 25,000 oz
  • Distributed milk: 21,670 oz

The CDC says breastfeeding is still the best option for the mom and the baby. For the infant, it can lessen the risk for asthma, obesity, and diabetes. And for moms, it reduces the risk of high blood pressure and certain cancers. Learn more here.

“Formula is great. We really encourage parents to feed their baby whatever is the best way for them and their family, but nothing beats milk tailored specifically to that baby,” Pruig said.

Pruig says their milk typically goes to hospitals all over South Carolina to help feed premature babies, for example.

“I used to work in the NICU,” said Pruig, “And I’ve seen, first-hand, how that helps those preemie babies whose milk hasn’t come in yet.”

Makan is now a pre-perinatal educator and doula who helps other moms. You can learn more from her here.

Both the center and Makan encourages lactating people to donate, if they can

“Our body creates exactly what baby needs,” Makan said, “The formula is a formula. And it’s life-saving, when necessary, but it should be the last resort.”

If you’d like to donate, you can reach out to the Breastfeeding Center at Parkside here.

You can also visit MUSC’s website to find a depot bank near you.