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'Milk Bank' is an option for San Diego parents amid formula shortage

UC San Diego runs one of very few milk banks across the country.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — The baby formula shortage has a lot of parents stressed out and scrambling over what to feed their baby. One option for parents in San Diego is to purchase donor breast milk at UC San Diego's Milk Bank.

"There is absolutely no problem with switching back and forth between human milk and infant formula," said Dr. Michelle Leff. She is a professor of clinical pediatrics at UC San Diego. "Most infants tolerate human milk better than they do infant formula, there's a little less spitting up, little less gas."

She pointed out a lot of women already supplement breast milk with formula. Even if you are giving your baby strictly formula, you can give them donor breast milk. 

According to Dr. Leff, they received an increase in donor milk during the pandemic. Moms who pumped extra breast milk, thinking they would have to return to work, ended up working from home, so they had extra milk to donate.

"Pasteurized donor human milk from a milk bank is extremely safe," she said. "The women are scrutinized, they're not allowed to smoke, the amount of alcohol they drink is scrutinized, [so is] the medication they take."

"They get blood tests, just like a blood donor would through the blood bank. The milk is all pasteurized similar to how cow milk is pasteurized," she added.

She said any suspicious milk is turned away.

The cost to purchase the milk is $5 per ounce. According to Dr. Leff, the cost is expensive due to all of the screening the women go through and the pasteurization process. 

The milk bank is normally meant for babies who are premature, dealing with health issues, or mothers whose milk hasn't come in yet. 

Another option for parents dealing with the formula shortage, is temporarily switching formulas.

"Switching amongst formulas is not medically problematic unless your infant is on a special medical formula," she said. "If all you can find today is a different brand or even soy formula, that's okay medically for your infant."

She said it is not safe to make homemade formula. The ingredients in formula are strictly regulated by the FDA. 

The milk bank is located at 3636 Gateway Center Ave., Suite 100. It's inside the San Diego Blood Bank. For more information on how to purchase milk, click here.

If you would like to donate milk, click here.

WATCH RELATED: San Diego Food Bank sees impacts of nationwide baby formula shortage (May 10, 2022)


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