CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – A new mother in South Carolina said she was shocked to learn the price of donated breast milk as the country faces supply issues with baby formula.
Mother’s Milk of SC, a nonprofit developed by the Medical University of South Carolina, announced this week it would begin offering donated breast milk – for purchase – to moms in need after a 20%-25% increase in donations amid the ongoing supply shortage.
“I have two premature twins who I tried vehemently to maintain my breast milk supply for, but unfortunately was unable to,” the mother from Conway, South Carolina told News 2 in an email Tuesday.
The twin’s pediatrician placed them on a strict formula, which she said is now out of stock virtually everywhere.
“I reached out to Mothers Milk Bank after seeing they were receiving such a high influx of breast milk from mothers trying to help supply these babies during this formula shortage,” she said.
But she was shocked when she learned the price tag: $20 per 4oz bottle of donated breast milk.
“To put in perspective, the formula I need for my twins cost $22 for 14 oz,” she explained.
Lindsay Millonzi, manager of the milk bank, said they do not make money off selling the milk. “The money we get goes to equipment, paying staff, running tests on the milk, buying bottles and supplies, and we provide free breast milk bags to our donors. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
Once the milk is received by approved donors, the bottles are screened, pasteurized, and tested for safety and quality.
It is important to note that Mother’s Milk of South Carolina is a nonprofit that specifically provides donated breast milk to babies who are inpatients in South Carolina hospitals and neonatal intensive care units.
Offering the donated milk to mothers across the state, that are not currently in a medical facility, is part of an emergency measure the group offered independently to help amid the supply shortage.
“This offering is new and specific to the formula crisis; we have never offered directly to public purchasing options before, so the price that has been set accounts for all of the overhead that goes into ensuring that donated milk is safe for consumption, which includes pasteurization and several rounds of testing,” said Heather Woolwine, director of public affairs and media relations for MUSC. “This is an emergency effort to help support the community in the short term.”
Shortage or not, Woolwine said the costs to process, package and test the milk remain the same and must be accounted for to ensure that the milk bank can continue to operate its mission.
Several mothers, according to Woolwine, have picked up their supply in tears of relief to be provided the option. She understands that for some, there may be a concern when it comes to price, but many others have been grateful to the donors who have offered to help in such a time of need.
“While there may be concerns or a lack of understanding about the price for some, others are also incredibly grateful to the donors who have stepped forward to help and for the MMBSC’s creativity in working out this short-term option,” she said.
While the South Carolina Attorney General’s office said they understand the concerns and frustrations families are feeling amid the shortage, the price of the donated milk cannot be considered price gouging.
The state’s price gouging law is only active when the president or governor declares a state of emergency, or when the AG declares an abnormal disruption of the market.
“The price gouging law is not in effect since neither of those declarations is in place, which means this does not meet the definition of price gouging under South Carolina law,” a spokesman for the AG’s office told Counton2.com.
Those interested in buying milk from the bank can apply online by filling out the “get involved” form and look for the “I am interested in” option. You can also call 843-792-5415 on weekdays 9:00 a.m. through 4:00 p.m.