Breast is best. We all know this. Our doctors tell us, we see ads on the subway to remind us. Babies thrive on breastmilk.
Not everyone can breastfeed, though. Adoptive parents, couples parents who rely on a surrogate, and many moms whose health prevents them from breastfeeding their babies all need other options. For most of these parents, formula is the only alternative. And for most babies, it’s a perfectly good one.
For some babies, though, formula can cause digestive problems. Neil Patrick Harris’ new daughter is one of these babes. He and his partner, David Burtka, have infant twins. Their daughter struggled with formula, but finding donor breastmilk for her has been a challenge.
So many women have an oversupply of milk. It’s amazing that even those with the most resources have a challenging time getting donor milk for their babies.
It’s not the national milk supply that’s at issue, of course. It’s that we lack an infrastructure to share the milk. Informal networks of milk donors have sprung up on Facebook and elsewhere, but we’re lacking a real system to safely distribute donated breastmilk.
With so many parents eager to feed their babies human milk, and so many women happy to share their leftovers, there should be a better system for sharing. What we need are more milk banks that can certify the safety of r milk and store it properly.
The problem, course, is that while it’s a problem, creating an infrastructure for donor milk is few people’s first priority. Compared to the other public health and social challenges facing our communities, donor breastmilk quickly starts to look like a luxury. One few communities can afford to prioritize over other benefits like Medicaid, WIC and schools.
The Stir’s blogger thinks we should be allocating 5% of WIC’s budget to the creation and maintenance of donor milk banks. That’s a lot of dough. It would certainly create a wonderful system for sharing milk, but at what cost? What current benefits would WIC recipients have give up to get that donor milk? Would the trade off be worth it?
I don’t know the answers to those questions. I raise them only to make the point that this is a complex problem. Hopefully having a star like Neil Patrick Harris speaking out about it will attract more resources to finding a solution.