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Desperate moms turn to milk bank as baby formula remains scarce

bottles of milk
David Zalubowski
Bottles of frozen milk donated by lactating mothers waits to be loaded into refrigerators for distribution to babies.

The Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida has gone from receiving a dozen calls a week to a dozen calls a day.

Florida families desperate to find baby formula are turning to the state’s donor milk bank for help.

The Mother’s Milk Bank of Florida has gone from receiving a dozen calls a week to a dozen calls a day.

“Families are wondering how they can help and how they can receive support,” said Laene Keith, a spokesperson for the milk bank, which is based in Orlando but serves the entire state.

Stores across the U.S. are continuing to run low on formula since suspected contamination led to a recall and the shuttering of a big manufacturing plant in Michigan in February.

During the first week of May, the average out-of-stock rate for baby formula at retailers across the country was 43%, according to data from the firm Datasembly, which collected information from more than 11,000 sellers.

“One of the most remarkable and admirable offers that we have been seeing has been a dramatic increase in women who have said, ‘I personally have more milk than my own baby can use, enjoy or eat. How may I help?’” Keith said.

Those interested in donating milk can call the milk bank at (407) 248-5050.

Donors must provide complete medical and lifestyle histories and undergo blood tests, similar to the screening process used at blood banks, the milk bank says. The donor milk is tested for bacteria and levels of nutrients, then pasteurized. Strict screening, processing and dispensing guidelines are followed.

Donor milk is dispensed by prescription only.

About 92% of the supply goes to meet the needs of babies in hospitals' neonatal intensive care units — but anything beyond that can help moms in need during the formula crisis.

The demand is expected to increase after a new state law goes into effect July 1.

The law authorizes Florida's Agency for Health Care Administration to pay for donor human milk bank services as an optional Medicaid service for infants who are “medically or physically unable to receive maternal breast milk or to breastfeed or whose mother is medically or physically unable to produce maternal breast milk or breastfeed.”

According to the milk bank, human milk helps prevent infection from necrotizing enterocolitis, which attacks the intestinal tract and requires surgery to repair. Emergency surgery on a preterm infant is difficult and dangerous.

The nonprofit organization also accepts financial donations through Amazon Smile or PayPal.

Click here to learn more from the milk bank’s website.

Health News Florida producer Rick Mayer contributed to this report.

Jamie Jackson
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