Among local heroes helping Texans in need, breastfeeding parents have stepped forward to help the Lone Star State in a way only they can.
Texans weathered brutal winter storms without reliable heat or water last week, leaving desperate families scrambling to meet their basic needs. While the worst is over, many new moms had a hard time sourcing milk to feed their babies.
“We tried to keep it in the freezer, but we just went too long without power that I wouldn’t trust it to be used,” the mom wrote on Reddit.
Refrigerated breast milk is safe to drink for up to four days. Leftovers can be frozen for a year at most, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the health authority encourages people that frozen milk is best used within six months.
Milk frozen in less than ideal circumstances can be safely used if it has icy crystals.
Other parents whose babies couldn’t drink formula found it hard to produce enough milk, given their distressing circumstances. Experiencing stress is known to reduce breast milk production.
“My last pump was not even two ounces and she’s so hungry,” wrote one mom in a Twitter user’s parenting social circles.
My last pump was not even two ounces and she's so hungry. Texas-based mom
To meet the overwhelming need, many moms offered their own surplus milk to Texan parents, Parents states.
And organizations like UC Health Milk Bank and Mother’s Milk Bank Austin (MMBA) connected breastfeeding moms and parents with hungry infants in hospitals.
“At MMBA, we are working hard to make sure all families and hospitals needing human milk can receive them even during this winter storm,” the Austin-based organization wrote on its Instagram last Thursday.
During the worst of last week’s weather, families could send their milk supplies to the organization for safekeeping, as they had a backup power generator.
Interstate milk donations were possible, with some donors sending their milk —which milk banks pasteurize, a process that the Canadian Paediatric Society supports — to Texas from outside the area. One mom sent her milk to UC Health Milk Bank in California.
Other winter-battered states like Louisiana and Alabama also received bagged aid.
“Pasteurized, donated breast milk is critical for feeding sick or premature infants when mothers do not have a sufficient milk supply for their baby’s nutritional needs,” reads an Instagram caption by UC San Diego Health about inter-state donations.
How safe is it to accept donated milk during a pandemic?
Research is still ongoing, but so for nothing suggests that COVID-19 can be transmitted through breast milk; one study suggests antibodies from previously infected breastfeeding parents can be passed on to babies.
On its website, the Ontario-based Rogers Hixon Ontario Milk Bank states that “pasteurization, done at an authorized milk bank, kills viruses in the donated milk,” making it safe to drink for infants, including those with illnesses or preemies.
Milk banks have kept operations running throughout the pandemic, following protocol like attentive cleaning of equipment and reducing physical contact during drop-offs. Wetnursing, or feeding another parent’s baby directly, is discouraged.
Until power was fully restored, milk banks encouraged moms to continue giving and accepting donor milk, freezing when possible.
They advised placing bagged milk in the centre of the freezer and using ice blocks to keep the temperature down should power go out again.
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This article originally appeared on HuffPost Canada and has been updated.