An Assembly panel on Monday approved legislation sponsored by Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt and Gabriela Mosquera to protect nursing babies as the practice of sharing breast milk through “milk banks” rises in popularity.
Human milk banks are an organized service for the selection of a donor and the collection, processing, storage, and distribution of donated human breast milk to a hospital for use by low birth weight babies or new mothers with delayed lactation, or directly to a parent, with a physician’s prescription order, who is unable to nurse, or is in need of additional breast milk to feed the parent’s child.
“The practice of sharing breast milk has a long history dating back to the days of wet nurses,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Burlington). “While modern day ‘milk banks’ may be a godsend in some cases, breast milk, like blood, is a bodily fluid and should be licensed and regulated with stringent medical and scientific standards.”
The lawmakers noted that there are many babies, particularly premature ones, who cannot digest formula properly, making breast milk an imperative and contributing to the rise in popularity of milk banks. However, the limited number of licensed human milk banks in the country has made it hard for families, especially those on a fixed income, to gain access to one.
“We want to make sure that any milk banks operating in New Jersey are following the strictest protocol to protect the health of the babies and their mothers,” said Mosquera (D-Camden/Gloucester). “No responsible parent would give their baby a blood transfusion without first having it tested and the same should go for breast milk.”
Their bill (A-1858) would require “human milk banks” to be licensed by the state Department of Health in order to operate. Under the bill, each approved licensed must be renewed annually. The bill also gives DOH the authority to inspect human milk banks, including records, files, and other data.
The bill also requires DOH to promulgate rules and regulations for the operation and maintenance of human milk banks, including: staff qualifications; procedures for selecting and screening potential donors; standards for the collection, processing, storage, marketing and distribution of donated breast milk; the maintenance and confidentiality of milk bank records; and license application.
In promulgating the regulations, DOH would also give consideration to applicable regulations or recommendations made by federal or national agencies or organizations. The bill also requires DOH to adopt standards for the marketing of donated human breast milk.
The rules and regulations adopted pursuant to the bill’s provisions must, at a minimum, require human milk banks to be operated in accordance with protocols that have been established by the Human Milk Banking Association of North America.
The bill also gives DOH the authority to take civil action if a milk bank violates provisions of the bill or creates dangerous conditions. Anyone found in violation of certain provisions would be subject to a penalty of anywhere from $100 to $1,000 for the first offense and anywhere from $500 to $5,000 for the second or any subsequent offense.
The bill was approved by the Assembly Women and Children Committee chaired by Lampitt.