Pennsylvania to regulate breast milk donations from milk banks

Western PA News

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Governor Tom Wolf signed stricter rules on breast milk donations into law this week. The Pennsylvania Department of Health will now regulate independent milk banks.

Rep. Donna Oberlander, who sponsored the legislation, says this is a lot like when blood donations started to be regulated. There is an increased awareness on complications and a need to keep patients safe.

“The neonatal care and those babies who are most medically fragile and might be addicted to drugs when they are born, it goes to them and it helps to save their lives,” Oberlander said.

Before this bill was signed into law, Pennsylvania hospitals had rules to follow about breast milk donations, but independent milk banks didn’t.

“There were no regulations,” Oberlander said. “This is the beginning.”

The Health Department says it will be working to meet the requirements of the legislation, which includes accepting applications for licensure of milk banks, developing a process to license milk banks, and developing standards and processes of how to properly store, process and ship donor milk.

The legislation also adds screening for donors.

Health officials encourage the use of breast milk whenever possible and warn parents not to get it via the internet since adequate screening likely didn’t happen.

Even with standards being set, Oberlander doesn’t expect to see a shortage, since donating milk is becoming increasingly common.

“I actually think that we will see an increase because there’s more of an awareness now that there are milk banks and you can donate that milk,” she said.

The law will go into effect in six months.

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