LANHAM, Md. (CBSDC) — We all know that blood banks help save lives, but one D.C. councilmember says a breast milk bank in the District could help get young lives off to a good start.

Yvette Alexander, Chairperson of the Committee on Health, has proposed establishing a bank and a city “Lactation Commission” that would “promote, facilitate, and encourage breastfeeding and breastmilk donation.”

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says breastfeeding newborns is important because it provides them with just the right amount of nutrients and antibodies and is easier than formula to digest.

Research has shown that formula-fed babies are more prone to ear infections and diarrhea.

The breastmilk bank in the D.C. area would benefit local mothers who would prefer to breastfeed but cannot, Alexander says. According to the Department of Health, there are several common challenges that mothers face while attempting to breastfeed.

Right now, D.C. hospitals purchase breastmilk for new mothers who want it from out-of-state facilities, which is more expensive and less convenient, Alexander says.

She notes that establishing a local bank would also encourage local mothers to donate milk.

“Right now they’re not donating because they know that their breastmilk will go out of state and then we’ll have to purchase it back,” she says. “So why not put it here for the women that want to donate and benefit right here in the city?”

The Human Milk Banking Association of North America says there are 13 breastmilk banks in the U.S., the closest of which are in Raleigh, N.C., Columbus, Ohio and just outside Boston, Mass.

The proposal for establishing a bank in D.C. is still in the early stages, and no cost estimates have been made yet, but it comes as breastfeeding increases in popularity in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the percent of babies breastfeeding at six months old increased from 35 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2010. The percent of babies breastfeeding at 12 months old increased from 16 percent to 27 percent in that same period.


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