By Kristin Stankus, digital community and social media specialist
Mother’s Day is around the corner — a day to celebrate mothers and mother figures for all they do. After all, from day one mothers provide newborns with the love and nourishment they need to grow and thrive. Unfortunately, some women are unable to produce breast milk for their baby for various reasons, such as physical ailments or chronic illness, and this can be devastating for mom and baby.
Fortunately, there are organizations that focus on recruiting human milk donors, and compassionate women willing to give, to provide this valuable resource to infants and children around the world. One of the largest is right here in the Bay Area — the Mother’s Milk Bank (MMB) in San Jose.
In 2014, MMB distributed over 500,000 ounces of donated breast milk to 114 hospitals in order to provide this breast milk to infants and children. Stanford Blood Center (SBC) is proud to be one of the three laboratories that tests donated milk for infectious diseases to ensure its safety.
Human milk is collected from donors and prescribed to newborn babies who don’t otherwise have access to it. Premature infants especially need a mother’s breast milk to improve their chances of survival by getting the calories and protein they need. According to the MMB, there is scientific evidence that breast milk and donor human milk is the optimal nutrition choice for the most vulnerable infants in the NICU.
Because the quality of the donated milk is of the utmost importance for the health of the infant, SBC supports MMB’s cause by screening their donors for infectious diseases — the same diseases that blood donations are screened for. Interestingly, the process of recruiting and screening donors, drawing the milk, and testing samples is very similar to that of blood donation, and serves an equally vital purpose.
SBC has been testing donations for the MMB for the past two years and tests for the same infectious diseases as donated blood, including HIV, HTLV, and Hepatitis B and C to name a few. Once the test results are submitted to MMB, they are then able to release the milk for distribution to the infants that need it.
Partnering with MMB is just one way SBC strives to make the community a happier and healthier place. To learn more about SBC and our mission, please visit us at bloodcenter.stanford.edu.