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Got Milk? Why Not Bank It?

Women bank their breast milk to help babies in need.  Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Health Report.

Money, jewels and important documents may not be the only valuables placed in banks these days. Some mothers are making deposits, or really, donations, to breast milk banks.

There are ten breast milk banks across the United States. However, there are many more stations set up where mothers can donate their extra milk for other women's babies.

Experts say breast milk is the best food for babies. In fact, the World Health Organization says it is the only food babies should get during the first six months of life, in most cases.

Breast milk is especially important for babies born too early. Sometimes these premature babies must stay in the hospital for many weeks.

There are several reasons some mothers may not be able to breastfeed. Some are not able to make enough milk. Others might be taking medicines or have medical problems that prevent the process.

James Cameron is a doctor who treats newborns at Lutheran Children's Hospital in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He says breast milk is almost like medicine.

Doctor James Cameron: "The fact is that there are so many different proteins and specialized sugars in the breast milk that the mom's able to make that help provide immunity. It's very important for the health of the newborn."

Lucy Baur, lives near Fort Wayne. She breastfed both her children and always had more milk than they needed. She wanted to donate to the Indiana Mothers Milk Bank in Indianapolis. But freezing and shipping milk can be costly. Then, a donor station opened near her home.

Milk donations in the United States work like this. Donors must be willing to provide almost three liters of breast milk. They freeze the milk and take it to the station. There, employees warm the milk and mix it with other mothers' milk. Then, the milk is heated to kill bacteria. After that, the technicians test samples of all the milk to make sure it is safe and healthful. The milk is re-frozen and sent to the main milk bank. The milk bank transports the milk to hospitals to feed premature or sick babies.

Donors are tested for diseases before any milk is accepted. They are not permitted to smoke tobacco, use illegal drugs or drink too much alcohol. Lisa Baur gets something very special in return for the milk she gives: satisfaction.

LISA BAUR: "You know you're helping someone."

And that's the VOA Special English Health Report, written by Caty Weaver and Erika Celeste. For more health news visit I'm Faith Lapidus.