Here is an interesting story from today's Sun-Sentinel. Mothers in South Florida who donate their breast milk to children in Africa. I don't have anything to add except to commend these Moms for their work for a good cause. It doesn't need saying that Africa is being ravaged by HIV and AIDS. Stopping that epidemic should be a bigger priority than it is.
Linked to- Bullwinkle, Overtaken by Events, Right Wint Nation,
After finally accepting that her son had a protein allergy that kept him from taking her breast milk, Ruth Weinberger faced another issue: What to do with the three months' supply in her freezer?
She knew that the vitamins and nutrients in breast milk boost a baby's immune system. So the Broward County mother began searching for a place to donate it.
In Europe and her native South Africa, human milk is banked to feed orphans and premature babies whose mothers may either be too sick or cannot produce milk to feed them. But clinics in South Florida wouldn't accept it.
"I was sad that he couldn't take it, but I would have been sadder if no one could take it,'' said Weinberger, 41, of Fort Lauderdale.
After weeks of online research, Weinberger found a pioneering group that ships the milk of American mothers to feed babies in Africa and reduce the risk of HIV infection in newborns.
The International Breast Milk Project, the brainchild of a Minnesota mom, has shipped roughly 10,000 ounces of milk to South Africa in the past year. It feeds infants whose mothers have HIV, which can be transmitted through breast milk, and those who live in areas where water is too dirty to mix with powdered formula.
Weinberger, who estimates she shipped about 1,000 ounces, is among about 100 mothers across the United States who have contributed. Another 500 have asked about donating. One Tampa mother has produced 1,000 ounces and continues stockpiling 10 ounces every day after feeding her daughter.
The group's founder, Jill Youse, 29, is discussing a plan to ship milk to an infant feeding center in Haiti.
Aaron Jackson, 25, of Hollywood, is working to set up the center through his nonprofit charity, Planting Peace. Jackson was recently profiled in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel's project, AIDS Orphans, for the orphanages he has opened.
"I'd really like to get something going in Haiti because the need there is so great, and it's so close to the U.S., it makes it easier to ship milk,'' Youse said.
She started the project last summer, when she was producing more milk than her daughter could use.
As a former medical equipment saleswoman and the wife of a doctor, she knew the nutritional value of breast milk but couldn't find uses for the surplus, which can be kept frozen at home for months and even longer in subzero freezers.
Like Weinberger, she searched on the Internet and finally found a South African orphanage, iThemba Lethu in Durban, that had started a milk bank in 2001.
iThemba Lethu is one of hundreds of organizations across Africa that cares for the roughly 3 million children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. It was running a small milk bank with donations from South Africa, but not from the United States. After contacting the clinic, Youse donated 1,000 ounces of her milk and kept an online journal about the process. Other women read it and began contacting her.
She established the project and sent the second shipment, 3,000 ounces, in May. A third dispatch of 5,000 ounces followed late last year and the next, another 5,000 ounces, is scheduled to leave around Easter. A countdown clock for that event can be found on the group's Web site -- www.breastmilkproject.org.
There is no standard for how much milk a mother produces, and the amount a child drinks varies depending on age and diet. Typically, infants in their first few months consume between 20 and 30 ounces a day.
Mothers who want to donate are tested for diseases, and then given special containers to ship the milk on ice packs through express mail to California. There, it is pasteurized at Prolacta Bioscience, a life sciences company specializing in breast milk, before it is sent to Africa. Prolacta donates its services.
"They make it very easy to do--all the containers are sent to you, and you just freeze the ice packs they give you, and wait for the shipping man,'' said Que Lambert, 41, a Tampa mother of three who is producing the extra 10 ounces every day for the bank.
"There are a lot of mothers like me, I think, who have the extra milk and are really wondering what they can do with it,'' Lambert said. "But nobody seems aware of milk banking. Everyone I've talked to has been very surprised and interested that you can do some good like this."
Milk banking is not new. During the Great Depression in the 1930s, milk banks were established in Chicago and other cities as social workers grappled with massive poverty and malnutrition. If infants couldn't nurse from their mothers, alternatives for the poor were few, and cities had rising levels of infant mortality.
Today, there are few milk banks in the United States, and they are usually run by nonprofit midwife groups that save milk for premature babies and critically ill infants. The Miami Maternity Center operates one.