The International Breast Milk Donation Project is an incredibly good thing on so many different levels.
First off, I'm sure that you know that between AIDS and famine, there are a lot of orphaned babies in Africa. But did you know that those babies are six times more likely to survive if they receive donor breast milk, as opposed to formula? Six times.
So a few years ago, some women started expressing their extra milk, and shipping it to Africa on dry ice. I've actually known about this part of the story for some time, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn't all that interested. I mean, that's really wonderful, but how is it even remotely sustainable?
Well, now it's actually sustainable through a unique partnership with a for-profit corporation called Prolacta Bioscience. Prolacta uses donated breast milk to develop medical products that save the lives of preemies here in the US. Their biggest thing is human milk fortifier--that's what they added to my expressed milk before they put it in Nathan and Isaiah's feeding tubes, to add calories and protein so that they could catch up on all that growing that should have happened in utero. The stuff my twins received was based on cow's milk, but now Prolacta has developed a human milk fortifier that is actually made from human milk. Which is much better for these fragile babies. It's also pretty big business. Even the cow based stuff runs $100 per day per infant.
Of course, the one difficulty with all this is that they are completely dependent upon breast milk, and the law does not allow them to pay their donors. And not many women get too excited about pumping so that somebody else can make a fortune off their milk. On its own, this project is about as sustainable as the idea of shipping breast milk to Africa.
Together, though, these two crazy idealistic projects actually work.
Prolacta provides all the equipment, from hospital-grade electric pumps to dry ice, and pays for overnight shipping to their laboratories. 25% of each woman's milk goes to Africa. Prolacta tests and pasteurizes the milk for free, and pays for all shipping costs.
Then Prolacta uses the rest of the donated milk in the highly profitable business of saving babies in the US. Prolacta then pays the Breast Milk Project $1 for every ounce of breast milk that stays in the States. This money goes toward the establishment of local milk banks, mobilizing local women to meet this huge need for breast milk.
So go talk to your doctor about it, and see if this would be the right thing for you!
I sure am, just as soon as I get to Texas!