As the infant formula shortage continues to affect families nationwide, Indiana health officials are aiming to alleviate the issue with a new donation program.
The Every Ounce Counts initiative includes a series of milk drives where lactating people can donate their breast milk to be given to NICUs and families in need.
“In the absence of a mother’s own milk, pasteurized donor human milk offers optimal nutrition, easy digestibility and immunologic protection against diseases,” Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said in a news release.
Shipment delays and Abbott’s recall of several different infant formulas have exacerbated the formula shortage. When Indiana’s abortion ban takes effect next month, the issue could potentially become worse as people have no option but to give birth.
The Indiana Department of Health is working with the Milk Bank for the donation drives. The Indianapolis-based nonprofit works to improve health outcomes by gathering, screening, pasteurizing and freezing breast milk for distribution.
“More than 1,000 milk donors step forward every year to make sure all babies have their best chance to survive and thrive,” Milk Bank executive director Freedom Kolb said in a news release. “Over the last month, we’ve seen an 89% surge in demand and more than 200% increase in medical relief requests.”
Since Every Ounce Counts launched last month, the state has completed two milk drives. Four more are planned throughout the state in the coming weeks.
Clark Memorial Health is hosting one Sept. 8.
“There’s a lot of people out there who want to do the right thing, and we keep telling them what they can’t do,” said Clark County Health Officer Dr. Eric Yazel. “And we need to come up with some things that they can, and this is one way to get there.”
People interested in donating breast milk can pre-register with the Milk Bank.
Once the milk is collected and prepared, Yazel said the distribution process will include a focus on equity and existing healthcare disparities.
“My idea on that is to make sure we target our population that’s most in need, first and foremost,” Yazel said. “That’s one priority I can virtually guarantee will be in place.”
Upcoming Every Ounce Counts milk drives are also scheduled in Lake, Allen and Marion counties. Lafayette and Bloomington hosted the initiative’s first two events.