Adventist Medical Center in Portland, Ore., recently played a role in delivering the ultimate gift to Haitian babies affected by the Jan. 12 earthquake.
The gift, breast milk, contains vital nutrients and antibodies that could help save the lives of medically fragile, premature and orphaned infants. About 10 days after the devastating earthquake, Adventist Medical Center served as a drop-off site for donated breast milk, along with Northwest Mothers Milk Bank, also in Portland.
Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland and Providence Newberg Medical Center also assisted in efforts to send breast milk to Haiti, says June Winfield, board chairwoman of the Northwest Mothers Milk Bank.
The milk was sent to Human Milk Banking Association of North America facilities throughout the U.S. for processing and pasteurization before being shipped to Haiti or used to replenish shelves in the U.S. About 1,000 ounces were sent to the USNS Comfort stationed off the coast of Haiti, where it was distributed to at-risk Haitian babies. The naval ships infrastructure and resources allowed the breast milk to be properly stored and administered.Breast milk at Adventist Medical Centers Family Birth Place donor depot is ready to go to a milk bank for processing and pasteurization.
Although HMBANA has said it no longer needs donated breast milk for Haiti, advocates say milk continues to be needed in the U.S.
Breast milk reduces the risk of developing necrotizing enterocolitis, a gastrointestinal disease that primarily affects premature infants, says Peggy Andrews, RN, lactation consultant for Adventist Medical Center and vice chairwoman on the board of directors for Northwest Mothers Milk Bank.
Human milk is designed for human infants, Andrews says. Formula is a larger protein and can damage a fragilely compromised baby. Breast milk has antibodies and growth hormones that help a developing preterm baby.
Donated breast milk has helped some Haitian babies, but it ultimately is not the answer for the large numbers of infants and youngsters affected by the earthquake, according to a news release from the United States Breastfeeding Committee in Washington, D.C.
The organization is recommending people wanting to help infants and mothers in Haiti make monetary donations to organizations such as UNICEF, Save the Children Alliance World Vision and Action Against Hunger, which work to protect infants and support breastfeeding mothers, according to the news release.