Which Country Has the Most Extensive System of Milk Banks?

The best nutrition for an infant is breast milk, at least for the first year. However, there are some cases in which a mother can’t supply enough milk, or when consuming it would put the baby at risk of disease or infection. In these situations, many mothers around the world turn to milk banks, which supply free breast milk donated by other nursing mothers, rather than feeding an infant formula. For many years, Brazil has led the way in developing an extensive network of milk banks; the South American country has more than 200 milk banks. In 2013, breast milk donated by approximately 163,000 women was used to feed some 183,000 hungry babies. And other countries are catching on. There are now 23 milk banks in the United States, a figure that has doubled in only five years.

The milk of human kindness:

  • The Brazilian effort is part of an initiative that has reduced infant mortality in the country by 73 percent -- from 63.2 deaths per 1,000 births in 1985 to 19.6 in 2013.

  • Breast milk donors must be healthy and in the process of lactation, and must not be taking any medication. They are typically screened for hepatitis, tuberculosis, syphilis, and HIV.

  • “We know that human milk has multiple benefits,” explained University of Michigan neonatologist Kate Stanley, M.D. “It improves overall growth, and there have been some studies that show it improves IQ.”

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More Info: University of Michigan

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