Babies In ICU Facing Food Shortage

Donated Breast Milk Bank In Extremely Short Supply

A much-needed supply of food for babies in intensive care is running low in Colorado.

The Mothers' Milk Bank, based at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center, showed 7NEWS a practically empty freezer, indicating very low donations of breast milk.

"This is what we have -- one small bag, and it has 60 ounces in it," said Laraine Lockhard Borman, manager of Mothers' Milk Bank. "(Normally) we'd probably have about 3,000 to 4,000 ounces of milk stuffed in here."

Donated breast milk is distributed to hospitals and mothers who can't produce any or enough milk for their own children.

Breast Milk Donors Screened Like Blood Donors

Mothers who donate are screened as though they were giving blood. They pump their own milk at home and freeze it in six-ounce packets. That milk gets shipped to Mothers' Milk Bank, is combined with other donated milk and is pasteurized before being sent out in small ounce containers.

"Just about every medical center up and down the Front Range uses our milk," said Lockhard Borman.

Shortage To Hit Hospitals Within Weeks

"When will hospitals feel this the most?" asked 7NEWS reporter Marshall Zelinger.

"Probably within the next couple of weeks, unless we get donors right away," said Lockhard Borman. "Babies' lives could be changed because of it."

Donated milk is used in the pediatric intensive care unit at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Medical Center.

7NEWS saw less than 30 ounces in the PICU's freezer, which could last a week or more.

"If you didn't have the donated breast milk you needed in the PICU, what's your option?" asked Zelinger.

Formula Poses Health Risk

"We can always go back to using formula," said Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children pediatric internist Dr. Gerald Williams. "There's a dramatic increase in the risk for what we call necrotizing enterocolitus, where the intestines themselves get infected."

If the milk bank was unable to supply milk, the PICU would still fall back on using formula.

"We would use formula over nothing. Formula's better than not getting anything," said Williams. "Formula is designed to mimic breast milk, but it doesn't do a very good job."

Learn About Mothers' Milk Bank

Follow this link to learn more about the Mothers' Milk Bank.

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