According to data collected from 446 individual human milk banks (HMBs), over 800,000 babies receive donor human milk around the world each year.
But with the COVID-19 pandemic, milk banking services were hugely affected, as donor milk services are vulberable to new infectious pathogens.
But last year, something amazing happened.
From March, the human milk community around the world came together to form a Virtual Communication Network (VCN).
As described in this paper by Dr Natalie Shenker and colleagues, the VCN comprised of 80 human milk bank leaders from 36 countries, plus academics and nongovernmental organisations.
The VCN collected data and experiences, and together, identified problems and potential solutions relating to the pandemic - including "maintaining sufficient donors, transport
logistics, safe handling, and contingency planning".
What is really exciting are the plans for the future.
"The VCN now plans a
formal consensus approach to the optimal response of HMBs to new
pathogens using crowdsourced data, enabling the benchmarking of future
strategies to support DHM access and neonatal health in future
Wow. It's so inspiring to see researchers, human milk bank leaders and the whole human milk community come together to pool ideas and together, to work out solutions.
Congratulations to everyone involved!
Shenker, N, Staff, M, Vickers, A, et al. Maintaining human milk bank services throughout the COVID‐19 pandemic: A global response. Matern Child Nutr. 2021;e13131. https://doi.org/10.1111/mcn.13131
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