D.C. Could Create Only Breast Milk Bank Between Boston, Raleigh

Bank would collect, store and distribute breast milk for the region

Mother’s milk. It sounds so wholesome – and it is.

But unfortunately in this modern world, experts say far too many babies are getting commercial formula instead of nourishing, natural milk.

Parents are busy, and commercial formula is heavily promoted and readily available.

“Cow milk is for cows. We need human milk for babies,” said Nancy Mallin, a lactation consultant at The Breastfeeding Center on K Street NW in downtown Washington.

The Center is one of several places that help new parents tend to infants, including soothing massage and clothing. It also has a refrigerator to store milk for mothers and extra milk for those who have trouble lactating.

Now the D.C. Council is preparing legislation to help out potentially thousands of mothers of all economic classes. The legislation would create a central breast milk bank that would collect, store and distribute breast milk for the region.

Ward 7 Council member Yvette Alexander, chairman of the council’s committee on health, held a hearing on the measure today. The legislation also would create a 15-member “Lactation Commission” to educate parents and others on the health benefits and better economics of natural mother’s milk, Alexander said.

The legislation also would ensure that donors are screened for potential disease or sanitation flaws.

Mary Revenis, a neonatologist with the Children's National Medical Center, told News4 at the hearing that “it’s important for all mothers. Some mothers need more support than others, and there is a disparity in the District of Columbia."

Pediatric statistics show about 97 percent of Caucasian mothers breast-feed while 84 percent of Hispanic mothers do. Only about 55 percent of African-American mothers breast-feed.

Experts say too many mothers of all types don’t breast-feed long enough.

Local hospitals, clinics and even neighborhood support groups welcome the proposed bank, which would be the only centrally located bank between Raleigh, N.C., and Boston.

Davene M. White, a registered nurse and head of public policy programs for Howard University, sums up the need for more breast-feeding: “Breast-feeding is designed to give the baby the right amount of formula, at the right temperature. It's readily available and it's made with mother's love and through God's grace."

The Council is expected to pass legislation late this year or early next year.

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