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Human Milk Bank Donor Helps Premature and Sick Infants and Children

Lisa Fozo (37), a Fair Oaks resident, wanted to breastfeed so much that when her two sons didn't latch on, she pumped her own milk and bottle fed it to them. With her first child, Alex, (5) she had an excess of milk and had to discard it. But when she had her second child, Kyle, (15 months) Mercy Hospital of Folsom referred her to Karen Evon, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. Evon is also part owner of Maternal Expressions in Folsom, a maternity and breastfeeding specialty store. Evon advised Lisa to donate her surplus milk to the Mother's Milk Bank in San Jose, California.

The Mother's Milk Bank is the only one of its kind on the West Coast. It ships milk within California, outside of the state, and even occasionally to foreign countries. In the U.S there are six other milk banks: Newark, Delaware; Columbus, Ohio; Denver, Colorado; Fort Worth, Texas; Austin, Texas; and Raleigh, North Carolina. The milk banks are overseen by The Human Milk Banking Association of North America. Milk banks provide human milk for premature and ill infants and children under a doctor's prescription.

Lisa donated 250 ounces to the Mother's Milk Bank after having Kyle. "I wish I had known with my first child so I could have helped more babies, "says Lisa. Evon says, "Mothers who have a surplus of milk may have a larger storage capacity which usually has nothing to do with breast size." Lisa produced 16 ounces of milk in three hours. And in the morning, she could pump 32 ounces in 15 minutes.

Lisa says that her husband Ed was the one who first encouraged her to nurse. He saw how healthy his sister-in-law's children were on human milk, so when Lisa became pregnant, he said "I hope you'll breastfeed."

That's easy to say, but Ed wasn't a passive observer. He bottle fed his infants the breast milk on weekends while Lisa pumped the milk. He also attended breastfeeding classes with her.

But before Lisa could donate the milk, she had to undergo a screening process: Prospective milk donors must meet certain criteria before donating milk. They must be lactating and submit to tests for Hepatitis B and C, Syphilis, HIV 1 and 2, human T cell lymphotropic virus (HTLV) 1 and 2, and Ruebella titer. All viral and bacterial studies must be negative, and a history of systemic diseases such as leprosy and cancer will disqualify prospective donors.

Donors may not smoke, consume alcohol, or take medications or herbal supplements at the time of donation, with the exception of drugs, such as insulin, Syn-Thyroid, and progestin-only birth control pills or injections. After donors pass the health evaluation, they will learn how to express milk with a pump, label glass bottles, freeze the milk and store it in the freezer.

Diana Clarke is a teacher and health educator. Her articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines, such as the San Jose Mercury News, Listen Magazine and the World of English.

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