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Paoli Hospital visit inspires legislation to combat infant formula shortage

Originally published by Daily Local News.

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan this week introduced the first-ever bipartisan bill in Congress to improve access to donor breast milk, bettering child health and combating the infant formula shortage. The legislation, called the Access to Donor Milk Act (ADMA), will expand access to and awareness of donor breast milk. She was joined by Representatives María Elvira Salazar (R-FL), and Stephanie Bice (R-OK).

“Today, we took an important step forward for families by introducing a comprehensive bill to improve access to donor breast milk – a safe and vital lifeline for many medically vulnerable infants across this country,” said Houlahan. “We are building a broad coalition of support in the House and Senate, and I will keep working to deliver results for those in need. Especially in the wake of the infant formula crisis, we must be using all of the tools at our disposal to help children and families.”

When Houlahan visited the maternity ward at Paoli Hospital in May, she heard about the value of donor milk for babies with a medical need and the barriers around awareness, regulation, and coverage that prevent this ‘liquid gold’ from reaching infants.

“When Congresswomen Chrissy Houlahan visited Paoli Hospital’s Maternity Unit, we discussed the value of Pasteurized Human Donor Milk for medically fragile infants as a low-cost invention that saves lives and that this should be reimbursable by insurers. I’m so proud it inspired this legislation,” Donna Sinnott, Lactation Consultant and Doula, and winner of the recent Chester County March of Dimes award.

It was community conversations with Main Line Health medical professionals that inspired Houlahan’s Access to Donor Milk Act, but the support is widespread across industry and on both sides of the aisle down in Congress and comes amidst another baby formula recall in recent days.

“Feeding and nourishing our infants should be as easy as possible whether parents use breast milk, formula, or donor milk,” said Rep. Salazar. “As a mother of two beautiful daughters, I am proud to co-lead legislation that will, especially in times of crisis, help suppliers meet demand for safe and healthy donor milk.”

“Fortunately, in the Fifth Congressional District, we have the Oklahoma Mothers’ Milk Bank which provides safe pasteurized milk for families,” said Rep. Bice. “For a variety of reasons, not all mothers can breastfeed, which has critical health benefits for young children. This bipartisan legislation will promote healthy families and help mitigate the impacts of any future infant formula shortages.“

The Access to Donor Milk Act (ADMA) would increase federal support for nonprofit milk banks and access to donor milk for medically-vulnerable infants.

The ADMA will:

• Allow state agencies to use Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) funding to promote the need for and benefits of donor milk, and allows WIC funds to support donor milk activities in states;

• Provide emergency capacity funding ($3 million) for milk banks, in the event there is a rapid increase in demand for donor milk, as occurred during the 2022 formula shortage;

• Create a donor milk awareness program at the Department of Health and Human Services ($1 million) and expand an existing program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to educate the public on donor milk and nonprofit milk banks, and to publicize the need for donor milk;

• Require the Secretary of Health and Human Services, through the Commissioner of Food and Drugs, to issue a rule clarifying the regulatory status of donor milk provided by nonprofit milk banks.