In the United States, African-American, Native American and Alaska Native women are about three times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes compared to white women, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), yet sixty percent of all pregnancy-related deaths could be prevented (Rabin, 2019). These statistics hold even when controlling for other factors including income level (Watson, 2019).
With the help of a financial gift from Hannah and Zachary Johnson, the UC San Diego Health will create the region’s first breastmilk bank (The San Diego Union-Tribune) led by Dr. Lisa M. Stellwagen, MD. The goals of the bank are “to help mothers breastfeed, to improve breastmilk donation and to ensure that all premature or ill babies in Southern California have access to donor milk” (UC San Diego Health).
Human milk is a critical resource for infants designed to meet the needs of baby at every stage of development. Human milk is alive with immune cells, stem cells, and microbes that come from both the lactating parent and from the baby (Hassiotou et al., 2013; Funkhouser and Bordenstein, 2013). For example, a thick yellow milk produced a few days after birth called colostrum (American Pregnancy, n.d.) can be thought of as baby’s first immunization (Khan, 2012)…. The use of donor milk (or “milk sharing”) is not a new practice for humans. “Allomaternal care” and shared nursing has long been a part of many, if not most, human cultures yet there are no federal laws regulating the use of donor human milk or milk sharing. Milk banks provide a degree of quality control by screening donors based on lifestyle, teaching donors about best practices for expression, storage/transport of breastmilk as well as pasteurizing the donated milk.