ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill. — A lot of parents out there are down to their last can of baby formula and still can't find it on store shelves. But some are finding an alternative with breast milk they can buy.
With a home base in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, the non-profitMothers' Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes provides safe pasteurized breast milk to hospitals and families in Illinois and Wisconsin.
"Right now we are fortunate to have a really fantastic milk supply. Our donors have been breaking records the past couple of months," said Susan Urbanski, program manager with the organization.
Urbanski with the milk bank says many moms donating their milk are motivated to give because of the baby formula shortage.
The milk bank says the average number of donors per month has increased by nearly 50% when compared to last year, and the demand is strikingly high. The non-profit has seen an 84% increase in breast milk orders for May compared to last May.
"We're trying to help as many families as possible," she said.
Urbanski says families who have babies with special feeding needs can't switch to a different formula, so they are especially turning to the milk bank for help.
If you want to buy, breast milk doesn't come cheap. It's $20 for a four-ounce bottle. But there's a reason for that. The screening process of the milk is thorough.
"We do a phone interview with each potential donor. If she passes that phone interview, we do a written application. We reached out to mom's medical provider to get clearance. And we also send each mom for a blood draw before she can even drop off her milk. Then once the milk gets here we're testing the milk. We do a bacteriological screening. We pasteurize the milk. We're pooling the milk. So every bottle has milk from a few different moms in it to increase nutritional profile," Urbanski explains.
The milk bank in some cases may be able to bill insurance, but there's no guarantee you'll get coverage.
"Because there is no mandated insurance coverage yet in the state of Wisconsin, we utilize our charity care program and we try to offer discounts for Wisconsin families whenever possible," said Urbanski.
Urbanski stresses the first step for families is talking with their doctor.
"Find out what safe options are for your baby specifically, and make sure that you have a good plan in place," said Urbanski.
With the formula supply nowhere near meeting the demand, another mom's safe breast milk is an option.
"Families are desperate. They're trying to do whatever they can to meet the needs of their baby. So hopefully we can provide a really safe choice for those babies."
If you are interested in donating milk, click here.
To order milk, you can click here.
To find a local milk bank anywhere in North America, click here.