It's no secret that breast milk is considered the nectar of the gods. After all, it helps keep little ones' immune systems strong and can work wonders for babies who are born premature, which brings us to an important question: should women be paid for donating it?
A recent article in The Atlantic examines whether or not women who donate their breast milk to mothers who can't produce enough (or any milk at all) should be compensated. Make no mistake: that would be a pretty huge deal, given how many women have been turning to milk banks. According to a recent article in The Washington Post:
The percentage of advanced neonatal care hospitals across the country that provide donated breast milk has nearly doubled, from 22 percent in 2011 to nearly 40 percent in 2015, according to an unpublished analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention by Maryanne Tigchelaar Perrin, an assistant professor of nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
The rate was even higher — between 65 and 75 percent — for Level 3 and 4 NICUs that serve the smallest, most fragile premature babies.
The US currently has 18 certified milk banks, and that number is expected to increase. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents give preemies donor milk over formula. And according to the Mother's Milk Bank in Austin, 20 percent of neonatal deaths could be prevented by breastfeeding in the first hour of life, which means getting their hands on breast milk is a top priority for new mothers who have newborns in the NICU.
So what could that mean for women with surplus milk on hand? Liquid gold. Prolacta Bioscience, a company with the goal of "standardized human milk-based nutritional products for premature infants in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU)," has already jumped on the trend by paying approved breast milk donors $1 an ounce. And while there are certainly less formal ways to donate your breast milk — like by ringing your friend's doorbell and offering — the FDA warns against feeding babies breast milk from other women without it being properly screened.
We're curious to see if this trend will pick up as more hospitals turn to milk donors in the future. Do you think the donors should be compensated for their generosity?