H1N1 has had an unexpected effect — the Denver Milk bank, one of only ten in the country, is nearly empty of donated breastmilk for sick babies.
The bank’s usual donor pool is down to about 60 mothers from its usual 100. If a nursing mother had the flu or someone in her family did, or if she received the nasal H1N1 vaccine, she can’t donate for a period of time. Since the milk usually goes to premature or otherwise very fragile babies, there’s just too much risk in possibly exposing them to the flu virus.
Mothers usually donate when they produce more milk than their baby needs. The bank provides bottles and picks up their donations every few weeks. The milk goes all over the country to meet all kind of needs. Preemies get it to nourish them and improve their immunity, while other babies who might be severely allergic to cow’s milk get breastmilk as well. One mother who donates excess milk to the bank forgoes all dairy because one of the babies she donates to has such a severe milk allergy that she could go into cardiac arrest if she were exposed to milk. Another baby’s mother can’t nurse because she had a double mastectomy before her children were born.
The milk bank does supply mothers who don’t live near Denver with dry ice and boxes to mail frozen milk to the bank. There are nine other milk banks across the country; this group is a national association. Got extra breastmilk….and not the flu? Someone else’s baby might really need it.