By Maryanne Perrin, MBA
I spoke with Dr. Danielle Aparecida da Silva of Brazil’s Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (equivalent to the Food and Drug Administration in the USA) to learn more about the upcoming “World Day of Human Milk Donation” which will be celebrated on May 19, 2013. Aparecida da Silva is in charge of processing and quality control for the national reference center which supports milk banks throughout Iberoamerica and Africa.
A Day to Promote Milk Donations
Since 2004, Brazil’s Human Milk Bank network (Bancos de Leite Humano or BLH-BR) has held an annual “National Day of Human Milk Donation” to promote the importance of giving milk. This campaign involves selecting a “godmother of donation” who is usually an actress, singer, or other public figure (a few years ago it was volleyball players on the Olympic team) to bring awareness regarding the importance of donating milk to save the lives of thousands of premature babies. In 2010, Brazil began discussions with their partner countries in the Iberoamerican Program of Human Milk Banks (IberBLH) about hosting a “World Day of Human Milk Donation” which is celebrated on May 19 by Brazil and 23 other countries. This date was chosen because it is the date of the signing of the “First Letter of Brasilia,” a document to form international cooperation in milk banking. On May 19, the IberBLH member countries will promote the idea that when you donate milk, you donate life. This year’s theme is “Give Milk, Life Thanks” and the campaign will use radio, television, posters, and community events to raise awareness of the import role that milk donors play.
About Brazil’s Milk Bank Network
In the 1980s, Brazil created breastfeeding promotion policies that focused on two objectives: providing breastfeeding support to mothers, children, and families and managing the human milk banks to ensure a quality product. The combination of breastfeeding support and donor milk banking is based on the notion of human milk as a functional food that is important for decreasing neonatal morbidity. In 2012 Brazil’s breastfeeding promotion center provided breastfeeding support to almost 1.6 million women, collected approximately 160,000 liters of donor milk throughout their 212 milk banks, and supported 167,000 premature infants. In 2007, Brazil was instrumental in forming the IberoAmerican Program of Human Milk Banks for the exchange of knowledge and technology related to breastfeeding and milk banking with other countries.
The Importance of Donor Milk on a Global Level
According to the World Health Organization over 1,000,000 babies die every year from complications associated with prematurity, and it is the leading cause of death for infants under 4 weeks old. What kind of global impact could we have by making donor milk available to fragile infants worldwide who don’t have access to their mother’s milk? The cooperation of the Iberoamerican network in creating awareness about the need for milk donors is an important first step. Imagine if 50 countries participated in the 2014 “World Day of Human Milk Donations” and 75 countries the following year? Congratulations to Brazil and their Iberoamerican partner countries for highlighting donor milk as an important piece in the overall strategy to improve global infant health!
What efforts are going on in your country to raise awareness about donor milk banking?
Maryanne Perrin loves all things related to food: growing it, cooking it, eating it, and now studying about it at the molecular and cellular level. She has a BS in Industrial Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and enjoyed a variety of career paths (information technology, management consulting, stay-at-home-mom, entrepreneur) before returning to school to obtain a PhD in Nutrition Science. She was quickly captivated by the amazing story of human milk and is focusing her research on understanding the nutritive and immunoprotective value of donor milk beyond one year postpartum. When she’s not studying or helping ILCA with social media, she likes playing in the woods with her husband, three kids, and the family dog.